You are likely worried after finding out that you have genital herpes. But know that you are not alone. Millions of people carry the virus. Although there is no cure, genital herpes can be treated. Follow your health care provider’s instructions for treatment and follow-up.
One type of herpes virus stays in the body by hiding within nerve cells. It can remain "asleep" (dormant) for a long time. The virus can "wake up" (reactivate) at any time. This can be triggered by:
A second outbreak can appear weeks or months after your first outbreak. It is usually less severe and goes away sooner than the first. Over time, the number of outbreaks may decrease.
To ease symptoms:
Doing the following can help sores heal:
Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear. Do not wear nylon or other synthetic pantyhose or underwear. Also do not wear tight-fitting pants.
Genital herpes cannot be cured. Antiviral medication may relieve pain and discomfort. It may also reduce the number of outbreaks. If you are prescribed medication, follow your health care provider’s instructions about how to take it.
Possible side effects from herpes medication include:
Take care of your health to lessen future outbreaks:
Even when you do not have sores, you can pass (shed) the virus to someone during sexual or other close contact. To protect others:
Call your health care provider if you have any of the following:
Herpes - genital -self-care; Herpes simplex - genital - self-care; Herpesvirus 2 - self-care; HSV-2 - self-care
Workowski KA, Berman S; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010 Dec17;59(RR-12):1-110.
Lentz GM, Eckert LO. Infections of the lower genital tracts: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 23.
Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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