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Video:Genital Herpes in Women

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Genital herpes is a very common disease and it's important to be on the lookout for signs. In this About.com video, Dr. Poynor explains the signs, symptoms and treatment of genital herpes in women, as well as how the virus is transmitted.See Transcript

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Transcript:Genital Herpes in Women

Hello, this is Dr. Poynor, here with About.com. Today we'll discuss genital herpes in women.

How Genital Herpes Spreads

Genital herpes in a very common sexually transmitted disease. It is estimated that over 45 million American are infected, most of them women.

It is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus, typically type 2. HSV-2 can be spread through secretions from the genitals or mouth.

HSV-1 usually causes cold sores or fever blisters and affects the lip area, but it can also spread from the mouth to the genitals during oral sex. This means that intercourse is not necessary to contract the disease.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes

Genital herpes often goes undiagnosed since it is often asymptomatic. When it does produce symptoms, they are often mild or mistaken for something more benign, like an insect bite.

Transmission of the disease can happen even if no sores are present at the time of contact and just like with other STDs, women are more often infected with the disease than men.

When symptoms do occur, they are usually most significant during the first outbreak; typically this happens within 2 weeks of the infection.

Symptoms may include swollen lymph nodes in the groin area, fatigue, fever, decreased appetite and muscle aches in the lower back region and upper legs area.

How Herpes Affects Women

In women, small painful blisters may appear on the thighs, buttocks, around the anus, cervix or outer vaginal lips, also called vulva, which is the outer portion of the vagina. These sores might take up to a month to heal. Consecutive outbreaks might happen very shortly after, or never again, but in most cases subsequent outbreaks will not be as severe as the first one, and in most cases, frequency of the episodes will decrease as time passes.

It is believed the virus becomes active again when the woman infected is either under stress, sick, or having her period.

Treating Genital Herpes

Even though there is no cure for genital herpes, taking antiviral medicine can drastically shorten these outbreaks as well as reduce their frequency.

Genital Herpes and Pregnancy

Women that are expecting should be monitored, as there is a strong chance they will pass on the virus to their child during labor if there is active viral shedding.

Children born with the virus are at a higher risk of developing complications as severe as brain damage or death. Therefore, an outbreak or shedding near the time of delivery will require the patient to undergo a cesarean section.

Breastfeeding could also be a potential risk for transmission but only if sores are found on or around the nipples.

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