Genital Herpes

Also indexed as:Herpes Simplex 2
A variety of treatments offer relief from this common STD—find out what works best for your symptoms. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
Genital Herpes: Main Image

About This Condition

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted viral infection characterized by fluid filled blisters or red bumps in the genital area.

Genital herpes is caused by either of two types of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There is no known cure for herpes. Both conventional and alternative treatments only help in reducing the symptoms and frequency of outbreaks. Treatments effective for cold sores—which are also caused by the herpes virus—may or may not also be effective for genital herpes, because of possible differences in the type of herpes virus causing infections in different body locations.

Symptoms

People with genital herpes may have outbreaks of small, often painful, fluid-filled blisters (vesicles) in the genital or anal region. Fever, general weakness, and painful urination often accompany the initial occurrence. Subsequent outbreaks may appear with colds, fevers, menstrual periods, or during periods of stress,1 and usually disappear within two weeks. Initially there may be tingling or prickling at the site of the blisters even before they are visible, then the blisters often weep a clear fluid and form a scab.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

Since genital herpes is highly contagious, people with active herpes infections should avoid direct sexual contact. Also, infected pregnant women should inform their obstetrician if their herpes becomes active around their delivery date, as HSV can be transmitted to the newborn during birth and cause a more serious infection in the child.

Holistic Options

Stress plays a major role in the recurrence of genital herpes outbreaks. One preliminary study found that persistent stress (stress lasting more than seven days) increased the recurrence rate by about 25%,2 but another preliminary study found no connection between stress and genital herpes outbreaks.3 In addition, short-term stress, mood changes, and menstrual cycles do not appear to affect herpes recurrences.4 Treatments aimed in part at stress reduction may be helpful for treating genital herpes. One controlled trial showed that patients had fewer outbreaks, shorter episode duration, and less episode severity when they were treated with a series of sessions involving education about genital herpes, stress management, deep breathing exercises, and guided imagery.5 A preliminary study suggested that applied relaxation (a technique that guides the participant through a series of muscle relaxation exercises) reduces recurrences of genital herpes outbreaks.6 Two case reports indicate that self-hypnosis, practiced on a daily basis, helps ease the pain and severity of genital herpes lesions.7

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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.

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