This patient information and photograph on Herpes is provided by John L. Meisenheimer, M.D. a board certified Dermatologist and skin care specialist based in Orlando, Florida. This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice or treatment of a dermatologist or other physician.
What is it? Herpes progenitalis is a common skin infection that can affect the genital
region. It occurs at any age, but it is most frequently seen in young sexually active adults. A burning or stinging sensation often precedes the eruption by a few hours or days. The eruption looks like a small group of water blisters or pus bumps on red or inflamed skin. These water blisters easily rupture into small erosions, and later eye crust and heal. The whole process takes about two weeks. Often a similar eruption will have occurred previously at the same site.
What causes it? Herpes infection is caused by a virus. This is the same virus or similar to the virus which causes fever blisters around the mouth. Most people infected with genital herpes have acquired it through sexual contact. After the initial infection the virus burrows down the nerves and lives quietly in the "roots". For reasons not understood, the virus reactivated, climbs back up the nerve (causing pain and burning sensations) and erupts on the skin. This reactivation may occur years after initial infection. The number and frequency of reactivations is highly variable and unpredictable. Some people may never get reactivation after the first
episode while others may get them every few weeks.
Is it dangerous? For the typical healthy person this is a harmless disorder. Special considerations are needed for pregnant women to prevent infection of the baby at the time of delivery.
Can it be cured? The treatment program I put you on will help control or clear the disorder, but it is not a cure. Even if the disorder is totally cleared, you will still be predisposed to have repeat episodes. Repeat treatments may be needed and some individuals may require continuous therapy.
Will it spread? Only rarely will the infection spread to other areas of skin.
Is it contagious? Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. You are contagious until the eruption has healed. Some individuals may be asymptomatic shedders of the virus.