Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that affects the genitals and anal area. It is caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Most cases of genital herpes is caused by HSV-2.
The challenge with genital herpes is that you cannot always tell if you have been afflicted with it. It is estimated only about 20 percent of those who have herpes are even aware they are infected with the virus. The majority of those inflicted never have symptoms, or they have such mild signs that they do not even notice or mistake them for another problem, such as a vaginal yeast infection, insect bite, hemorrhoids and or an ingrown hair.
The initial sign of genital herpes is usually pain or itching which begins within a few weeks after one has been exposed to an infected sexual partner. Symptoms can affect the vulva, vagina, anus, urethra, thighs and buttocks.
The classic symptom of genital herpes is a cluster of small fluid-filled blisters that break, becoming ulcers that ooze or bleed. They eventually form painful sores that crust and heal. This process can take several days.
One of the worst symptoms for women is pain while urinating. This is due to the internal sores. Women may also have unusual vaginal discharge. During the initial outbreak, there can be flu-like signs and symptoms, such as headache, muscle aches and fever and swollen glands. About a quarter of all women may develop meningitis during their first occurrence.
Genital herpes is different for each person. Symptoms come and go with no rhythm or reason. Generally people diagnosed with an initial outbreak of genital herpes can expect four or five outbreaks within a year. Herpes sores are usually worst the first time they appear and some people never experience a second outbreak.
The bad news is the signs and symptoms may recur for years. One person may have an outbreak once a year, while another may have one every few weeks. For many people, however, the outbreaks are less painful and less frequent as time passes. Although the infection can stay in the body indefinitely, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years.