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Genital Herpes

The Ultimate Guide To Treating Genital Herpes In Women

by Dr Don Grant (MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip Orth Med)

Dr Don Grant is a GP with over 30 years experience and is the Clinical Advisor at The Independent Pharmacy

While there is no male or female strand of genital herpes, there are differences in how it can affect men and women. In this article, we look at how to treat genital herpes specifically in women.


What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is one of two strains of the herpes simplex virus (HSV), with cold sores caused by the HSV-1 strain and genital herpes by the HSV-2 strain.

With figures estimating that 10% of the UK population carries HSV-2 by the age of 25, it is one of the most widely held STIs. While there is no ‘male’ or ‘female’ strand of HSV-2, genital herpes is more common in women, with one in four women having the STI, as opposed to one in five men.


How do women catch genital herpes?

While genital herpes is more often passed from men to women, than from women to men, both men and women catch genital herpes in the same way: from skin-to-skin contact.

This skin-to-skin contact usually comes during sexual intercourse and is most commonly from anal, oral, or vaginal sex.   


What are the symptoms of genital herpes in women?

If an area of your body has been infected with HSV-2 then you may experience an itching or tingling sensation, along with soreness.

Other symptoms of genital herpes in women include:

  • Headache
  • Backache
  • A higher than normal temperature
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in your neck, groin, and armpits
  • Flu-like symptoms


What does genital herpes in women look like?

Genital herpes appears as blisters which burst and leave red sores. These usually appear on your thighs, anus, buttocks, or genitals. However, because genital herpes comes as the result of skin-to-skin contact, they can also appear on your mouth, lips, and tongue. 


Genital herpes and pregnancy

You can contract genital herpes while pregnant. If you do so during your first trimester there is a low risk of you miscarrying, along with a chance that you will pass on the infection to your unborn child.

If you contract genital herpes during the latter part of your pregnancy then there is an increased chance of you passing it on to your child.


How to treat genital herpes in women

While there is no known cure for HSV-2, there are a number of treatments available to help women who have contracted it. These include:

  • Lidocaine: this is an anaesthetic ointment. By applying it to your blisters it helps to tackle the soreness caused by genital warts for up to several hours.
  • Aciclovir: these tablets help to stop the growth and restrict the symptoms of genital warts. They are often used if you contract HSV-2 during pregnancy.
  • Valaciclovir: this is also available in tablets. It helps to reduce the chances of passing on HSV-2, along with restricting the symptoms. The active ingredient is the drug Valaciclovir and it is either sold as Valaciclovir or the branded version, Valtrex.

These treatments are all available from a registered pharmacy and can be purchased online, or from a high street pharmacist.

Click through for answers to questions such as 'what is Aciclovir used for' or, for further information on Aciclovir side effects.


Genital herpes is one of the most common STIs to affect women. If you are afflicted with genital warts then don’t suffer in silence. Contact your GP, sexual health clinic, or registered professional, and seek advice on how best to tackle your genital herpes.

Authored By:

A photo of Dr Donald Grant

Dr Donald Grant

MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip.orth.med

Published on: 17-01-2018

Last modified on: 17-01-2020

Dr Don Grant is a GP with over 30 years experience and is the Clinical Advisor 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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