What is Herpes?

This is a harmless viral infection caused by herpes simplex virus types 1 or 2 (HSV type I or II). It causes ulcers on the genital area and also round the mouth (commonly known as “cold sores”). It can also cause ulcers on any area of skin exposed to the virus (sometimes called “whitlow”). It is passed on by skin to skin contact with someone who has the virus. It can be passed on by people who may be unaware they have the virus (“asymptomatic shedding”).

People who have been infected may show signs after around 5-10 days after contact with the virus. Not everyone who is infected will have symptoms and sometimes the symptoms may appear after many weeks, months or even years after coming into contact with the virus…

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include painful blisters, ulcers or sores on the skin of the penis, vulva (lips of the vagina) or around the anus (back passage).  It may be painful to pass urine when the urine touches the blisters.

Some people may have flu type symptoms and feel unwell. This is most common when they have their first clinical outbreak.

Both type I and type II can be found around the mouth and around the genital area.

How is it diagnosed?

A swab test is taken from the blister to diagnose and type the virus. Clinically we can tell and we would treat you on the day we see you if we suspect herpes infection.

Blood tests aren’t as reliable to screen you for herpes infection “exposure” as peoples can have the virus anywhere on their body and have it at anytime in their life; a positive blood test doesn’t mean they have genital herpes and it doesn’t mean that they are “infectious” – it can be confusing –there are specific times when a blood test is useful but this is something that needs to be discussed with a Consultant who specialises in Sexually Transmitted Infections.

What is the treatment?

Tablets which are antiVIRALS (not antibiotics). These are very effective.

Taking pain relief if needed.

Rest and drinking plenty of fluids.

Peeing in a salt water (Sitz) bath or in the shower makes it easier.

Talking to us helps with the diagnosis so we can make sure that you understand the correct facts.

Useful information

For more information visit the FPA or Herpes website.