You might have first heard about genital herpes in your health class. Alongside other well-known sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea and chlamydia, you may think of herpes and the graphic, worst-case images that spring to mind. Unsurprisingly, that can leave anyone feeling confused or a little intimidated if you've just found out you have it or are worried about catching it one day. If this is you, don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place to find out all the information you need to know.
Because pop culture has often presented genital herpes as an “incurable” STI and a punchline to jokes, it can feel really difficult to speak to friends or your doctor about it. And that means there’s still a lot of myth and stigma that surrounds it. So here, Dr. Renita White, obstetrician and gynecologist, Georgia, US, goes right back to basics. Read on as she talks us through what genital herpes is, how it spreads, and how it might be more common than you first thought.
What is genital herpes?
First things first, what is genital herpes? You might already know that it’s an STI, but did you know that two different strains of the virus cause genital herpes?
“Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that is transmitted by the herpes simplex virus,” Dr. White says. “It can occur from either herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) or herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2).”
We know there are a lot of acronyms to take on, but stay with us. HSV-1 is typically transmitted through kissing (and other mouth-to-mouth contact) and can cause sores around your mouth (also known as cold sores). HSV-2, meanwhile, is transmitted during skin-to-skin contact during sex, and this is what causes genital herpes. Both varieties can be spread to different areas of your body depending on the different types of sex you have. Keep reading to learn more about this.
In many cases, symptoms won’t be visible all of the time. Instead, you might experience flare-ups or outbreaks now and then (more on the symptoms of genital herpes below). If you want to find out about the symptoms associated with different STIs, then you can learn more by using an app like Flo.