Healthy Living

5 Facts You Never Knew About Genital Herpes

We know that genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, but did you know that it affects 10 percent of the population in the U.S.? Learn more.

5 Facts You Never Knew About Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the United States that mostly affects people between 14 and 49. It occurs as a result of infection with both types of herpes simplex virus (HSV)-HSV1 and HSV2. However, most people with genital herpes are infected with HSV2. HSV1 on the other hand mostly causes oral herpes (cold sores). There is an increase in the number of cases of genital herpes caused by HSV1, which usually causes cold sores. This is mostly due to the popularization of oral sex in the western world.


Oral and genital herpes can be uncomfortable but they are generally not dangerous infections in healthy adults. Herpes does not effect the immune system. It is rare for adults to have any health problems from genital herpes, but there are a couple of areas of concern. Additionally, having genital HSV makes it easier to get and / or transmit HIV, a virus that can cause AIDS.

Here are some things you might not know about genital herpes:

Genital herpes is relatively common 

Genital herpes is a relatively common disease that affects nearly 10 percent of the population in the United States. It affects people as young as 12. The majority of people with genital herpes may not even know that they have this infectious disease. This means a person can spread it to his or her sex partners. It affects both men and women, although women have a higher risk of acquiring it.

Symptoms of genital herpes are usually mild 

Around 80% of people infected with genital herpes don’t know they have the virus because they have very mild symptoms or none at all.

The herpes virus can be passed on even  when there are no symptoms present.

While most people may not experience any symptoms, others who do may not have severe symptoms. Symptoms can resolve on their own without treatment, although treatment tends to speed up the duration that the wounds heal and helps to reduce the frequency of outbursts.
The most noticeable symptom is the presence of lesions on the genitals that tend to be painful. Lesions can also be present on the buttocks, anus, and thighs. When these lesions are open, they can be contagious. Always clean lesions and keep them covered. Applying honey will help in drying out the lesions which is required for rapid healing. Eventually, the lesion heals and forms a scab on the skin.

Currently, there is no cure for genital herpes

Even though there are several effective treatments for genital herpes, none of them actually provides a cure. The body’s immune system is not able to eradicate HSV, so after symptoms have disappeared, it travels to the spinal nerves that supply the skin that has been affected. The virus can be reactivated by stress, ultraviolet radiation, poor nutrition, and a weakened immune system. Reactivation of the virus means symptoms will also recur. This is known as an outbreak and usually lasts shorter than the first time symptoms manifested. Depending on factors such as lifestyle, diet, and the state of the immune system, people can experience from 1 to 6 outbreaks per year. However, the occurrence of outbreaks reduces with time as the body adapts to the virus by producing antibodies to it. These also help to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body. Using anti-viral medications has been shown to reduce the ability of the virus to reproduce and thus reduces the number of outbreaks experienced per year. Examples of anti-viral drugs that can be used include acyclovir and valacyclovir. Another advantage of using anti-viral drugs is that they decrease the risk of your transmitting genital herpes to your partner.

Genital herpes is not only transmitted through sex

Genital herpes is mostly transmitted through sex be it oral, anal or vaginal. However, any form of contact with the skin or mucous membranes of a person with genital herpes can lead to your getting the infection. This is especially true if sores are present. Women with genital herpes may transmit genital herpes to their children during childbirth. Therefore, women with genital herpes should be closely monitored, and if symptoms are present before labor, a cesarean section should be performed to decrease the risk of the neonate from acquiring genital herpes. However, you cannot get genital herpes by sharing kitchen utensils or bed linen with a person with genital herpes. Genital herpes can be spread even if a person is not experiencing any symptoms especially during viral shedding.

You can still live a normal life

The biggest fear of many people with genital herpes is the stigma that comes with it. First of all, it is important to acquaint yourself with this disease once you have been diagnosed. Talk to your doctor about how to best manage your symptoms when outbursts occur. Another way to know more about the condition is by joining a support group. This also helps you to not feel alone in your situation. It is important to limit the number of sex partners you have once you have genital herpes in order to reduce the chances of passing it to others. Always tell your partner that you have herpes so that the two of you can come up with ways to reduce the chances of transmission. The risk of transmitting genital herpes to your sex partner can be reduced by using condoms and taking a daily dosage of anti-viral drugs. Latex condoms are recommended over lambskin condoms through which the virus can still penetrate. Note that these measures do not offer 100 percent protection from genital herpes. Avoiding sex during an outbreak will also decrease the risk of transmitting genital herpes.

Lots of risk can increase your risk of genital herpes. Stress, failure and being a woman are herpes risk factor.

Genital herpes can spread from one part of your body to another.

You can potentially spread the virus by touching a genital herpes sore and then another part of your body which is called autoinoculation. This is particularly true during a primary initial outbreak( the first outbreak of genital herpes in people who have never been exposed to the herpes virus before).