Genital Herpes


February 27, 2023

What is it? 

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a virus similar to the one that gives you cold sores around your lips. Genital herpes, however, causes painful blisters and sores on and around your genitals. Almost everyone has come into contact with the herpes virus at some point in their lives, and may be infected without ever experiencing any symptoms. In fact, most people carrying the virus are unaware that they've even been infected. However, just because you have the herpes virus, this doesn't mean you have genital herpes.

What are the symptoms?

It usually takes between two and 12 days after contact with the virus for the first symptoms to appear. Occasionally symptoms can be noticed years after initial contact. However, some people exposed to the virus never become infected, while others catch herpes but never have any symptoms. This means that most people with genital herpes don't know they are infected but can pass the infection on to others. You may first notice some itching, tingling, inflammation and discomfort in the affected area. You can also experience general flu-like symptoms, such as backache, headache and a temperature, and mild swelling of the lymph glands in the groin, armpits and neck. You may then develop multiple spots or red bumps around the genital area which can be very painful. In time, these swellings can break open and form sores or ulcers, which gradually crust over, forming new skin as they heal. During this time, you may also feel pain when peeing or when opening your bowels. This first episode of genital herpes may last from two to four weeks. Repeat episodes are hardly ever as severe as the first and you may never have a repeat episode.

How do you get it?

You usually catch genital herpes through direct skin contact with the virus. This can be from herpes sores in the genital area, or herpes sores on the mouth in the form of cold sores.The genital herpes virus is passed on by kissing, vaginal and anal sex (genital contact), oral sex, and sharing sex toys. Once you have picked up the infection, the virus stays in your body, lying dormant, and can recur in the area that was originally infected. If the virus reactivates, the ulcers can reappear and this is known as a 'recurrent episode'. You can catch herpes even if your sexual partner has no visible sores or symptoms. This is because the virus can become active on the skin without causing any visible symptoms --- this is known as 'viral shedding'. Many people who have and pass on the virus may not even know they have herpes.


If you or your partner are worried that you may have genital herpes, see a doctor straight away. Getting tested is easy. If you have visible blisters, the doctor or nurse may be able to make a diagnosis straight away. If there are no visible blisters then a diagnosis might not be possible at this time. A swab will be used to collect a sample.

If you have herpes:

Once you have been infected with genital herpes, the virus persists in your body and can cause a recurrence of symptoms from time to time. Recurrent episodes with symptoms will clear up by themselves without any treatment, but there is also medication to help speed up the healing process. The doctor may prescribe antiviral tablets to speed up the healing process and reduce the severity of an episode. If you start taking the medication as soon as an outbreak begins, you may shorten or even stop the episode. Some people experience frequent recurrences. In these cases, a longer course of tablets should prevent any recurrent episodes. Keep a record of when you have an episode of herpes. You may see a pattern developing and be able to identify your trigger factors. Many people find that episodes occur when they're run- down, under stress, around the time of menstruation, or when the skin gets irritated due to friction or tight clothing.

How to avoid spreading herpes:

If you have herpes, you can follow some simple guidelines to avoid passing the virus on to your partner(s), and to continue to have a healthy and happy sex life:

  • Learn to recognise the warning signs (tingling, itching or inflammation) that an episode is starting. Do not have sex at this time.
  • Do not allow anyone to come into direct contact with your sores or blisters.
  • Avoid kissing and oral sex when you
  • or your partner have cold sores around the mouth --- or you feel that sores may be developing.
  • Remember that you can still shed the virus without having any symptoms. You should always use condoms with any
  • new partner and for any type of sexual contact. This is important when having sex with new partners.
  • The herpes virus survives within the nerves of your skin and can be passed through skin-to-skin contact. So even if you use a condom to reduce spreading, the virus may still be present on your skin that is not covered by the condom after you no longer have any symptoms. This means there is still a chance you could pass it to someone else.


General Information

The information provided by Freyja is for general information purposes only. All information on the site is provided in good faith, however, we make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of any information on the site. Under no circumstances shall we have any liability to you for any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of the site or reliance on any information provided on the site. Your use of the site and your reliance on any information on the site is solely at your own risk.

Medical Advice

This website does not provide medical advice. The information provides by Freyja is for general information purposes only. Under no circumstances shall we have any liability for any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of the site or reliance on any information provided on the site. Your use of the site and your reliance on any information on the site is solely at your own risk. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek advice from a medical professional, and never delay in seeking any medical advice because of something you have read on this website.

The site may contain (or you may be sent through the site) links to other websites or content belonging to or originating from third parties or links to websites and features in banners or other advertising. Such external links are not investigated, monitored, or checked for accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness by us. We do not warrant, endorse, guarantee, or assume responsibility for the accuracy or reliability of any information offered by third-party websites linked through the site or any website or feature. We will not be a party to or in a way be responsible for monitoring any transaction between you and third-party providers of products or services.


The site cannot and does not contain fitness advice. The fitness information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of fitness advice. The use or reliance of any information contained on the site is solely at your own risk.