(Alternative Names: Genital Herpes, Herpes Progenitalis, Anogenital Herpes Viral infection)
Herpes Genitalis (HG) is a sexually transmitted blistering viral condition occurring most commonly in groups on the surface lining of genitals or areas around them, that break down quickly to form sores healing in few days to a couple of weeks with a tendency to recur Some cases might have no visible features.
It is reported that nearly 10 million cases of HG arise annually in India alone whereas more than 15% population between 14-49 years age group in the US have evidence of a past or current HG. Though generally a mild infection, HG may turn serious in certain conditions including those associated with a weak body defense mechanism, pregnancy, spread to other organs, and a simultaneous infection with HIV/AIDS. The worldwide distribution, absence of a complete cure, high risk of transmission, recurrences, spread to other body organs, and potential to adversely impact pregnancy outcomes increase the significance of HG infection as community issue. We believe that awareness about infection and measures to deal with it can help save burden for both patients and the healthcare delivery system.
· Herpes Genitalis is a common viral condition reported from in all countries mainly in the sexually active individuals. It is not correct to assume that the promiscuous are the only ones at risk of acquiring this infection.
· HG is caused by Herpes Simplex Virus or HSV that has two variants called
HSV-1 and HSV-2.
· HG is caused by HSV-2 but occasional cases may be due to HSV-1.
· The infection is characterized by recurrences that might last lifelong.
· HG can be acquired by penetrative or non-penetrative sexual activity either with an asymptomatic or infected partner or with virus laden secretions or objects. It does not spread by sharing toilet seats, bed linen, or food articles.
· Penetrative sex is not a precondition for catching the infection.
· It is incorrect to assume that a condom is a foolproof measure of prevention against HG infection.
· An infected individual might be unaware of its presence due to absence of any noticeable symptoms.
· The infection is not curable but it is possible to alter its course and reduce associated risks with appropriate knowledge and support measures.
· HG infections have not been reported to enhance risk of getting genital cancers.
Features, Self Help, & Preventive Measures
Herpes Genitalis can be diagnosed on the basis of a clinical examination. Typical features of primary attack include one or more painful blisters over the inner lining or skin on or around genitals appearing 2 days to few weeks after the contact. The blisters are easier to be noticed by a male patient. These might be accompanied by fever or swelling of glands. A swab from the lesions or a blood test may be helpful to establish diagnosis. However, no investigations can indicate the duration and the source of infection.
The subsequent attacks often include the site of original eruption and tend to be milder than the primary episode. Some individuals might have 4-6 recurrences every year.
HG occurs more often after a trauma or friction, possibly due to lowering of immunity. Other factors known to precipitate a recurrence are, alcohol intake; sexual activity, menstruation and fatigue.
The pain and discomfort of blisters can be eased by compresses, ventilation, rest, and pain relieving medicines. Antiviral medications are useful especially if given early during the first attack. A daily antiviral suppressive therapy is an established measure to control infection.
Prevention of HG requires simple measures. The most important measures include the following:
· You should improve your immunity levels with proper diet and healthy lifestyle. It is sure to help control disease activity.
· It is ideal to stay monogamous or avoid any sexual activity with a partner whose status of infection is uncertain..
· You should use a condom right away and through the sexual act even though it offers only partial protection.
· You should avoid tight fitting garments
· The blisters should not be touched except when applying medicines and the hands should be washed after the contact.
· If you happen to be pregnant and suffering from HG, your doctor might consider a caesarian section delivery to minimize risk to the baby through delivery by the vaginal route..
· The important risk factors are being a female and having multiple sex partners. You should talk to your partner if you happen to suspect HG or have confirmed infection.
· You might consider joining a support group to stay informed and learn about other aspects of management of HG.
You are permitted to share, distribute, print, or reproduce this article for private use with proper citation of the source. The article is a part of our service to fellow human beings as a means of health education and awareness enhancement to minimize dependence on healthcare
Dr Vinay Kumar
Senior Consultant Dermatologist
+91-93 199 299 00
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