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Video:The First Genital Herpes Outbreak

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The first genital herpes outbreak is generally the worst, so it's important to know what to expect. This video from About.com will explain what happens during the first genital herpes outbreak.See Transcript

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Transcript:The First Genital Herpes Outbreak

Hello, this is Dr. Poynor, here with About.com to discuss the first genital herpes outbreak.

Contracting Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a virus called the herpes simplex virus. Contact with a person infected with genital herpes can result in transfer of the virus, namely through secretions of the genitals, mouth, or even though contact with open skin.

Once the herpes virus enters the body, it travels along nerve paths and may remain inactive in the nerves indefinitely. However, once in a while, the virus might become active, and cause what is called an outbreak.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes

While many infected people never experience sores and have symptoms that are so mild they go unnoticed, some people will experience a genital herpes outbreak during which sores or small blisters appear in the genital area, along with an array of systemic physical symptoms and signs such as flu-like symptoms, fever, tingling in the genital area, pain during urination, muscle aches, joint pain, vaginal discharge and enlarged painful lymph nodes in the groin area.

These small blisters will become open sores or erosions once they rupture. Afterwards a crust will form and the erosions will heal.

The first episode is usually most severe, particularly in women, and many people will never experience any other outbreaks in their lives.

After the First Outbreak

Usually this episode occurs within weeks of the infection, and can take up to 4 weeks to resolve itself. Treatment may include oral antiviral therapy for up to 10 days.

During outbreaks, the body is more likely to contract other STDs, for example HIV, since blisters and ulcers give other viruses more points of entry into the body.

Condoms can help contain the spread of the virus.

After the initial outbreak, the virus travels to the spine, where it remains dormant for a while, sometimes forever. This is called the latent stage. There are no symptoms during this stage.

Recurrence of outbreaks might be triggered by stress, weakened immune systems, sunlight, or menstruations.

Diagnosing Genital Herpes

To diagnose genital herpes, a doctor might use several tests, which include a culture test of the blisters, especially when these are fresh and open, or a blood test, aiming at detecting antibodies that should be produced by the body if it ever were in contact with the virus.

Both tests are fallible as they require specific conditions to produce foolproof results.

A polymerase chain reaction (or PCR) might also be used to confirm a diagnosis.

There is no cure for genital herpes, but careful monitoring of the symptoms and outbreaks can improve greatly a patient's condition and outlook on life.

To find out more, go to About.com.

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