Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) passed on through vaginal, anal and oral sex. Treatment from a sexual health clinic can help. Symptoms clear up on their own but can come back.
• small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, anus, thighs or bottom
• tingling, burning or itching around your genitals
• pain when you pee
• in women, vaginal discharge that’s not usual for you
These can be symptoms of genital herpes.
Go even if you have not had sex for a long time, as blisters can take months or years to appear.
Treatment for genital herpes
There’s no cure. Symptoms clear up by themselves, but the blisters can come back (an outbreak or recurrence).
Treatment from a sexual health clinic can help.
Treatment the first time you have genital herpes
You may be prescribed:
• antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse – you need to start taking this within 5 days of the symptoms appearing
• cream for the pain
If you have had symptoms for more than 5 days before you go to a sexual health clinic, you can still get tested to find out the cause.
Treatment if the blisters come back.
Go to a GP or sexual health clinic if you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak. Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear. But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes.
Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people never have outbreaks.
Some people who have more than 6 outbreaks in a year may benefit from taking antiviral medicine for 6 to 12 months.
If you still have outbreaks of genital herpes during this time, you may be referred to a specialist.
How to deal with outbreaks yourself
If you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and you’re having an outbreak:
• Keep the area clean using plain or salt water to prevent blisters becoming infectedapply an ice pack wrapped in a flannel to soothe pain
• apply petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) or painkilling cream (such as 5% lidocaine) to reduce pain when you pee
• wash your hands before and after applying cream or jelly
• pee while pouring water over your genitals to ease the pain
• do not wear tight clothing that may irritate blisters or sores
• do not put ice directly on the skin
• do not touch your blisters or sores unless you’re applying cream
• do not have vaginal, anal or oral sex until the sores have gone away