One in five Americans has genital herpes, but many don't know it because the symptoms can be mild or even absent. Genital herpes is usually spread by sexual contact and caused by the type 2 herpes virus (HSV-2). However, the type 1 herpes virus (HSV-1), which more commonly causes cold sores, can also infect the genitals -- usually through oral sex.
There's no cure for genital herpes. Once infected, you're infected for life.
Herpes is most often spread from active sores. But you don't have to have...
The herpes virus stays in your body for the
rest of your life. After the first outbreak, it becomes
inactive. Then, in most people, it gets active again from
time to time, causing blisters and sores.
Some people have many outbreaks each year, while others have only a few
or none at all. People
who have symptoms average 5 outbreaks a year during the first few years.
Most have fewer outbreaks after that.
People report that certain things may trigger outbreaks, such as:
half of the people who have repeated outbreaks can feel one coming a few hours to a couple of days before it happens. They may
feel tingling, burning, itching, numbness, tenderness, or pain where the
blisters are about to appear.
People who have an
impaired immune system are more likely to have longer
and/or more severe outbreaks of genital herpes than people whose immune systems
Although it's rare, genital herpes can cause other health problems—some of them serious—if the virus travels to other parts of the body.
In rare cases, a newborn is infected with the herpes
virus during delivery. Because their
immune systems aren't fully developed,
newborns with herpes infection can have serious health
problems affecting many body systems. It may take up to 3 weeks after a newborn
is infected before he or she becomes ill.
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
August 14, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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