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Genital Herpes Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of genital herpes?

Symptoms of genital herpes include vesicles, sores, lesions, blisters, painful ulcers, itching and/or burning in the genital area, anus or upper thighs. Approximately two-thirds of people with genital herpes do not experience symptoms or have symptoms that are so mild they are mistaken for other skin conditions. In instances where symptoms are not present, genital herpes can still be transmitted. Our doctors recommend getting tested for both herpes type 1 and herpes type 2 to learn your status since either strain of the virus can occur in the genital area.

Genital Herpes Symptoms in Men

Most Common
  • Silent or no symptoms (two-thirds of cases)
Less Common
  • Sores or blisters on the penis
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Body aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
Least Common
  • Sores, blisters, or ulcers
    • Inside or around the anus
    • Around the buttocks and thighs
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Eye infection
  • Eczema herpetiform

Genital Herpes Symptoms in Women

Most Common
  • Silent or no symptoms
Less Common
  • Sores or blisters
    • Around the vaginal region
    • On the vulva or cervix
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Body aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal itch
  • Painful urination
Least Common
  • Sores, blisters, or ulcers
    • inside or around the anus
    • around the buttocks and thighs
    • On nose or fingers (Herpes Whitlow)
  • Trouble urinating
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Eczema herpetiform
  • Eye infection
  • Pneumonia

How will I know if I have genital herpes?

Genital herpes is not usually accommodated by symptoms. Two-thirds of genital herpes cases are asymptomatic. Getting tested for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 is the only sure way to know if you have genital herpes. Blisters or sores in the genital area, fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, tiredness and painful urination call all be symptoms of genital herpes.

What do genital herpes outbreaks feel or look like?

Patients with genital herpes have reported that outbreaks or episodes typically diminish through the years. Early prodromal symptoms, or warning signals, that are followed by outbreaks. These prodromal symptoms often include mild tingling or shooting pains in the legs, hips and buttocks, and can last from 2 hours to 2 days. After the prodromal symptoms occur the blisters develop into painful red spots, which then evolve into yellowish, clear fluid-filled blisters after a day or two. These blisters burst or break and leave ulcers that usually heal in about 10 days. In women, blisters can develop inside the vagina and cause painful urination.

What causes or triggers genital herpes outbreaks?

Although the cause is unknown, outbreaks are often associated with periods of weakened immune systems, skin wounds, menstruation, fever, nerve damage, tissue damage from surgery, or exposure to extreme climate situations. A genital herpes outbreak or episode occurs when the HSV-1 or HSV-2 virus is reactivated from its dormant stage. Genital herpes is an incurable disease, and once you contract it, you may experience outbreaks throughout your lifetime. Those who are experiencing their first herpes episode of genital herpes can expect to have several (typically four or five) outbreaks within a year. Over time these recurrences usually decrease in frequency and severity. The first outbreak of herpes is often the longest outbreak experienced. After that, short and inconsistent episodes can be managed and treated with antiretroviral medication.

Genital herpes and pregnancy

Genital herpes can be very dangerous to an infant during childbirth. If the mother has an active infection (whether or not symptoms are present), the baby can contract the virus. If the baby contracts the virus during birth, it can affect the skin, eyes, mouth, central nervous system, and/or even spread to internal organs via disseminated disease which can cause organ failure and lead to death. Disseminated diseases that result can include hepatitis, pneumonitis, disseminated intravascular coagulation, or a combination, with or without encephalitis or skin disease.