Dr Sunaina Hameed's
Family Dermatalogy, Asthetic Lasers, Anti-Ageing Medicine & Plastic Surgery.

GENITAL HERPES

Genital Herpes is a common, sexually transmitted viral infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). This virus also causes Lip Herpes, commonly known as cold sores, which need not be sexually acquired. Genital Herpes manifests as painful fluid-filled blisters on the genitalia and/or anal region. The rash generally appears 4-7 days after the unprotected sexual act. However a lot of patients do not develop any rashes and the disease only manifests several years later. Many others will continue to shed the virus in their semen or vaginal fluid, even when they do not have any visible rashes.

The first episode is usually the most painful and the most prolonged. The rashes may even be itchy and you may run a fever. The subsequent episodes are not as severe and are usually short lived. There is no way to predict when you could have the next episode. If you suffer from more than six episodes in a year, you may require long-term antiviral suppressive therapy.

The diagnosis is generally made by clinical examination alone. However a blood test may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. This test is now part of the standard testing that all pregnant women undergo. This is because a mother could pass on the virus to her newborn during a normal (vaginal) delivery.

If this is your first episode of Genital Herpes, then your dermatologist will prescribe you anti-viral medication. The medication does not cure the ailment or completely eliminate the virus. However it does hasten recovery, and reduce the frequency the recurrences.

The main difficulty with genital herpes is the fact that there is no vaccine, there is no cure, the test will remain positive throughout your life, and you could continue to shed the virus even when there are no evident genital rashes. Prevention is key here. Condoms provide 97% protection against the virus, if they are used correctly. Condoms must be used for oral and anal intercourse as well. Circumcision provides some protection against acquiring HSV. However, if you have tested positive for HSV, then you are very likely to pass on the virus to your sexual partner(s). Certain statistics indicate 1 in 6 people in the USA (between the ages 14-50) have suffered from Genital Herpes at some point in their life. It does not cause cancer, it does not affect your fertility and it is not life-threatening. Therefore, being diagnosed with HSV does not prevent you from getting married or having children. However complete and honest disclosure is always recommended, for the safety of your partner as well as your own mental peace. Pregnant women must be honest and forthcoming with their doctors. This is necessary for the protection of your child.

The most frequently asked patient query I face is this - "How can I tell my partner?" If you love them and trust them enough, and see yourself in a long term monogamous relationship with this person, then it's easier. Do not panic or alarm them. Choose your words carefully. Learn as much as you can about HSV, so you can answer all their questions. Lastly, do not get defensive. Give your partner time and space to mentally process the information.

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