Genital Herpes - Herpes Genitalis
Genital Herpes - Herpes Genitalis
Genital herpes, also known as genital warts and medically called herpes genitalis, occurs mainly in adults and is a sexually transmitted disease. Its cause is the virus HSV II (herpes simplex virus type 2), which is part of a group of herpes infections that cause a number of different disease. HSV I exists as well, causing cold sores which most of the population is affected by.
Transmission of Genital Herpes
The virus enters the body through impaired genital mucosa during sexual intercourse or broken skin. At the entrance point, the virus propagates and penetrates along the nerve fibers into the nerve ganglia, which are nerve nodules along the spine and in the brain. It lives there its whole life and is activated during weakening of the immune system. Transmission occurs mainly by sexual intercourse. There is also a risk of transmission through oral sex and other practices. It is possible to be infected by contaminated fingers or objects. If a pregnant woman is affected by genital herpes, the newborn is in danger of being infected when travelling through the birth canal.
Symptoms of Genital Herpes
The first symptoms of genital herpes appear 2 to 7 days after sexual activity with an infected person. At the point of entry of the virus, the area itches and can be reddish in colour. Small blisters begin to appear on the skin, forming clusters or islands. The blisters contain infectious fluid which may leak out when the blister burst, infecting a partner. The outer genitals may be affected as well; i.e. the labia in women and the head of the penis as well as the inner foreskin in men. In the event of anal sex, blisters can be present around the anal opening. Genital herpes can affect other parts of the body such as the lower abdomen, buttocks or the area above the sacrum. A patient may also experience swollen lymph nodes, usually in the groin. Headaches, muscle pain and general weakness are common symptoms. An uncomfortable burning sensation during urination may be present as well.
Complications of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease which can lead to the development of complications. Usually the infection spreads to other areas of the genitals, typically developing inflammation of the vagina. Painful urination and discharge may develop as well. Transmission of infection is possible by contaminated fingers or objects touching the eye, causing inflammation. Severe complications include inflammation of the brain and meninges, which develops in patients with an impaired immune system or newborns and often lead to death. In the case of genital herpes during pregnancy, a caesarean section is usually chosen for delivery, as the newborn can be endangered and subjected to severe complications when travelling through the birth canal.
Risk Factors of Genital Herpes
The emergence of genital herpes is due to transmission of the virus from an infected individual during sexual intercourse. The virus survives in the body for the rest of the individual’s life, therefore reactivation can occur at any time and cause clinical symptoms. There are several risk factors than can cause reactivation. These are mainly hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, excess physical or mental stress, as well as skin irritation in the genital area. Other risk factors of genital herpes include the flu, fever, poor diet as well as wearing non-breathable underwear and clothing.
Treatment of Genital Herpes
Antivirals are administered in the treatment of genital herpes, speeding up healing of the blisters and relieving pain. Primary infection should be treated in pill form or by the administration of antivirals intravenously over the course of 5 days. The use of creams may not always be effective. Reoccurring blisters are treated in the form of pills, but treatment should begin as soon as possible, preferably before the blisters begin to appear. Pregnant women are required to take tests at the beginning of their pregnancy to detect the presence of the virus. If it is present, antivirals can be administered up to the 36th week of pregnancy as prevention from the reoccurrence of symptoms and the infant should be delivered by caesarean section. If the initial symptoms of the infection appear at the time before birth, the woman should deliver by caesarean section to reduce the risk of infecting the newborn.