Herpes is a viral STI that causes outbreaks of blisters and sores. There are two types of herpes, and there's no cure for the virus. However, if you test positively for herpes, you can treat the symptoms. Condoms and other safe sex measures can reduce your chances of getting herpes.

You should read this if:

  • You think you might have herpes
  • You want to know what herpes is, and its symptoms
  • You want to know how herpes is managed
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About herpes

Herpes is an STI carried by the Herpes Simplex virus. You get it from close skin contact, including oral, anal or vaginal sex, or from kissing someone who has a cold sore. 15-20 per cent of adults have evidence of infection with genital herpes, even though at least 70 per cent will have no memory of ever having had an outbreak. 

Types of herpes

There are two types of herpes. 

  • Type 1 herpes commonly causes what people often refer to as 'cold sores' on the lips or mouth. 
  • Type 2 is the most common cause of genital herpes, usually found around the penis, vagina or anus. 

However, both Type 1 and Type 2 can occur in both the face and genital areas. 

Symptoms of herpes

Itching or tingling is the first sign of herpes. Blisters will then appear on your genitals, anus, mouth or throat. These will usually burst and turn into sores or scabs, which can be very painful.

The first herpes outbreak is usually the worst. People on their first outbreak sometimes get really run-down and feel like they've got the flu.

Stress, lack of exercise and other illnesses can cause an outbreak if you've got herpes. Women are also more prone to outbreaks during their period or when they’re pregnant. 

Can you get rid of it? 

Unfortunately, herpes doesn't have a cure. However you can manage it once you have it. The best way to seek treatment is to talk to your doctor. They should be able to suggest an antiviral therapy that can help with the symptoms. 

Getting tested

You can only get tested for herpes when there are sores, so if you think you may have a sore, make sure you go and see a doctor to get it checked out. You can call 1300 65 88 86, or visit the Sexual Health and Family Planning website for info about where to go near you. 

Stopping herpes

You can pass herpes on even when there's no outbreak (sores or blisters), but it's most contagious when there are sores. Condoms and dental dams can help protect against herpes, but they won't help if they don't cover the part of you that's transmitting it.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 06 August, 2015
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