Genital herpes; at a glance
- Best Results1-2 sessions
- Treatment RecoveryNA
- Procedure TimeNA
- Skin SpecialistDr Sarath Bodapati at Cutis Dermatology
- Duration of ResultsVariable
- Back to WorkNA
About Genital Herpes
This page is aimed at the treatment of genital herpes, primarily in men. Our dermatologists also manage STD in women, at Cutis Dermatology, Brisbane.
Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in Australia, affecting one in seven adults. For recurrent infections, the use of prophylactic antiviral medications can effectively abort HSV attacks. Common skin conditions that mimic genital herpes include molluscum, contact dermatitis, genital warts & other inflammatory genital disorders. A dermatologist can diagnose & manage initial & recurrent HSV infections.
FactsFacts On Genital Herpes
- The top five symptoms of herpes include:
- Pain or itching around the genitals, anus or mouth
- Small bumps or blisters
- Painful ulcers due to ruptured blisters
- Scabs that form as the ulcers heal
- Painful urination
- Initial outbreaks can last beyond 4 weeks
- A dermatologist can diagnose herpes & initiate effective treatments
- Early treatment will reduce this period to a few days
- Antivirals provide the fastest & most effective way to kill herpes virus
What are the first signs of herpes infection?
At the onset of infection of the herpes signs and symptoms may not be present. When they
appear, they include-
Tingling, itching, or burning, prior to appearance of a rash. This typically lasts 1-2 days. This
is then followed by the typical findings of herpes.
Sores & blisters. Sores are painful & itchy. Typically small blisters are grouped together,
followed by oozing of clear fluid.
Crusting. Crusts appear on the surface of these sores before healing commences. The first
sores appear between 2 to 15 days after contracting herpes. Sores usually can last 7 to 11
days before they heal. These sores appear in various areas of the body, usually depending on
the type of herpes.
Oral herpes (HSV-1): Blisters usually will appear on the lips or around the mouth. Genital
herpes (HSV-2): with this type of herpes, sores are found on the genitals, buttocks, or anus.
What test is 100% accurate when it comes to diagnosis of herpes?
A dermatologist may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at the rash. In equivocal cases a
viral swab is helpful. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV
How long does the symptoms of herpes last?
For oral herpes around the mouth area, symptoms last for 3 weeks, while in cases of genital
herpes, it lasts between 2 to 5 weeks, in cases of the first outbreak of sores. Early diagnosis & intervention by a dermatologist can markedly clear this infection within a few days, reducing
signs & symptoms of herpes infection.
What is the best treatment for genital herpes?
Antiviral medicines are prescribed by our dermatologists at Cutis Brisbane. They are by far the
fastest & most reliable way of killing the herpes virus. Acyclovir, Famciclovir & Valacyclovir
are commonly prescribed.
The earlier the treatment, the faster the resolution of blisters & sores. Medications taken by an infected person reduces transmission of the virus to an uninfected person. Antiviral creams can be applied, but they are far less effective than tablets.
Disclaimer: I do not manage or treat genital disorders, including herpes. My colleague, Dr Sarath at Cutis Dermatology, Brisbane has an interest in male genital dermatology.
What conditions may look like herpes?
Herpes may look like many other types of conditions that affect the genital, anal & oral areas. A
dermatologist can tell the difference in most cases, however a viral swab is diagnostic. Herpes
may look like-
● A different STD such as syphilis, molluscum & genital warts
● Skin irritation & contact dermatitis
● Ingrown hairs & pimples
● Yeast infections
● Bug bites & scabies
● Atypical pearly penile papules or Fordyce spots
Disclaimer: I do not manage or diagnose genital disorders, including herpes. My colleague, Dr Sarath at Cutis Dermatology, Brisbane has an interest in male genital dermatology.
What is the outcome of herpes simplex?
For herpes, the initial outbreak is considered the most severe. In others, the outbreaks are
unnoticeable as they can be extremely mild. In cases of such mild outbreaks, people often will
mistake subsequent infections years later for a first outbreak.
The virus could be forever dormant, however for most, the virus becomes active after a while. A second outbreak is termed a recurrence and is more common in the first year after infection.
