A risk factor is something that raises your chances of getting a health problem.

Genital herpes is more common in women than in men. But the infection spreads from men to women more easily. The risk is highest among teens and young adults who are more likely to take risks with sex.

The biggest risk is the number of sex partners in a person’s lifetime. Other things that may raise your risk are:

  • Sex with a person who has it
  • Many or frequent changes in sex partners
  • Not using a condom or using it the wrong way
  • Prior sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • HIV infection or other health problems that make it hard for the body to fight infections
  • Sex at an early age

Genital herpes can't be seen. You can't tell if someone has it. Since most people do not know they are infected, it can spread from person to person without their knowledge.


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Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 08/10/2018