Herpes Simplex Infection of the Genitals

Herpes infection of the genitalis is not a fun disorder. Over the last 2 decades, millions of individuals all over the world have been infected with this virus and it has created havoc and instability in social and personal relationships. Herpes genitalis is surrounded by more myths than facts.

Herpes simplex type 2 is the cause of genital infection. The infection is common world wide and affects both genders equally. Herpes simplex type 2 has a tendency to affect both the anal region and the genitals. However, this is not a hard and fast rule because the same virus can also infect the mouth and throat area. This has been recently demonstrated in individuals who perform oral sex during acute outbreaks of the viral infection. The thing about the herpes virus is that once acquired, it remains with you- forever.


Herpes infections are typically classified as primary or recurrent. The primary infection is usually acquired during childhood. In some individuals, there may be only episode of infection (primary); for the unlucky individual, the virus keeps on reactivating itself and causes repeat infections (secondary). After the first infection, the virus never disappears from the body. One of the oddities about herpes virus is that it has a great affinity for nerves- and this is where it resides and goes to sleep (becomes latent). The secondary infection occurs when the virus is reactivated from its dormant state and causes the infection. Why and what makes the virus active again is a mystery but some factors are known to trigger its reactivation.

Stressors which are known to activate the virus include:

- physical and emotional stress

- excessive exposure to sun

- major illness

- colds

- fevers

- A lot of bad luck.

Primary herpes genitalis

In all cases, the first episode is the most painful and difficult to forget. The initial episode is always the longest in duration and is also associated with extra genital symptoms such as

- fever

- malaise

- general wear down of the body

- depression

The initial infection is generally 10-14 days in duration after exposure to the virus. The other symptoms of fatigue, tiredness and anxiety can take a few more weeks to subside. A few individuals may develop a long lasting syndrome of pain known as post herpetic neuralgia (burning pain which may go on for months).


After the onset of an infection, the virus has a great affinity for nerves tissue and hides there (becomes latent). For some individuals there may be just one infection from the virus- for the unlucky ones, the infection may be recurrent. Secondary herpes is due to a local reactivation of the virus. Why some individual get just one infection and why other get recurrence is a medical mystery. A number of individual keep on getting recurrent herpes sores. As to why some individuals get it and some do not, is a medical mystery. But we do know that some conditions can increase the chance of recurrence. The recurrence may be in the same location around the genitalis or in a different site. The recurrence rate is variable. There may be one recurrence a month, or several a month or once a year.

The signs and symptoms of recurrent episodes are generally less severe. Most individuals have a prodrome (an impending sense) when the recurrence will occur. These prodrome symptoms may include the onset of tingling, pain, itching or an unusual feeling around the genitalia area (the unusual feeling is never good).

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