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Ask a Dermatologist Free: Genital Herpes

Dear Doctor

I noticed a small spot on my penis shaft a few days ago. It looked like a small blood blister and I figured I wouldn’t touch it am let it go away. The next day there was a second spot. The next day there were four. Now there is 9 maybe 10 spots.

They are small and itchy sometimes they hurt a little bit when touched but not usually.

I am sexually active with the same girl I have been for a year and she was recently tested as well.

I don’t believe it is herpes or genital warts from my research. What should I do!?

ask a skin specialist online

Dear Patient

Your symptoms are highly suggestive of genital herpes.

Most cases are caused by the herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV2) but some are also caused by herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1).

Symptoms of Genital Herpes

Symptoms of genital ulcers include blisters (fluid filled swellings) in the private areas. These usually break open and turn into painful erosion (small wounds). The wounds/sores develop scabs and heal over the course of a few weeks.

Herpes blisters may be associated with flu-like symptoms of fever, fatigue, body aches and swollen lymph nodes (glands). These outbreaks tend to recur with the number of recurrences decreasing over the years.

Other symptoms of genital herpes include tingling, itching or burning sensations in the genital area.

A tricky thing about genital herpes is that many people with genital herpes have never developed the blisters or sores but yet they release the virus through the skin (viral shedding) and infect their sexual  partners.


Tests of Genital Herpes

Tests that can be done for genital herpes include the HSV 2 Type Specific Serologic Test, the PCR blood test and the cell culture.


Treatment of Genital Herpes

There is no cure for genital herpes.

Medications used to treat genital herpes include:

1. Antivirals which are taken to shorten and prevent the outbreaks. These antivirals include Acyclovir (Zovirax), Famcyclovir (Famvir) and Valaciclovir (Valtrex).

2. Analgesics or pain killers like paracetamol and ibuprofen are also taken to reduce the pain.

Supportive measures

1. Wash the sores with warm salt water twice a day to prevent infections. You can make your own solution by dissolving one teaspoon of salt in one pint of warm water.

2. Do not engage in sexual activity when you have an outbreak.

3. Use condoms to protect your partner since it is transmitted my skin-to-skin contact.

4. If you get more than 6 outbreaks in a year ask your doctor about suppressive therapy which generally includes taking the antivirals every day to prevent outbreaks.

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