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Genital Herpes

How Can You Get Genital Herpes

by Andy Boysan (BPharm)

Andy is a co-founder, the superintendent pharmacist and director at The Independent Pharmacy.

Chances are that if you don’t have genital herpes yourself, then you know somebody who does. But while it’s a widespread STI, how widely known are its actual causes? Below we have detailed what genital herpes is, how you can contract it, and how you can treat it.


What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI), with approximately 846 million people across the globe known to have genital herpes as at 2015.

It is a strand of the herpes simplex virus (HSV), with genital herpes being produced by the HSV-2 strain of the virus and cold sores by the HSV-1 strain. There is no distinct male or female version of herpes, with genital herpes in both men and women caused by HSV-2.

Genital herpes appears as small blisters on your buttocks, anus, thighs, or genitals – in some cases (often as a result of sexual activity) they can appear on the lips, tongue, and mouth. These blisters burst and leave red sores around the infected areas.

The distinct areas that genital herpes can appear for men are the:

  • Scrotum
  • Penis

The distinct areas that genital herpes can appear for women are the:

  • Labia
  • Inside of the vagina


How can you contract herpes

Genital herpes is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact and is often contracted as the result of anal or vaginal intercourse, with the infection being passed on through the mucous membranes found on your genitals.


What are the symptoms?

While the blisters and sores are among the more visible examples of the HSV-2 strain of an HSV infection, they are not the only symptom of genital herpes. Among the other symptoms are:

  • A burning, tingling, or itching sensation around your genitals and genital area
  • Experiencing pain when you urinate or have intercourse
  • An unusual vaginal discharge
  • Watery blisters on/around your genitals
  • Feeling sick or nauseous
  • Flu or fever-esque symptoms

What is the cure for genital herpes?

There is currently no cure for genital herpes and around 80% of people will have at least one recurrence after experiencing their first episode.

The symptoms of genital herpes will go of their own accord, however, the blisters that come from the infection will come back during a recurrence.


What treatment is available to help sufferers?

While there is no known cure for genital herpes, there are a number of treatments available to help people who are afflicted with HSV-2. Among these are:

  • Valaciclovir: this comes in tablet form and is used to suppress flare-ups of genital herpes. It can also reduce (however, does not eliminate) the chances of you passing on the infection. It is sold as both a generic and non-generic version of the treatment, with the generic one being cheaper.
  • Aciclovir: this also comes in tablet form. It is able to suppress the symptoms you experience from genital herpes, along with stopping the growth of HSV-2.
  • Lidocaine: an anaesthetic ointment which you apply to your blisters. The ointment helps with the soreness experienced from the blisters and can last for several hours.

All of these treatments are available from a registered pharmacy and can be purchased online, or from a high street pharmacist.

Why not take a look at our pages dedicated to answering questions such as 'what is Aciclovir used for' or, to find out more about Aciclovir side effects.

We hope that you never suffer from genital herpes. However, if you do then you can take some comfort from the fact that there is plenty of treatment available to help ease your symptoms, and that you are not alone in suffering from it.

Authored By:

A photo of  Andy Boysan

Andy Boysan


Published on: 17-01-2018

Last modified on: 17-01-2020

Andy is a co-founder, the superintendent pharmacist and director at The Independent Pharmacy.

Reviewed By:

A photo of  Scott McDougall

Scott McDougall


Reviewed on: 17-01-2020

Next review date: 17-01-2022

Scott is one of the two founders of The Independent Pharmacy. He is a registered pharmacist and the registered manager of our service with the CQC.

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