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Genital Herpes

What is Genital herpes?

  • Genital herpes is a STI caused by a virus.  
  • It causes blisters on the skin and the mucous membrane of the penis, vagina or anus.  
  • The virus always remains in your body and you can infect others.
  • A cold sore on your lip is also a kind of herpes, but it is caused by a different type of herpes virus.

What causes genital herpes?

  • The virus is mainly in the blisters and is transmitted by unprotected sexual contact or with the fingers on the penis, the vagina, the anus and the lips, sometimes even the cornea of the eye. 
  • There is more risk of infection if there are (open) blisters.  
  • Infection is also possible if there are no visible blisters.
  • In case of a cold sore on the lip there are blisters on and around the lips of your mouth.  With oral sex, this virus can also be transmitted to the genitalia and cause blisters there (even if at that moment there is no cold sore on the lips).

What are the complaints?

  • Normally you do not notice that you are infected.  If you get complaints, it is usually within one week after the infection.  
  • You can be feverish and have muscle pain.  
  • You can also have pain and a burning feeling when urinating or swollen glands in the groin.  
  • On the skin and mucous membrane there may be blisters filled with clear fluid or small wounds (craters).  
  • For the woman this is on the labia, the vagina, the cervix, and in or around the anus.  
  • For the man, on the outside of the penis and in or around the anus.  
  • The blisters are often very painful.  They open and heal within one to four weeks without scars.

The herpes virus will not disappear from your body:

  • This means that an infection can come back in the form of blisters, your whole life long.  
  • These blisters often come back when your resistance is low, when you are sick, tired or have your period.  
  • The complaints are often not as serious as the first time.  
  • Before the blisters appear, you often have a tingling feeling on your skin.

How can the infection be diagnosed?

  • The blisters and complaints are usually very recognizable so that further examination is not necessary.  
  • In case of doubt it is possible to take some fluid from the blisters with a cotton swab.


  • Herpes cannot be cured.  
  • There are medicines to make an attack less painful and less long. 
  • In case of serious complaints, antiviral tablets may help.  It is a cure of 3 to 5 days and it has to be started as soon as possible.  The virus always remains in your body.
  • In case of less serious complaints, the application of a drying cream, such as zinc oil, on the blisters may help.  
  • In case of pain you can take paracetamol. 
  • If urinating is painful, women can try to urinate while sitting in a bath of water.  This is often less painful.

 Warning partners

  • Because genital herpes is infectious, you must inform your sex partners.  
  • If your partner is not yet infected, you can try to avoid this, for instance by not having sex while you have blisters.  
  • When your steady partner is already infected, you don’t have to use a condom.

Work advice

  • During a herpes attack, the virus can easily be transmitted.  
  • Blisters and wounds are not always covered by the condom.  
  • Therefore it is safer not to have sex during an attack. 
  • Don’t let your sexpartner lick you if he has a cold sore on the lip, and don’t lick or give blow jobs yourself if you have a cold sore on,the lip.  
  • You may not kiss.  
  • It is possible to give a hand job. 
  • Don’t touch the blisters and wash your hands carefully if you did.