Genital herpes: causes, symptoms and treatments
Genital herpes is a contagious and sexually transmitted viral disease. It manifests itself by localized pushes on the genitals. The signs of the disease are suggestive: rash, itching sometimes accompanied by fever. The doctor will set up treatment for the attack because the virus cannot be removed. The specialist will also inform the patient about the prevention of genital herpes which is very contagious.
What is genital herpes?
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is transmitted during sexual or bucco-genital intercourse and affects 20% of the sexually active population in France. It is more common in people aged 25 to 35. Its symptoms are painful and recurrent and can disrupt the sexual life of patients.
After the primary infection, the virus remains in the body and then manifests itself, more or less regularly, in the form of outbreaks.
Signs of genital herpes
The primary infection with the Herpes simplex virus begins 7 to 21 days after infectious sexual contact. When the signs are visible, herpes manifests:
In humans with balano-posthitis (inflammation of the glans and foreskin) with urethritis (inflammation of the urethra);
In women with acute febrile vulvovaginitis (inflammation of the vulva and vagina) with meatitis or cervicitis (involvement of the urinary meatus or cervix).
Genital herpes is usually caused by the Herpes Simplex virus type 2 (HSV2), but HSV 1 (involved in oral herpes) can also be involved.
There are also many asymptomatic forms of genital herpes (half of those infected show no signs). The virus may be present intermittently on the mucous membranes, the person not being aware, she will transmit it to her / his partner (s).
SYMPTOMS AND DEVELOPMENTS OF THE GENITAL HERPES CRISIS
The herpes crisis follows several stages:
At the site of the rash, the patient experiences itching and fleeting burning;
24 to 48 hours later, small vesicles appear, grouped in bouquets on the affected regions. They take the form of small bubbles filled with a transparent liquid;
General signs may be present (fever, malaise);
A few days later, the vesicles burst to give way to small painful oozing erosions;
It is then the appearance of crusts which sign the end of the crisis which lasted eight days.
The mucous membranes affected in women are the vulva, the anal region and the vaginal entrance; in men, the glans, the sheath, the balano-preputial groove and the anal region. The herpetic lesion is painful, does not rest on a hard base and is accompanied by lymphadenopathy. It is contagious for 2 weeks.
RISK OF RECURRING HERPES
After an initial attack of genital herpes, 50 to 70% of patients will no longer suffer from herpes manifestations. The others will present frequent recurrences during triggering factors: stress, menstruation, flu, corticosteroid therapy …
At the time of the crisis, the virus, which remained latent in the lymph nodes, joined the skin by following the nerves and caused the lesions. Recurrences will appear as vesicles on the penis, vulva, cervix, but sometimes also on the buttocks or legs. They are announced by local pain that the patient learns to recognize.
The more severe the primary infection, the more likely people are to have recurrences. In the long term, recurrences tend to become less frequent.
Treatment of genital herpes
It treats the attack but does not make it possible to remove the virus, which remains latent in the lymph nodes between the attacks. It is based on the use of antiviral substances systemically, most often oral (tablets or oral solutions). Local antivirals, although often used, have not formally demonstrated their effectiveness. During primary infection, treatment may be combined with a pain medication, such as pain relievers.
In the event of frequent recurrences (at least 6 per year), the antiviral treatment administered continuously is useful to space or shorten the recurrences. These treatments seem well tolerated, but it is best to stop them every year for a few weeks, to see if it is necessary to continue. A doctor’s assessment every 6 to 12 months is recommended. It is also important to treat the pain as it can be intense. The application of Clareva®, a gel based on oxidized triglycerides available over the counter in pharmacies, relieves pain within 24 hours and promotes faster healing of lesions.
HERPES: TAKE THE RIGHT GOODS!
Whether it is the first infection or recurrent flare-ups, certain reflexes can help you:
As of the first symptoms, consult your doctor because the treatment must be taken as soon as possible;
Talk about it with your partner;
Wash the lesions thoroughly with soap and water, do not use any irritants;
Dry them well;
Wear loose clothing, preferably cotton, which will retain less moisture;
In case of associated urinary burns, drink plenty of water;
Wash your hands well each time you come in contact with the lesions;
Do not share your bathroom linen with those around you.
Prevention of genital herpes
As in any sexually transmitted disease, consider treating the partner (s). Herpes is very contagious. Sex must be protected (condoms) for the duration of treatment. Note that during outbreaks, the condom does not completely protect against the transmission of the virus. It is better to avoid intercourse during this period. This is particularly the case when the lesions are located on the skin, vulva or testicles. Attention, contamination is possible from the mouth to the sex, and vice versa.
Apart from outbreaks, if your partner has never been in contact with the virus, it is advisable to use a condom to limit the risk of transmission if the virus is present. Each year, 8 to 12% of free partners are infected.
If you have cold sores, avoid oral-genital contact. Also, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly if you touch your mouth.
Genital herpes and pregnancy
Herpes during pregnancy – and especially during childbirth – can have serious consequences for the baby. If you have ever had herpes, tell your doctor at the start of pregnancy. Pregnant women who suffer from herpes will be prescribed early treatment, based on antiviral drugs. Certain precautions must also be taken during childbirth to avoid transmission of the virus from mother to child. An outbreak of herpes at the time of delivery can lead in particular to perform a cesarean.
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