Genital Herpes

Herpes is caused by a virus called Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), an infection which is common, but rarely serious. There are two types of the virus: Type 1 (HSV1) and Type 2 (HSV 2).

HSV-1 commonly causes cold sores around the mouth. and can be passed to the genital area by oral sex
HSV- 2 commonly causes genital herpes and is usually caught as an adult and from genital to genital skin contact.

Almost everyone has come into contact with one or both types of the virus at some time in their lives, and may be infected with or without symptoms. Most people carrying the virus are unaware that they have ever been infected, because they have no symptoms.

How is it passed on?

  • From one person to another during vaginal or anal sex
  • Sharing sex toys
  • Skin to skin contact, close genital contact
  • If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore or is about to develop one
  • If someone with herpes on the hand or finger touched your vagina, genital or anal area

What are the signs and symptoms?

You may not get any visible signs or not be aware of them. However you may have some or all of the following:

  • Flu like symptoms, feeling generally unwell
  • Stinging, itching or tingling in the genital or anal area
  • Small, fluid filled blisters anywhere in the genital or anal area
  • Pain when peeing

How will you know if you have the virus?

You can only be certain you have genital herpes if you have a check up. You can get checked out by your GP or at your local sexual health clinic.

How do you get tested?

A nurse or doctor will take a swab from the infected area, the result will take 1-2 weeks.

What is the treatment?

The aim of the treatment is to relieve pain and prevent the virus multiplying. Treatment is usually started within 5 days of the start of a new episode, it involves taking antiviral tablets daily( up to 5 per day) for 5 days.
As genital herpes is caused by a virus and not bacteria, antibiotics will not help. The treatment you can buy for facial cold sores is NOT suitable for genital herpes.

Confidential advice, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up are available from your local GP or sexual health clinic.

Is there anything I can do myself to ease the discomfort?

  • take a cool shower to soothe the sores
  • avoid washing too often, and dab the area gently to dry it
  • bathe in warm salted water ( a handful of salt into a shallow bath)
  • if peeing is painful, go to the toilet in a warm bath or shower
  • drink extra fluids such as water
  • wear loose clothing
  • use a mild painkiller, if you need to

For further information on Genital Herpes visit Health Scotland here:

You can also contact the Herpes Virus association (a registered charity since 1985) for confidential advice and information by calling the herpes helpline 0845 123 2305 or via their website