Understanding Herpes


Genital Herpes is a common and highly contagious infection that is usually spread through sexual contact, including intercourse, oral and anal sex. However, this particular STD is often misunderstood. The infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) or the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1).  In most cases, it is caused by HSV-2.

When active, genital herpes can cause a variety of symptoms including sores on the genitals, buttocks or anal area. Genital herpes is a chronic, lifelong viral infection and at least 50 million people in the United States currently have a genital HSV infection.

Stress, fatigue and being female can all increase your risk for contracting genital herpes. Although there is no cure for herpes, medications can reduce the duration and frequency of outbreaks. They can also help reduce the risk of HSV type 2 transmission to a susceptible partner.

There are three major types of drugs that are used to treat the symptoms of genital herpes including acyclovir (Zorivax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex). All of these medications are available in pill form. However, severe cases may be treated using intravenous (IV) acyclovir (Zorivax). In most cases, patients are treated when the virus is first diagnosed and then intermittently when outbreaks occur. Patients who experience frequent outbreaks may elect to take an antiviral pill daily. This type of therapy is referred to as suppressive therapy.

Improvements in herpes treatment have made it easier and more comfortable to live with the herpes virus. If you currently have herpes, talk to your doctor today about how you can prevent breakouts and avoid spreading the virus during sexual contact.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Carlos Alarcon, Marietta OB-GYN Affiliates, P.A.