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Sexual Health and Genital Herpes


How Is Genital Herpes Treated?

There is no cure for genital herpes, but your doctor can prescribe anti-viral drugs, in pill or ointment form, that may help the sores heal faster.

Over-the-counter painkillers may help with the discomfort.

If recurrences of your genital herpes are frequent, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication (such as Famvir (famciclovir), Valtrex (valacyclovir), and Zovirax (acyclovir) to take on a regular basis to help suppress the outbreaks.

How Does Genital Herpes Affect a Pregnant Woman and Her Baby?

Outbreaks of genital herpes during pregnancy have been associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, and herpes infection that can cause severe brain injury and possible blindness in the baby. In most cases, women with herpes give birth to healthy babies. If you have herpes and plan to have children, talk to your doctor.

How Can I Protect Myself From Herpes?

To prevent getting genital herpes:

  • Do not have sex with someone who has an open sore on his or her sex organs.
  • Always use a latex condom during sex.
  • Limit your number of sex partners.

Taking antiviral medications can reduce the risk of a person with genital herpes from spreading the disease, but that doesn't eliminate the risk. Be sure to practice the measures listed above to decrease risk.

Can Herpes Be Cured?

There is no cure for herpes. Once a person has the virus, it remains in the body. The virus lies inactive in the nerve cells until something triggers it to become active again. These herpes "outbreaks," which can include the painful herpes sores, can be controlled with medication.

What Can I Do If I Have Herpes?

Many people who find out that they have herpes feel depressed knowing that they will always have the virus and can give it to others. But you are not alone. If you have herpes, you should learn all that you can about the condition. Information will help you to manage your disease and feel better about yourself. It also helps to talk about your illness with a trusted friend.

If you have herpes, you can still have sex if you or your partner use a condom and you tell your partner about the illness. You also can still have children.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on June 24, 2013
Edited by Ngozi A. Osondu, MD
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