There are two types of herpes, which cause small, painful blisters. One causes cold sores and is spread through kissing. The other mainly causes genital sores and is spread through sexual contact. Once contracted, the herpes virus will remain in a person’s system even if symptoms are not present.

What causes herpes?

Genital herpes is spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex without a condom, and genital skin-to-skin contact. After contracting the virus initial symptoms are often invisible however an STI test will determine if the virus is present.


Some people suffer from painful genital blisters and pain when urinating or experience fever, swollen glands and headaches. The first outbreak of blisters may be the worst, with further outbreaks generally being less frequent and less severe.

Getting tested

If you have blisters, a simple swab can determine if you have herpes. To get checked out or for confidential advice talk to your doctor or visit your local sexual health clinic – find your local clinic here.

While there is no cure for genital herpes, there are medications that help manage the symptoms of it. Speak to your doctor about anti-virals, which can be taken regularly to manage symptoms as well as other strategies to reduce the risk of transmission to your partner(s).


Condoms (including female condoms) provide some protection, but only protect the skin that is covered. When blisters are present there is a high risk of infection. It is best not to have sex if blisters are present.


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