Genital Herpes Complications
For some people who have genital herpes, complications may occur. Herpes may increase the risk of spreading or contracting other sexually transmitted diseases. It is also possible for people to contract herpes infection of the eye, which can result in serious eye disease or blindness. For pregnant women with genital herpes, complications may occur in the baby, such as brain, skin, or eye problems.
Genital Herpes Complications: An Overview
Genital herpes can cause recurrent painful genital sores in many adults; however, for most healthy adults, it does not cause serious health problems. However, there are some exceptions.
For example, occasionally, people with normal immune systems can get herpes infection of the eye, called ocular herpes. This is usually caused by an infection with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), but sometimes by HSV-2. It can occasionally result in serious eye disease, including blindness. Also, in some people whose immune systems do not work properly, genital herpes outbreaks can be unusually severe and long-lasting.
Two other possible complications of genital herpes include the increased risk for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and newborn infections.
Genital herpes may increase the risk of spreading or contracting other sexually transmitted diseases. For example, herpes may play a role in the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Genital herpes can make people more susceptible to HIV infection, and it can make HIV-infected individuals more infectious.
A woman with herpes who is pregnant can pass the infection to her baby. A baby born with herpes can have serious complications, such as brain (see Herpes Encephalitis), skin, or eye problems. The newborn may even die. Fortunately, infection of a baby from an infected woman is rare.
It is, however, very important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy, because a first episode during pregnancy causes a greater risk of transmission to the baby. Pregnant women who have herpes or whose sex partner has herpes should discuss the situation with their healthcare provider. Together, they can make a plan to reduce her or her baby's risk of getting infected. If a woman has active genital herpes at delivery, a cesarean delivery is usually performed.
(Click Genital Herpes and Pregnancy for more information.)