Intended for healthcare professionals
Clinical management

Genital herpes: not JUST a cold sore

Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 or type 2. These viruses are very similar and both can cause blisters and ulcers. Type 1 usually affects the lips (cold sores), or the genital area, while type 2 usually affects the genital area only. Genital herpes is common, with over 30,000 new diagnoses made in England in 2017.1 An estimated 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 (67%) have type 1 infection, globally, while an estimated 417 million people aged 15–49 (11%) worldwide have type 2 infection.2 Most people will catch the virus at some point, with many of them not developing any symptoms. The main signs are small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around the genitals, anus, thighs or buttocks, lasting for a week or so (see Box 1). While some people only have one outbreak, genital herpes can reoccur, sometimes on a monthly basis.

Dermatology in practice 2018; 24(4): 104–108
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