Symptoms and Signs of Genital Herpes

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 5/27/2022

Doctor's Notes on Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is an infection of the genital area in men or women caused by the herpes simplex (HSV) viruses. Genital herpes is more commonly caused by the HSV type 2 (HSV-2) than HSV-1, which more often causes cold sores of the mouth.

Genital herpes causes symptoms that occur in outbreaks and recur over time. The virus remains dormant in the body between outbreaks. It is possible to be infected with genital herpes and not show symptoms at a given time. When symptoms (outbreaks) do occur, they may include

  • red, blistering, intensely painful rash on the genitals, 
  • ulcer formation after the blisters burst, and 
  • tingling, itching, or burning sensation in the skin prior to an outbreak

What Is the Treatment for Genital Herpes?

There is no known cure for genital herpes, because the virus remains in the body and can cause attacks throughout life.

However, antiviral medications are available that can shorten the duration and severity of outbreaks. Antiviral medications are typically taken by mouth in pill form, but in some cases, they can be given intravenously. Treatment is usually recommended for the first attack of herpes.

With subsequent attacks, treatment is effective only if given before the attack or within 24 hours of the initial symptoms of the attack. Suppressive or continuous treatment with antiviral drugs is also given for people who have more than six genital herpes outbreaks a year.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.