Genital herpes - self-care
It is normal to be worried after finding out that you have genital herpes. But know that you are not alone. Millions of people carry the virus. Although there is no cure, genital herpes can be treated. Follow your health care provider's instructions for treatment and follow-up.
Herpes - genital - self-care; Herpes simplex - genital - self-care; Herpesvirus 2 - self-care; HSV-2 - self-care
One type of herpes virus stays in the body by hiding within nerve cells. It can remain "asleep" (dormant) for a long time. The virus can "wake up" (reactivate) at any time. This can be triggered by:
The pattern of outbreaks varies widely in people with herpes. Some people carry the virus even though they've never had symptoms. Others may have only one outbreak or outbreaks that occur rarely. Some people have regular outbreaks that occur every 1 to 4 weeks.
To ease symptoms:
Doing the following may help sores heal:
Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear. DO NOT wear nylon or other synthetic pantyhose or underwear. Also, DO NOT wear tight-fitting pants.
Genital herpes cannot be cured. Antiviral medicine (acyclovir and related drugs) may relieve pain and discomfort and help the outbreak go away faster. It may also reduce the number of outbreaks. Follow your provider's instructions about how to take this medicine if it has been prescribed. There are two ways to take it:
Generally, there are very few if any side effects from this medicine. If they occur, side effects may include:
Consider taking antiviral medicine daily to keep outbreaks from developing.
Taking steps to keep yourself healthy can also minimize the risk for future outbreaks. Things you can do include:
Preventing the Spread of Herpes
Even when you do not have sores, you can pass (shed) the virus to someone during sexual or other close contact. To protect others:
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if you have any of the following:
Gardella C, Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Genital tract infections: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 23.
Whitley RJ. Herpes simplex virus infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 374.
Workowski KA, Bolan GA; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2015. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2015;64(RR-03):1-137. PMID: 26042815 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26042815.
Review Date: 9/25/2018
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.