Symptoms of Genital Herpes
If you have genital herpes you may not know it. Most people are not aware that they have genital herpes because they may not have experienced any symptoms. They may also not recognize the symptoms. When you first become infected, symptoms begin to appear within 2-10 days.
Early symptoms that can last 2-3 weeks include:
- Itching, burning, and/or pain in the genital or anal area
- Discharge from the vagina
- Flu-like symptoms, such as fever and swollen glands
- Pressure in the abdomen (the area below the stomach)
As the infection progresses, symptoms of an outbreak include:
- Sores that start to form on the part of the body where the virus was contracted
- Sores that begin as small red bumps, develop into blisters, and then become painful open sores
- Sores or blisters that appear and occur in clusters or small groupings
- Vaginal discharge
- Pain when urinating
- Flu-like symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, swollen glands, and headache
The outbreak is coming to an end when:
- After a few days, the sores form a scab-like outer layer and then fall off.
The virus will reoccur and become active and inactive (symptoms will come and go) over time. The frequency of these reoccurrences vary from person to person. You may experience symptoms a number of times throughout the year or you may only experience an outbreak once or twice in your lifetime. Doctors and researchers do not yet know why these reoccurrences happen.
Each Case Is Unique
Every case of genital herpes is unique. The average number of outbreaks individuals experience each year is about four or five. The first year of the virus is usually the worst. The first outbreak is usually the most severe and painful, with the second reoccurrence often happening only a few weeks later. Also, you may tend to experience more outbreaks the first year. The good news is that, as time goes on, the frequency of outbreaks lessens and they become much less severe. Reoccurrences tend to become milder and last usually only a week. Sometimes you may even be able to feel when an outbreak will occur when you begin to experience and recognize some of the early symptoms of an outbreak.
Keep in mind, some people have genital herpes but experience no symptoms. You can still spread genital herpes even if you don’t experience symptoms or if your symptoms are inactive (or have gone away). Genital herpes is always with you.
Many people fail to recognize the symptoms of genital herpes. Women often confuse the discomfort with their menstrual period or an itchy yeast infection. Men often confuse the symptoms with jock itch or friction burn. Symptoms of genital herpes have also been mistaken for insect bites or hemorrhoids. If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor before you attempt to treat the symptoms yourself.
Frequently asked questions about genital herpes. The National Women’s Health Information Center website. Available at: www.4woman.gov/faq/stdherpe.pdf. Accessed July 18, 2005.
Health matters fact sheet: genital herpes. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/stdherp.htm, Accessed July 18, 2005.
Herpes: get the facts. American Social Health Association website. Available at: http://www.ashastd.org/hrc/educate.html . Accessed July 18, 2005.
Signs and symptoms. International Herpes Alliance website. Available at: http://www.herpesalliance.org/signs&symptoms.htm . Accessed July 21, 2005.
Last reviewed September 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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