React promptly in the event of a genital herpes outbreak
Genital herpes (also: genital herpes) is a disease that people rarely talk about openly. In addition, risk awareness in the population is rather limited, although genital herpes is one of the most common venereal diseases, according to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWIG). Many people are transmitters of the virus without being aware of it, and anyone who has contracted herpes viruses will keep them in their bodies for life.
In most cases, an infection with herpes viruses does not lead to illness and 90 out of 100 infected people experience no or only very unremarkable symptoms, reports the IQWIG. But if there are complaints, they are often painful and also psychologically stressful. And anyone who has had genital herpes usually has to deal with it again and again - even if the outbreaks become weaker and rarer over time. Today, however, there are treatments that can alleviate the symptoms and shorten an outbreak, according to the IQWIG.
Uncertainty of those affected
The diagnosis of genital herpes is usually very uncomfortable for those affected and automatically raises many questions. Where did I get infected? How do I explain it to my partner? Who should you talk to? The list of questions can be continued for a long time, but the most important thing first is timely treatment and avoiding further transfers.
Painful blistering on the skin
In particular, the symptoms of the first outbreak of genital herpes can be extremely uncomfortable for those affected and in the worst case there is a risk of life-threatening complications such as inflammation in the brain. Basically, genital herpes appears when there is an outbreak of painful inflamed skin in the area of the genitals and the formation of small blisters that burst and wet over time. In the course of the healing process, scab forms.
Increased discomfort at the first outbreak
The skin irritation is often accompanied by severe itching and burning. Women also often have pain when urinating, the experts at IQWIG explain. When they first appear, the symptoms are usually particularly severe and, in addition to the typical skin symptoms, there is often a fever, headache, general exhaustion and muscle pain as well as swollen lymph nodes in the groin.
"If you already have another herpes pathogen in your body, you may already have a certain defense against herpes viruses" and in these cases "the symptoms at the first outbreak are often weaker than in people who have no contact with herpes viruses at all had ”, explains the IQWIG on its portal“ gesundheitsinformation.de ”. In addition, according to the experts, the complaints can be more severe and last longer if the immune system is weakened.
Genital herpes is often unwittingly transmitted
The risk of infection is slightly higher for women than for men, and in Germany an estimated ten to 15 out of 100 people are infected with the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2; most common pathogen for genital herpes), with only ten to 30 percent of IQWIG reports that they develop genital herpes. Most of the time, the virus is passed on by people who do not even know that they are infected. In addition, the infection may have been months or years old when the first symptoms started.
Diagnosis based on laboratory tests
If a genital herpes infection is suspected, a medical examination should be carried out urgently, even if no symptoms are present. In order to identify the pathogens, a swab is taken from the affected skin area in the event of obvious skin complaints and this sample is then examined in the laboratory for herpes viruses. It is somewhat more difficult to determine the infection in people without symptoms, but there is the possibility to test for herpes antibodies. If HSV-2 antibodies are found there, genital herpes could result.
Treatment for genital herpes
If genital herpes is diagnosed, treatment with virus-inhibiting drugs based on the active ingredients aciclovir, famciclovir or valaciclovir is usually given at an initial outbreak, reports the IQWIG. The tablets can curb the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness by a few days, but the creams or ointments with virus-inhibiting agents do not help with genital herpes, according to the institute.
New herpes outbreaks do not necessarily need to be treated
If there are subsequent outbreaks of genital herpes, the symptoms are usually less pronounced and treatment is then not absolutely necessary, explains the IQWIG. If treatment is given, it is best to start in the first 24 hours after the onset - ideally as soon as the first symptoms begin to appear, the institute continues. This is easier if you always have the appropriate tablets available at home or while traveling. With repeated very strong outbreaks, preventive treatment with medication can also take place, which significantly reduce the risk of outbreaks.
In order to avoid infection of others, people with genital herpes are advised to refrain from sex as soon as an outbreak is indicated, since the risk of transmission is greatest during an outbreak. However, (infected) people can also pass on the virus without symptoms, reports the IQWIG. By using condoms during the symptom-free period, the risk of infection can be significantly reduced. In addition, infected people should talk to their partner about it and if both partners do a blood test for antibodies, it can be assessed who carries which types of virus in the body - and whether there is a risk of infection, explains the IQWIG. (fp)