Genital herpes is a viral infection transmitted through sex and direct skin contact. Small, painful ulcers may be herpes. But these blisters are generally already broken before even getting a doctor to look at them.
Once you have contracted the type of herpes that is located around the genitals (type 2), the virus is stored in the body, so the herpes infections can flare up later on in life. This can be problematic, but not dangerous. Around one out of every four people carry the virus – most of them without knowing it.
The first signs of a herpes infection may be that the skin is red, itchy, irritated and hurting. If you’re a girl/woman, the problems usually sit in, and around, the vagina. In guys/men, herpes blisters usually appear on the penis or scrotum. There might also be symptoms appear around the rectum, on the buttocks and thighs.
The first time you get genital herpes, the infection can hit you more severely – with fever, swollen lymph nodes in the groin, and difficulty urinating.
The herpes virus that usually appears around the mouth (herpes virus type 1) is even more common. Around 75-80% of the population carry this virus. The affected person is normally not aware of any major problems, but the infection often flares up in times of stress, or when the immune system is weakened like catching a common cold.
While there are visible blisters or sores, herpes type 1 can also infect the genitals during oral sex. (If the partner also has type 1 virus already, there is no such risk.) There is currently no vaccine to protect us from the herpes virus. Antiviral drugs can relieve the symptoms, if these get very problematic.