With time, recurrences tend not to be as severe as the last, and they occur. If you have recurrent outbreaks, a dermatologist can prescribe you prophylactic medications to prevent attacks, or teach you to abort outbreaks should they occur.
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What are the other symptoms of herpes?
Other signs or symptoms of herpes simplex include:
● Fever, muscle aches & soreness
● Swollen lymph nodes in the neck in cases of oral herpes. For genital herpes, swelling
occurs in the groin.
● Feelings of burning during urination. The pain can be so bad that you may have trouble
● Pain in the eye in the presence of an infection by the herpes simplex virus- the infection
is called herpes keratitis. There could be light sensitivity and grittiness. Proper and early
treatment is needed for infection, to prevent the eye from scarring.
What triggers recurrent herpes outbreaks?
Common triggers for genital herpes include stress, fatigue, illness, sex, friction &
surgery. For some women, getting their period is a trigger. During repeat episodes of genital herpes, many people report warning signs, which tell them where the sores will appear. This includes tingling, sensitivity or burning in the area affected.
Are you ever cured from genital herpes?
Although there is no known cure for herpes, the symptoms of genital herpes can be treated.
Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which exists in two forms: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Once a person is infected with HSV, the virus remains in their body for life. There is currently no known cure for genital herpes, meaning it does not go away completely.
After the initial infection, HSV enters a latent or dormant phase, where it retreats to nerve cells
near the base of the spine or other nerves. During this phase, the virus remains inactive and does not cause any symptoms or outbreaks. However, the virus can reactivate and become active again periodically.
Reactivation of the virus may be triggered by various factors, such as stress, illness, hormonal
changes, or a weakened immune system. When the virus becomes active, it travels along the
nerve fibers to the skin surface, causing recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes.
During an outbreak, characteristic symptoms such as painful sores or blisters appear in the
genital area. These lesions contain infectious viral particles, and they eventually crust over and
heal. The duration of outbreaks can vary, typically lasting a few days to a couple of weeks. After
the outbreak resolves, the virus returns to its dormant state within the nerve cells.
It is important to note that even when there are no visible symptoms or outbreaks, the virus can still be present and potentially transmitted to others through sexual contact. This is referred to
as asymptomatic shedding, where the virus is released from the skin or mucous membranes
without causing noticeable symptoms.
While there is no cure for genital herpes, antiviral medications can help manage the infection by
reducing the frequency, duration, and severity of outbreaks. These medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir, work by suppressing viral replication and reducing viral shedding. They can also help alleviate symptoms and decrease the risk of transmission to sexual partners.
In summary, genital herpes is a lifelong infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. While the
virus remains in the body indefinitely, it goes through periods of dormancy and reactivation. Although outbreaks can be managed with antiviral medications, the virus itself cannot be completely eliminated from the body.
What are natural ways to treat genital herpes?
Preventing genital herpes transmission is challenging, as no completely reliable natural method
exists. Certain strategies may help reduce the risk of transmission. It is important to note that the most effective approach to prevention is practicing safe sex and avoiding sexual contact with infected individuals. In addition to these measures, the following strategies may offer some
1. Abstinence or monogamy: Abstaining from sexual activity or engaging in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is free of genital herpes can significantly
reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
2. Condom Use: Consistent and correct use of latex or polyurethane condoms during
sexual activity has been shown to provide a degree of protection against herpes transmission. However, condoms do not cover all potential transmission sites, such as the entire genital area, and their efficacy may vary.
3. Communication and Disclosure: Open and honest communication about sexual health,
including disclosing one's herpes status to sexual partners, is essential. By sharing this
information, individuals can make informed decisions and take necessary precautions.
4. Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining overall good health can potentially reduce the frequency
and severity of herpes outbreaks. Strategies such as regular exercise, sufficient sleep, stress management, and a balanced diet can support a strong immune system and potentially minimize outbreaks.
5. Zinc tablets can improve immune function, whilst zinc based creams have been
reported to reduce pain, burning & tingling.
