- 1 Genital Herpes
- 1.1 What is Genital Herpes?
- 1.2 Causes of Genital Herpes
- 1.3 Incubation Period of Genital Herpes in Women
- 1.4 Signs and Symptoms of Herpes in Women
- 1.5 Risk Factors
- 1.6 How Is Genital Herpes Spread?
- 1.7 Complications of Genital Herpes
- 1.8 Testing and Diagnosis
- 1.9 Treatment
- 1.10 Risk of Recurrence
- 1.11 Prevention
What is Genital Herpes?
Genital Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in Singapore amongst both men and women.
It is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus.
Genital Herpes is characterized by blisters or bumps that form around the genital region.
Causes of Genital Herpes
There are 2 main types of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) that can cause genital herpes.
They are HSV Type 1 and HSV Type 2.
HSV Type 1
HSV Type 1 is most commonly associated with oral cold sores. This is extremely common in the population.
HSV Type 1 is spread through skin to skin contact such as kissing, or close contact such as sharing drinks or utensils. Oral cold sores are NOT a form of sexually transmitted disease.
HSV Type 1 can be spread from the oral to the genital region through sexual contact like oral sex.
This thus leads to the development of genital herpes, which is sexually transmitted.
HSV Type 2
HSV Type 2 is closely associated with genital herpes. This can be spread easily through skin to skin intimate contact or sexual intercourse.
Incubation Period of Genital Herpes in Women
The incubation period of genital herpes can be varied. This depends on factors such as the type of sexual contact, the infectivity of the partner, the woman’s individual immune system etc.
Some women may develop symptoms shortly after their contact with an infected person, while others may have a silent infection with no symptoms for many months or years before showing any symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Herpes in Women
Many people exposed and infected with HSV are unaware that they have been infected as the virus may stay silent and they do not develop any symptoms.
When present, symptoms suggestive of Genital Herpes includes:
- Painful or itchy blisters around the genital region
- Abnormal lumps and bumps around the genitals
- Soreness around the genital region
- Tingling sensation
- Scabs or tiny “wounds”
- Swollen pelvic lymph nodes
- Painful urination
For women, these symptoms can usually present on any of the various affected areas including the external or internal vagina, buttock, thighs or anal region.
Sometimes, mild symptoms may also be mistaken for other conditions like a pimple or folliculitis. Hence if you notice any symptoms that you are unsure of, it is important to get checked by an experienced women’s health doctor.
Think you need a Consultation?
Genital Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection and risk factors include:
How Is Genital Herpes Spread?
You can get genital herpes by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the infection.
Herpes can be spread through any of these situations:
You can also get genital herpes from a sexual partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection.
It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.
Herpes cannot be spread from toilet seats, bed sheets, or swimming pools.
Complications of Genital Herpes
It is important to get diagnosed and treated early for genital herpes to avoid unwanted complications.
Think you need a Consultation?
Testing and Diagnosis
Your doctor will perform a detailed physical examination to look for the relevant symptoms.
The best way to accurately diagnose genital herpes is to test for the herpes virus by performing a swab test on the sores or blisters.
This will allow us to look for the presence of the HSV virus.
If there are no symptoms, a blood test can also be done to check for HSV antibodies.
You are usually encouraged to get a thorough STD screen as well.
Do note that the blood test is unable to determine when you were infected and who passed the infection to you.
As genital herpes is a form of viral infection, treatment is best done with a course of antiviral medication. The duration and dose will be tailored by the doctor depending on the severity of your condition.
It is important to get treated early and appropriately to avoid unwanted complications.
Risk of Recurrence
Recurrence is an issue that is particularly important for patients who have been diagnosed with genital herpes as the herpes virus stays in our body for life.
The virus unfortunately cannot be completely removed, but it can be well controlled with the appropriate treatment. This will allow an affected patient to be symptom free and live life normally.
The risk of recurrence can be reduced with regular antiviral medications known as suppressive therapy. This will require the expertise and monitoring by an experienced doctor.
The best way to prevent a herpes infection is to get regular std screening for yourself and your partner, and also to stick to a regular partner.
Protected sexual intercourse can also reduce the chances of herpes transmission.
Other precautions that you can take include:
Frequently Asked Questions
You are advised to abstain from sexual contact if you are having an active infection. This is because genital herpes is extremely contagious and can be spread easily through skin contact.
Wearing a condom does not fully protect against transmission as the virus may be present around the genital region which are not covered by the condom.
If you have a history of genital herpes but have been well and asymptomatic, it would be good to have an honest discussion with your partner regarding the risk of spread through sexual intercourse.
The risk can be reduced through regular medications.
Outbreaks may be triggered by various factors that affect your immune system and general health. Some people may experience numerous episodes each year, but the outbreaks usually get less frequent as time passes.
Outbreaks of genital herpes may be triggered by:
- A weakened immune system brought on by medications such as steroids or chemotherapy, or infections caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
Blisters or sores due to herpes infection can last anywhere from 1 week to a few weeks, depending on how early the infection is diagnosed and how fast treatment is started.
It is also important to abstain from sexual intercourse to avoid reinfection, which can cause symptoms to last much longer.
Dr Michelle Chia
After graduating from the National University of Singapore, Dr Michelle's journey allowed her to train in Women's Health and Aesthetic Medicine. Her experience has led her to be featured on multiple media platforms including Radio Stations and prominent Magazines like Her World, Women's Weekly and CLEO. Her work has also received recognition both locally and internationally in several Medical Conferences.
Ezra Clinic is a Women’s Health, Wellness and Aesthetic Clinic that is conveniently located at the top floor of Royal Square Medical Suites in Novena, Singapore’s Medical Health Hub.
Helmed by Dr Michelle Chia, Ezra Clinic is your chosen one stop clinic for all your Women’s Health and Wellness needs.