Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in America, and the number of people infected with the disease continues to grow each year. The disease affects more women than men, most likely because it is easier for men to transmit genital herpes to women than vice versa.
In addition to causing vaginal discomfort, genital herpes can cause serious complications for pregnant women. In particular, they can pass the disease to their babies during vaginal birth which may result in blindness, brain damage, or infant death. Unfortunately, some women may not present symptoms of genital herpes and, do not realize they have been infected. Other women may only present mild symptoms that they attribute to other medical conditions. It is important to understand what the signs of genital herpes in women are so you can recognize it and seek treatment as soon as possible.
The most obvious sign of genital herpes are the lesions that erupt on the genitals. They typically appear in clusters on the vulva, labia, clitoris, vagina, cervix, anus, buttocks, or thighs. The lesions look like blisters, are about 1 to 3 mm in size, may be filled with yellow or clear liquid, and may be painful to touch. Prior to an outbreak, the infected area may tingle, itch, or cause pain.
Other Symptoms of Genital Herpes
Besides the blisters, a woman may develop some or all of these additional symptoms:
- Decreased appetite
- Menstrual irregularities
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches
- Vaginal discharge
- Tingling, itching, or pain in the infected area prior to an outbreak
How Genital Herpes is Diagnosed
Many doctors can diagnose genital herpes from a visual inspection of the sores. However, he or she will usually perform a test on fluid drained from one of the blisters to confirm the diagnosis. A blood test may also be conducted to check for antibodies related to the herpes simplex virus (HSV). If a woman presents symptoms of genital herpes while she is pregnant, the doctor will recommend that she give birth via cesarean delivery to prevent the baby from becoming infected.
Treating Genital Herpes in Women
Although genital herpes has been around for a long time, there is no cure. A genital herpes infection generally means lifelong treatment with antiviral medications like Valtrex (valacyclovir). It also means an increased risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. While prescription drugs can be effective at preventing or reducing the number of outbreaks, they often cause side effects.
The virus goes through periods of activity and remissions, and women can infect their sexual partners when the virus is active in their bodies. She can avoid passing the virus on by requiring her male partner to wear a condom during oral, vaginal, or anal sex, or use a dental dam while performing oral sex on female partners.