6. Personal Hygiene: Practicing proper hygiene by keeping the genital area clean and dry can help prevent secondary infections and promote general genital health. It is important to remember that while these strategies can reduce the risk of transmission, they cannot guarantee complete prevention.
Disclaimer: I do not manage or treat genital herpes. Occasionally I am involved in providing a second
opinion, but will not be engaged in patient management. My colleague, Dr Sarath at Cutis Dermatology, Brisbane has an interest in male genital dermatology.
How to manage sores of herpes infection?
The pain and discomfort of herpes sores can be reduced by;
- Blister medications. Some medications such as benzocaine, zinc cream & L-lysine can be bought at pharmacies without a prescription.
- Ice on the blisters to treat the pain & itch.
- Panadol & Neurofen to reduce burning sensation.
- Betadine to prevent secondary infection.
- Emollients to help scabs fall off, soap substitutes to reduce skin irritation.
Consult our dermatologist at Cutis Brisbane for more information on how to treat & prevent HSV infections.
Who is prone to herpes infection?
HSV-2 or genital herpes virus is spread majorly through sexual contact. The virus is present in over 18% of sexually active adults in Australia . Some factors increase the likelihood of getting genital herpes, including-
- Gender: Herpes virus is more common in females, and they bear a greater risk of getting infected.
- Number of sex partners: Chances of the virus increases in persons who’ve had many sex partners.
- Age: People who had sex at a young age are more likely to have the virus.
- Associated sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, syphilis & gonorrhea
- Compromised immune system: makes it easier for the virus to be caught.
What cream can I apply?
Acyclovir ointment is used to treat genital herpes and to treat certain types of sores caused by the herpes simplex virus in people with weak immune systems. Whilst they may be marginally effective, tablets are far better.
An antibiotic ointment can help heal sores & prevent secondary infection, whilst Vaseline can help scabs heal up faster. Zinc based ointments may help alleviate itching & pain.
Davin’s viewpoint: genital herpes management
Managing genital herpes infection in males involves a combination of medical treatments & lifestyle measures. Here’s a summary of how to manage genital herpes infection in men.
- Medical therapy:
- Antiviral Medications: Consult a healthcare professional for prescribed antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir. These medications can help suppress viral replication, reduce outbreak frequency, alleviate symptoms, and lower the risk of transmission. It is by far the most effective way to treat & to prevent infection.
- Follow the prescribed dosage and treatment duration recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Promptly start antiviral treatment during outbreaks to reduce their severity and duration. Most patients will understand their initial symptoms prior to recurrent outbreaks &, under guidance by my colleague, initiate antiviral medications to abort attacks.
- Safe sed: Practice safe sex by using latex or polyurethane condoms correctly and consistently during sexual activity. While condoms may not cover all potentially infected areas, they can reduce the risk of transmission.
- Communication and Disclosure: Inform sexual partners about your herpes status to enable them to make informed decisions about their own health.
- Avoid sexual activity during outbreaks or if prodromal symptoms (tingling or itching) are present.
- Hygiene and Comfort:
- Keep the genital area clean and dry to prevent secondary infections and promote healing.
- Gently wash the affected area with mild soap and warm water.
- Pat the area dry using a clean towel or allow it to air dry.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing that can cause irritation and discomfort.
- General Health and Immune Support:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, sufficient sleep, stress reduction techniques, and a balanced diet. A strong immune system can help manage outbreaks and reduce their frequency. Zinc supplements may have some (marginal) benefits.
- Minimize stress levels through relaxation techniques, meditation, or seeking support from friends, family, or healthcare professionals.
- Follow-up and Support:
- Regularly consult with a healthcare professional to monitor your condition, adjust treatment if necessary, and address any concerns.
- Seek support from herpes support groups or counseling to cope with the emotional and psychological impact of living with genital herpes.
Remember, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis, treatment plan, and personalized advice on managing genital herpes infection in males.
Disclaimer: I do not manage or treat genital herpes. Occasionally I am involved in providing tertiary advice, but will not be engaged in patient management. My colleague, Dr Sarath at Cutis Dermatology, Brisbane has an interest in male genital dermatology.
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