Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV). It can cause sores on your genital or rectal area, buttocks, and thighs. You can get it from having sex, even oral sex. The virus can spread even when sores are not present. Mothers can also infect their babies during childbirth.
Symptoms of herpes are called outbreaks. You usually get sores near the area where the virus has entered the body. They turn into blisters, become itchy and painful, and then heal. Sometimes people do not know they have herpes because they have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. The virus can be more serious in newborn babies or in people with weak immune systems.
Most people have outbreaks several times a year. Over time, you get them less often and the symptoms become milder. The virus stays in your body for life.
Medicines do not cure genital herpes, but they can help your body fight the virus. This can help lessen symptoms, decrease outbreaks, and lower the risk of passing the virus to others. Correct usage of latex condoms can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading herpes.
NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
- Herpes (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
- Male Condoms (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Genital Herpes (Logical Images)
Statistics and Research
- Genital Herpes - Initial Visits to Physicians' Offices, United States, 1966-2012 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Herpes Genitalis (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Genital Herpes (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation)
- Genital Herpes (Nemours Foundation)
- Condom Fact Sheet in Brief (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF Available in Spanish
- Genital herpes Available in Spanish
- Genital Herpes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF
- Genital herpes - self-care Available in Spanish
- Herpes viral culture of lesion Available in Spanish
- Serum herpes simplex antibodies Available in Spanish