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Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a virus called the herpes simplex virus (HSV)

There are two types of herpes simplex virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2.

HSV-1 usually causes oral herpes (cold sores around the mouth) and HSV-2 more commonly causes genital herpes.

However, both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause genital herpes.


Some people who are infected with HSV have no symptoms. 

However, women may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain, itching and/or tingling in the genital area or anus

  • Flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, headache, tiredness, swollen glands)

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge

  • Blisters or sores in the female genital area (vulva, cervix or vagina), thighs and/ or anus.

  • Painful urination


If you think you may have genital herpes, you should see your doctor or attend a sexual health clinic.

The doctor will ask you about your sexual history and symptoms.


They will also examine the genital area and anus and may perform an internal examination.

If the doctor suspects that you have genital herpes then they may also swab any sores.


If genital herpes is left untreated, a woman may be at risk of the following complications:

  • Meningitis

  • Herpes infection in babies causes neonatal herpes which can lead to death if left untreated.

  • Increased risk of contracting other STIs including HIV


There is no cure for the herpes virus, however treatment can be offered to relieve symptoms during an outbreak.

If you are diagnosed with genital herpes or there is high suspicion that you may have genital herpes, your doctor may prescribe you a course of antiviral medication (e.g. aciclovir) to shorten the outbreak.

You should also contact any recent sexual partners as they may also be infected with HSV. This includes any individual with whom you have had sexual intercourse within 6 months.


You should also avoid sexual intercourse during an outbreak and treatment. If you do have sex, you should advise your partner to wear a condom.

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