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Genital herpes is a common infection that can cause painful blisters on the genitals and the surrounding areas. However, most people with herpes don't experience any symptoms when first infected and as a result, many people don't know they have the condition.

The most common symptoms

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  • A flu-like illness
    A flu-like illness

    A flu-like illness

  • An area of skin on the genitals that becomes red
    An area of skin on the genitals that becomes red

    An area of skin on the genitals that becomes red

  • Painful ulcers that may develop crusts after several days
    Painful ulcers that may develop crusts after several days

    Painful ulcers that may develop crusts after several days

Symptoms

Men and women – Most people with herpes don’t realise they have it and only 1 in 5 people know that they have it.

If you do get symptoms these can start with - 

  • A flu-like illness,
  • An area of skin on the genitals that becomes red,
  • Bumps develop which change into blisters or spots,
  • Painful ulcers that may develop crusts after several days,
  • Possible swollen glands in the groin. 

What does a check-up/test involve?

A swab taken from the skin when there is a blister or ulcer. If there are no obvious blisters or ulcers then there are no routine tests available

Treatment

Genital herpes can clear up by themselves and severe outbreaks can be treated with antiviral tablets that can help to ease the pain and speed up the healing process.

Other things you can do to ease the pain are -

  • To take a cool shower,
  • Apply local anesthetic cream prescribed by a doctor,
  • Gently bathe the area with diluted salt water,
  • You can also pass urine in a warm bath if it’s really painful, especially for women,
  • Keep hydrated and wear loose clothing.

The virus then becomes inactive and remains in the body. In some people the virus can become active again from time to time, and cause further outbreaks of genital herpes – known as recurrent herpes.

If left untreated?

First episode genital herpes will heal up even if you have no treatment. However, this will take longer than it would have done if you started treatment soon after developing sores

Genital herpes can also cause problems during pregnancy and can be more serious depending on whether you already have genital herpes, or develop it for the first time while pregnant.

Therefore it is recommended to go for a full health check up to avoid any complications if trying for a baby