Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is one of the most commonly experienced sexually transmitted diseases in the world. While genital herpes is predominantly passed through the HSV-2 virus responsible for genital herpes, it is possible for HSV-1, the virus responsible for cold sores and fever blisters, to also cause genital herpes to occur. While many people who contract genital herpes will be aware of an infection, it is possible that you can still have the virus and show no symptoms or your symptoms may be very mild. This does not mean that the risk of transmitting the virus to someone else is less likely.
Men will typically contract an HSV infection through sexual contact with an infected individual, even in cases where the person doesn’t have signs of symptoms of being infected. Once the virus has entered into the system, it will infect the nerves where it will remain dormant. On occasion, it will become active and the virus will begin to surface on the skin. During this time, the active virus can infect sexual partners easier, even when a condom is worn.
Generally, an individual who becomes infected with HSV will notice symptoms. These symptoms will typically appear within a few days. It is possible for your infection to not become apparent with an initial outbreak for months or years after you have become infected. A routine STD screening can help to determine if you are infected with this condition.
At the moment of onset, you will likely notice small blisters that appear on the penis. These blisters will typically break open and cause a painful sore to form. They will then scab over and heal within 2 – 3 weeks normally. You may experience flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes during this time also. Other symptoms may also manifest during this time and they may include one or more of the following symptoms:
- Blisters on the skin
- Cracked areas of the skin that may appear red on the genitals.
- Itching around your genitals and anus
- Pain when urinating
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It is important to understand that while these symptoms are possible for someone suffering from genital herpes, they may also be attributed to other diseases. You will need to speak with your healthcare provider so they can perform additional testing that will help to determine your diagnosis. Commonly, this is done with either a swab test or a blood test, but a physical examination by your healthcare professional prior to testing is strongly recommended.
If you do contract genital herpes, it is important to understand that the risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases increases because of the increased susceptibility of the body. This includes HIV/AIDS. If diagnosed, it is important to practice safer sex to help reduce your risk. Currently, there is no cure for HSV-2, but there are treatment options that can reduce the severity, frequency and duration of your outbreaks. These are options you can review with your healthcare professional.