What it is
Herpes is a virus that, once you get it, will always remain in your body (although it won't always be active). There are two types of herpes that cause small, painful blisters:
- Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type I usually causes cold sores around the mouth
- HSV Type II causes genital sores.
How you get it
Herpes is highly infectious. HSV Type I is usually passed on through kissing and HSV Type II is passed on through sexual contact – but, just because you can't see sores on yourself or your sexual partner, it doesn't mean the virus is not active. You can pass on or contract the herpes virus without visible sores. Condoms can help prevent it, but they are not always effective as the virus can be spread by skin not covered by condoms.
Some people don't have any symptoms, but be on the look out for small, painful blisters and cold sores. These sores can be very itchy and painful the first time you have an outbreak of herpes.
If you experience symptoms you should go to the doctor ASAP, because herpes is difficult to diagnose once the sores dry up. There is actually no cure for herpes, but the symptoms can be treated. There are a number of treatments available so make sure you talk to your doctor about the best one for you.