Genital Herpes FAQs (6)
Herpes simplex refers to two viruses in the herpes virus family.
Once captured, they all remain in the body. Herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2 are the two viruses that cause herpes symptoms. They are sometimes referred to as HSV-1 and HSV-2. Depending on whatever area of skin you catch them on, either variety can produce symptoms on the genitals, the face (facial cold sores), or the hand or finger (called a herpetic whitlow). They are uncommon on the rest of the body.
Except when we clearly indicate the different varieties, the material on this page relates to genital herpes, whether caused by type 1 or type 2. We have another page where you can learn more about cold sores (herpes simplex on the face).
Herpes will have no effect on your body or general health. Herpes simplex creates spots, which can be unpleasant and bothersome if they appear frequently... "What should I do now that I have herpes?" You wouldn't be asking that question if it were on your face.
There are websites that advise you to make a big deal out of it. However, based on the HVA experience, people can get over it and live happily ever after. Each issue of Sphere magazine features a "personal narrative" written by one of our members.
When they catch it, not everyone will notice. Only one of three people who contract herpes will develop genital herpes. The other two get nothing, or only minor symptoms like "a cut," "a pimple," "an itchy spot," or "an infected hair follicle."
If you do get genital herpes symptoms, the first infection may cause itching, tingling, soreness, and discomfort in the afflicted area. General flu-like symptoms include backache, headache, fever, soreness, and minor enlargement of the lymph glands in the groyne, armpits, and neck.
Blisters, patches, or red bumps are common on normal skin (for example, under pubic hair, or on the shaft of the penis or scrotum, on the outer labia, on the fingers, hands, or other parts of the body). These burst and form sores, raw areas, or ulcers, which crust over and form new skin as they heal.
The virus creates ulcers on mucous membranes (e.g., under the foreskin for men, the inside side of vaginal lips for women, and the mouth) that heal immediately into new skin.
There should be no scarring, however the new skin may be paler for a while. This first episode could last 2 to 3 weeks.
It will occur on the portion of your skin that has come into contact with the other person's affected area.
Some people get recurrences, which are not the same as the initial disease. Because the body has now acquired antibodies to combat this virus, recurrent symptoms normally resolve significantly faster - often in only a few days. They are often mild and do not include flu-like symptoms.
A few patients get frequent recurrences; this is especially common if they have type 2 diabetes. If you are one of these persons, we recommend that you seek into antiviral medication and self-help options. Because type 1 does not 'like' the vaginal region, it seldom recurs there if it is the cause of genital infection (an average of every 15 months in the first year).
The initial herpes simplex symptoms usually develop two to fourteen days after contact with the infected area. Four to five days is the most likely.
Many people, however, contract herpes but show no symptoms. Many years after catching genital herpes, symptoms may develop for the first time. Herpes appears unexpectedly amid a long-term committed relationship. This is why genital herpes is not evidence of adultery. When people initially have it, about two out of every three have no noticeable symptoms.
After the first episode, it is exceedingly improbable that you will reinfect yourself with the herpes virus on other regions of your body. (Including your eyes.) When applying topical ointments, you will not spread it. Even during the initial epidemic, the infection is usually restricted to a single area of the body. (If you could infect oneself elsewhere, we'd see kids with cold sores in their hands, feet, genitals, and anyplace else they could get their hands!)
Some people will catch it in two places at the same time, for example, on their hands and on their genitals, because hands might be involved in sexual activity. You will notice this during the first illness if you have caught it in more than one location. It will not create symptoms in one location but not in another. However, recurrences are usually limited to one of the locations where you caught it, rather than both at the same time.
Herpes simplex is a highly frequent infection. By the age of 25, around six out of ten people in the UK have type 1 diabetes, and approximately one in ten has type 2 diabetes, with the latter being more prevalent among the sexually active population. If this surprises you, it's because most individuals who have it are unaware of it. This is because they have no symptoms or get it so gently that they don't notice. Type 1 causes the majority of cold sores on the face. Herpes simplex on the genitals can be of two types: type 1 or type 2.
Public Health England tracks the number of new people diagnosed by STI services each year. It is above 33,000, according to the STIs 2020 data. (Due to COVID-related clinic closures, the number of patients diagnosed in 2020 decreased.) According to a 2000 survey, each GP in the country diagnoses an additional 1.4 cases per year, for a total of 53,000 cases.