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Genital Herpes Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms depend on whether or not this is your first episode. The virus remains dormant between outbreaks. During this time, you may not have visible symptoms. You may still be shedding the virus. This means the virus can be spread during sex.

The number of outbreaks varies. Most people have an outbreak at least once per year.

Primary Infection

This is when you are first exposed to the virus. You may not have any symptoms, or you may feel like you have the flu . This can include fever and muscle aches. The blisters may be in the genital area or other areas, like the mouth, lips, or tongue. The size and number of ulcers are usually larger during this first time. It takes about two weeks for the primary infection to resolve. If you get another infection it may take up to six weeks for the blisters to go away.

Recurrent Infection

This happens when the virus reactivates in your body. How severe the virus is, how long it lasts, and how much is shed all vary. In most cases, these infections are shorter. They last about 3-7 days. They often have smaller and fewer ulcers. Symptoms are usually around the blister or ulcer area. Remember that you can still spread the virus even if you don't have any symptoms.


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The blisters and ulcers will be looked at. Lesions inside the urinary tract, vagina, or cervix may not be easily seen. To help with the diagnosis, your doctor may:

  • Open a blister to take a sample of it
  • Have blood tests done

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. Copyright © 2022 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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