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Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a common infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It causes painful blisters on the genitals and the surrounding areas.

It’s usually transmitted by having sex (vaginal, anal or oral) with an infected person. Even if someone with genital herpes doesn't have any symptoms, it's possible for them to pass the condition on to a sexual partner.

Symptoms

Most people with the herpes simplex virus (HSV) don't experience any symptoms of genital herpes when first infected. Symptoms may not appear until months or sometimes years after you're exposed to the virus.

The symptoms of genital herpes for the first time include:

  • small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, rectum (back passage), thighs and buttocks
  • blisters and ulcers on the cervix (lower part of the womb) in women
  • vaginal discharge in women
  • pain when you pass urine
  • a general feeling of being unwell, with aches, pains and flu-like symptoms

 

Symptoms of a recurrent outbreak may include:

  • a tingling, burning or itching sensation around your genitals, and sometimes down your leg, before blisters appear
  • painful red blisters that soon burst to leave sores around your genitals, rectum (back passage), thighs and buttocks
  • blisters and ulcers on the cervix (lower part of the womb) in women

Testing

If you still have symptoms or are worried, you should:

*Our walk-in and wait clinics offer limited slots and operate on a first come first served basis. When clinics are at full capacity, patients asking to be seen will be triaged and those who fit our urgent criteria will be a priority. At busy times we may need to signpost non-urgent cases to other clinics or recommend patients make an appointment for an alternative day or suggest a return visit.

Treatment

Although there's no cure for genital herpes, the symptoms can usually be controlled using antiviral medicines.

Prevention

Avoid having sex (vaginal, anal and oral) until any blisters or ulcers (open sores) around your genital area have cleared up. You should also avoid sharing sex toys.

Always use a condom while having any kind of sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal and oral), even after your symptoms have gone.

More information

Visit NHS Choices - genital herpes

Download Family Planning Association’s Looking after your sexual health - genital herpes