Genital herpes is a sexually- transmitted disease (STD) that affects the genitals.
Genital herpes was so common among prostitutes
in the 18th century that it was called "a vocational disease of women.”
It has now been established to be a viral infection brought on by the herpes simplex viruses
type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). The majority of genital herpes infections are caused by HSV-2 whereas HSV -1 usually causes herpes labialis or oral herpes.
Most affected individuals have little or no signs or symptoms; and when symptoms do appear, it is in the form of blisters
around the genital area or anus. These blisters break, leaving sores
that usually take about a fortnight or a month to heal. Another outbreak may soon follow, but it is often less severe and may also last less longer than the first episode.
The frequency of breakouts tends to reduce with time. The infection, however, lasts indefinitely in an affected person.
Genital herpes is a common infection in the USA where about one in six people between the ages of 14 to 49 years has the HSV-2 infection. It appears to be more common and more aggressive in women than in men.
Tests used to diagnose genital herpes include culture of the blister fluid, polymerase chain reaction and blood tests to check for antibodies to the virus.
Patients are treated with antiviral drugs like acyclovir, valacylovir and famiclovir.
Spread of infection to the sexual partner may be avoided through abstinence or by using condom during sexual intercourse.