Genital herpes is an infection of the genitals (penis in men, vulva and vagina in women) and surrounding area of skin. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus. The buttocks and anus may also be affected. There are two types of herpes simplex virus:
* Type 1 herpes simplex virus is the usual cause of cold sores around the mouth. It also causes up to half of cases of genital herpes.
* Type 2 herpes simplex virus usually only causes genital herpes. It can sometimes cause cold sores.
Sexual contact is the primary way that the virus spreads. After the initial infection, the virus lies dormant in your body and can reactivate several times a year.
There’s no cure for genital herpes, but medications can ease symptoms and reduce the risk of infecting others. Condoms also can help prevent transmission of the virus.