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eMed previously Babylon Health

Genital Herpes

Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 1st April 2019

There are 2 types of herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2). These viruses cause 3 different herpes infections, categorised by the body part that is infected: oral (the mouth), genital and ocular (the eyes)


Genital herpes can be caused by both HSV-1 and HSV-2. It is spread by sexual intercourse or contact with someone that is infected with the virus and either has active herpes sores or is asymptomatically shedding the virus.

Risk factors

  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Unprotected sexual intercourse
  • Immunocompromised people or having HIV

Typical Symptoms

  • Painful fluid filled bumps around the genitals
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands in the groin region
  • Pain when passing urine
  • Vaginal discharge

Common Treatment

  • Antiviral medication
  • Vaseline or topical anaesthetic applied to the lesions will help when passing urine, or passing urine in a warm bath/whilst running warm water over the genital region
  • Over the counter pain relief
  • Loose clothing to avoid friction over the blisters

When to speak to a doctor

Genital herpes is best tested for and treated at a sexual health clinic. It is often recommended that you are also tested for other sexually transmitted infections at the same time. To find your local NHS sexual health clinic, go here. It is important to speak urgently to a doctor if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Immunosuppressed
  • Struggling to pass urine
  • Having a lot of pain inside your bottom
  • Feeling very unwell

To speak to one of our GPs, download the app and create an account today.


Genital herpes can be prevented by:

  • Not having sexual intercourse with someone that has active genital herpes
  • Using condoms

More information

Herpes Viruses Association -


The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.