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Genital Herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a virus called Herpes Simplex. Herpes on the face is called a cold sore but you can also get it on the genitals or anal area. Once you have the Herpes Virus in your body you cannot get rid of it, although there are treatments available that can help.

Signs and symptoms

  • Stinging, itching or tingling sensation in the genital or anal area.
  • Small fluid-filled blisters anywhere on the genital or anal area. These usually burst within a day or two and leave small painful sores. They will dry out, scab over and heal but could take two to four weeks to heal.
  • Pain when going for a pee.
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, tiredness, backache, headache or swollen glands. 

How do you get it?

  • Kissing (mouth to mouth).
  • Penetrative sex (when the penis enters the vagina or anus).
  • Oral sex (from mouth to the genitals).
  • Skin to skin contact during sex - You don't have to have penetrative sex to pass it on.

Testing and treatment

Genital herpes is usually diagnosed by a doctor or nurse looking at the affected area of skin. A small swab, like a cotton bud, will be wiped over the infected area to collect a sample of fluid. This may sting if the area is sore, but will only take a few seconds.They will then send this sample to the laboratory for confirmation, and you will usually hear back within 2 weeks. You can only be certain you have herpes if you get tested whilst you have symptoms.

A course of antiviral tablets taken early (within 5 days of first outbreak) may make the sores less painful and heal quicker, so it's important to get tested as soon as you show any signs or symptoms. 

Long-term effects

There is no known cure for Herpes - but don't worry, it's not something that's there all the time. The first attack of sores is always the worst, and after that you may not get any more.