Vaginal herpes is a type of sexually transmitted infection caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV), resulting in itching, pain and sores in the vagina. The virus lies dormant or in a deactivated state in the body after the initial infection and can reactivate multiple times in a year. Although no cure exists for vaginal herpes, still simple home remedies and medications are available that can help ease symptoms and decrease the risk of spreading the infection to partners.
Symptoms of Vaginal Herpes
The majority of the females who get the infection do not realize that they have the disease as no signs and symptoms are present in them. HSV may present so mild signs and symptoms that they can often go unnoticed.
- When symptoms are present, they begin by appearance of pain and itching in the vaginal area usually a few weeks after the female is exposed to an infected sexual partner. After a period of several days, tiny white blisters or small red bumps may appear in the vagina area, buttocks, external genitalia, anus and/or cervix. These lesions rupture and form ulcers oozing a fluid or blood. Eventually ulcers heal with scab formation.
- With ulcers urination may become painful. The infection is also accompanied by pain and tenderness in the genital region. Initial outbreak of vaginal herpes is also associated with generalized flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and muscle aches. The lymph nodes of the groin may become swollen.
The various complications associated with vaginal herpes include
- The risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections is increased with genital sores especially the AIDS virus.
- Pregnant females who are infected with the virus can expose their newborns during childbirth. This can lead to complications of blindness, brain damage and even death in the newborn.
- Vaginal herpes can also lead to swelling and inflammation of the urethra, thereby leading to its blockage. It may require catheter insertion to drain your bladder.
- Rarely, vaginal herpes may cause inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord leading to meningitis.
- In rare instances, vaginal herpes can also lead to inflammation of the rectum, though this is more common in males.
Causes of Vaginal Herpes
Vaginal herpes can be caused due to two types of herpes simplex viral infections.
- HSV-1. HSV-1 usually causes fever blisters or cold sores around the mouth and can spread to the vaginal area during oral sex.
- HSV-2. HSV-2 is usually responsible for causing genital herpes. The virus is transmitted via sexual contact. HSV-2 is a highly contagious virus and can be transmitted even without the presence of an open sore.
The virus once transmitted remains in the body and may cause multiple outbreaks of vaginal herpes. The various trigger factors that may cause an outbreak include.
- Stress, both physical and mental
- Long illness
- Any type of surgery
Diagnosis of Vaginal Herpes
Your physician can easily diagnose vaginal herpes on the basis of a physical exam and by doing certain tests.
- DNA Test. A sample of the sore, blood or spinal fluid can be tested for the virus and its type.
- Blood Test. A blood test can be done to detect antibodies to HSV implying a past infection with the virus.
- Viral Culture. A tissue sample or scraping from the sores is taken and examined in the laboratory.
Treatments for Vaginal Herpes
1. Natural Remedies
- Warm Bath. Soaking in a warm bath can help relieve the pain that accompanies the sores of vaginal herpes infection. However, following a bath ensure to dry the affected area completely as moisture may increase the healing time of sores.
- Baking Soda or Cornstarch. You can apply either baking soda or cornstarch with a cotton ball to your sores and it will dry them and decreases the itching.
- Lysine. Lysine is an essential amino acid and is frequently found as a natural supplement in any health food store. Taking Lysine supplements can also help improve the herpes infection.
- Ice Pack. Applying ice to the affected area is one of the best ways to reduce the pain and itching associated with an outbreak of vaginal herpes.
- Aloe Vera. Applying Aloe Vera gel directly to the herpes sores helps in reducing the pain and also promotes healing of the sores.
2. Daily Care
- Maintaining personal hygiene is very important. Take care not to touch the sores. Wash your hands frequently throughout the day. Scrub your fingernails daily. Keep your body clean.
- Use cornstarch or baking soda to keep the sores or blisters dry and clean. (Females should avoid the use of talcum powder as it increases their risk of developing cancer of the ovaries).
- Do not wear tight-fitting clothes as they restrict air flow into the area and decrease the healing of the sores. Always wear cotton underwear and avoid underwear made of synthetic materials.
- Refrain from having sexual contact both during outbreaks of the virus and during the prodromal stage when early signs and symptoms of herpes are present including itching, tingling or tenderness in the infected region.
Vaginal herpes cannot be cured. Treatment is provided to help the sores heal, to reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms, to decrease the frequency of recurrence and to prevent or minimize the chances of transmission of infection to other individuals.
- The various antiviral drugs used for vaginal herpes are. Acyclovir (Zovirax), Famciclovir (Famvir), and Valacyclovir (Valtrex). You may be recommended by your physician to take antiviral drugs either during an outbreak or daily without an outbreak to reduce the chances of recurrence. Individuals who develop severe complications may need hospitalization to get intravenous antiviral drugs.
Pregnant females, if infected with vaginal herpes should inform their physician about it or in case they are not sure, they should get tested for it. You may be recommended to take antiviral medicines during the later part of pregnancy to prevent an outbreak during childbirth. Females who had an outbreak at the time of delivery are recommended to have a cesarean section instead of vaginal delivery.