Genital Herpes is a virus that is sexually transmitted and very common. About 20% of the US adult population has the infection, but many people have no symptoms and don’t know they have the infection. Once infected with the virus, it usually causes an initial outbreak of genital sores that are painful. These symptoms occur more mildly in recurrent attacks which can occur every few months or never, depending on the person. Genital herpes can be diagnosed with simple testing, and while there is effective treatment, there is no known cure for the disease.

Any sexually active adult is at risk of contracting genital herpes. The herpes virus is transmitted during oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse and can be transmitted even when the infected person has no symptoms of disease. It is not transmitted by toilet seats or other physical objects. While genital herpes is often transmitted from someone else with genital herpes, it is also possible to contract genital herpes from someone who has oral herpes, or cold sores, by engaging in oral intercourse.


Genital herpes often goes undiagnosed by doctors and is often unknown by those infected because many people will have no symptoms at all. After infection, some people will have an initial outbreak 2-4 weeks after exposure with painful sores and blisters over their genital region. The symptoms will improve slowly over a few more weeks. Then, the disease can return at any time with repeated sores and blisters in a milder outbreak.

Genital herpes can often be diagnosed based on symptoms alone, but since many people have no symptoms at all a blood test is always performed. Genital herpes can be caused by the HSV-1 and the HSV-2 virus, which are the same viruses that cause cold sores (oral herpes) and only the location of the infection is different. Your doctor can order tests for HSV-1 and HSV-2 to know if you have been infected with the virus. HSV-2 more commonly causes genital herpes (and HSV-1 oral herpes) and more frequently leads to recurrence of the symptoms. Treatment for outbreaks of genital herpes is common and very effective at reducing the length of the attack. The treatment is with antiviral medication such as acyclovir, valacyclovir (Valtrex), or famcyclovir and can be taken for as short as a day or for as much as 10 days. For those with frequent outbreaks, daily treatment is available that reduces the number of outbreaks. The only known way to prevent contracting genital herpes is to use a condom or avoid having sex someone who has genital herpes.
1. You can order herpes testing or talk to a PlushCare physician about testing or treatment. 2. If needed, your PlushCare doctor can issue a prescription for acyclovir or Valtrex, for instance. 3. Pick up your prescription at a local pharmacy, or if you had testing done, get your test results online.