Your health care provider can usually make a diagnosis of genital herpes based on a physical exam and a history of your sexual activity.
To confirm a diagnosis, your provider will likely take a sample from an active sore. One or more tests of these samples are used to see if you have herpes simplex virus (HSV), infection and show whether the infection is HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Less often, a lab test of your blood may be used for confirming a diagnosis or ruling out other infections.
Your care provider will likely recommend that you get tested for other STIs. Your partner should also be tested for genital herpes and other STIs.
There's no cure for genital herpes. Treatment with prescription antiviral pills may be used for the following:
- Help sores heal during a first outbreak
- Lower the frequency of recurrent outbreaks
- Lessen the severity and duration of symptoms in recurrent outbreaks
- Reduce the chance of passing the herpes virus to a partner
Commonly prescribed medicines used for genital herpes include:
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
Your health care provider will talk to you about the right treatment for you. Treatment depends on the severity of disease, the type of HSV, your sexual activity and other medical factors. The dose will vary depending on whether you currently have symptoms. Long-term use of the antiviral drugs is considered safe.
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Coping and support
A diagnosis of genital herpes may cause embarrassment, shame, anger or other strong emotions. You may be suspicious or resentful of your partner. Or you might be worried about rejection by your current partner or future partners.
Healthy ways to cope with having genital herpes include the following:
- Communicate with your partner. Be open and honest about your feelings. Trust your partner and believe what your partner tells you.
- Educate yourself. Talk with your health care provider or a counselor. They can help you learn how to live with the condition. They can also help you lessen the chance of infecting others. Learn about your treatment options and how to manage outbreaks.
- Join a support group. Look for a group in your area or online. Talk about your feelings and learn from others' experiences.
Preparing for your appointment
If you think you have genital herpes or another STI, make an appointment to see your health care provider.
Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- What are your symptoms? When did they start?
- Do you have sores or unusual discharge?
- Do you have pelvic pain?
- Do you have pain while urinating?
- Do you have a new sexual partner or multiple partners?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection?
- Do you regularly use condoms?
- What medications or supplements do you take regularly?
Nov. 22, 2022
- Genital herpes: CDC detailed fact sheet. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes-detailed.htm. Accessed Sept. 28, 2022.
- Genital herpes. Sexually Transmitted Infections Treatment Guidelines, 2021. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/herpes.htm. Accessed Sept. 28, 2022.
- AskMayoExpert. Simplex herpes virus (SHV) (adult). Mayo Clinic; 2022.
- Loscalzo J, et al., eds. Herpes simplex virus infections. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 21st ed. McGraw Hill; 2022. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Sept. 28, 2022.
- Schiffer JT et al. Herpes simplex virus. In: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 28, 2022.
- FAQs: Genital herpes. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Genital-Herpes. Accessed Sept. 28, 2022.
- Dinulos JGH. Sexually transmitted viral infections. In: Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Oct. 31, 2022.