Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2 or herpes 2) or herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1 or herpes 1), which also causes cold sores and fever blisters. Although there is no cure for herpes, this sexually transmitted infection (STI) can be managed with medication and safer sex practices.

In most cases, infection with herpes virus does not cause symptoms, which increases the risk for spreading the disease. When herpes symptoms do occur, the initial signs of the infection often are severe and include painful sores, abnormal discharge (e.g., from the vagina or urethra), swollen lymph nodes, fever, body aches, and other general symptoms. Antiviral medications can be used to help control genital herpes outbreaks.

Here are some questions to ask your doctor (e.g., urologist, gynecologist) about genital herpes. Print this page, check off the questions you would like answered, and bring it to your doctor's appointment. Information about genital herpes and herpes treatment can help reduce the risk for transmitting the disease to sexual partners and help prevent complications.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Genital Herpes

  • Why do you suspect that I have genital herpes?
  • How is genital herpes spread?
  • What tests will be performed to confirm this diagnosis?
  • Do you recommend that I be tested for HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases? Why or why not?
  • What do these tests involve?
  • What types of precautions should I take while waiting for the results of these STD tests?
  • Should my current and past sexual partners also be tested? Why or why not?
  • When will the results of these tests be available? Should I call for the results or will someone contact me? Telephone number to call: Date to call:
  • If my sexual partner tests negative for genital herpes, how can I avoid spreading the disease to him/her?
  • What does safer sex involve for people with genital herpes?
  • What are some of the signs that indicate a herpes outbreak?
  • How can I reduce the frequency and severity of these outbreaks and prevent spreading the herpes virus to uninfected areas?
  • What types of complications are associated with genital herpes and what are the signs and symptoms of these complications?
  • How can I reduce my risk for herpes complications?
  • What risks and complications are associated with genital herpes during pregnancy, labor, and delivery?
  • What types of precautions are involved in reducing these risks?
  • What should I do if I develop severe herpes symptoms or complications? Telephone number to call:
  • What type of herpes treatment do you recommend? Why do you recommend this antiviral medication?
  • How is this medicine administered?
  • What are the benefits, risks, and side effects associated with this type of antiviral medication?
  • What should I do if my symptoms do not improve or I experience severe medication side effects? Telephone number to call:
  • If this medication does not reduce the frequency or severity of my herpes outbreaks, what other treatments are available?
  • What are the long-term risks associated with genital herpes and herpes treatment?
  • How will my condition be monitored? What does follow-up care involve for people who have genital herpes?
  • Do you recommend that I participate in a clinical trial for people with genital herpes? Why or why not?
  • Are any new and promising treatment options for herpes infection being studied?
  • Can you recommend any resources for support and/or more information for people with genital herpes and their partners?

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Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Apr 2009

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015