Signs and Symptoms of Genital Herpes

Feb 22, 2012 No Comments by

Once you have been exposed and infected with genital herpes you may have symptoms of the disease within just a few days. However there are those who get the disease and may never be aware that they have been infected as the signs and symptoms of the disease are very individual. These symptoms can run the gamut from very mild to severe.

Typically the initial outbreak after infection is the worst. Once your body has been exposed to genital herpes and you go through the first flare up, your immune system will create anti-bodies to fight the disease and the next outbreaks will be milder.

If you are infected with genital herpes you need to know that there is no cure for this viral infection. HSV-2, as genital herpes is called, goes through resting periods or becomes dormant. After the initial outbreak the organism settles into your nerves and waits until the next outbreak to replicate itself. There is no set time between outbreaks; the amount of time depends largely on the strength of your immune system, and the level of stress in your life. The period between outbreaks could be weeks, months, or even years.

Initial Symptoms of Genital Herpes

While the primary outbreak may be the most severe, the symptoms are generally the same through all outbreaks. The difference will be that for some the signs and symptoms of genital herpes are so mild they are mistaken for a razor burn, insect bites, ingrown hairs, jock itch, yeast infections, and maybe a mild case of the flu.

In the beginning of an outbreak you may have a little tingling sensation or numbness in an area on or around your genitals. There can be itching and slight to intense localized pain. This pain and itching in an area may then turn into small, swollen and red bumps or tiny white or clear blister may show up.

There can be just a few of these little sores, or there could be a lot of them and in several places on your body. After a period of time these sores or blisters will typically rupture, oozing clear liquid or maybe a little blood. Crusty scabs will then forma and these ulcers will heal in about ten days. You are definitely contagious when there are sores and blisters on your skin.

Genital herpes will typically appear on a woman’s vaginal area, cervix, buttocks, anus, and external genitals. They can appear on the thighs and in some cases around the mouth. Men will generally have eruptions on the penis, scrotum, anus, buttocks, urethra, or thighs. In some cases they can also have HSV-2 ulcers around the mouth.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of genital herpes will help you choose to see your doctor as soon as possible. When you have an outbreak is the best time for the visit, although if you think you have herpes you should see the doctor anytime. The physician can swab a blister or sore to do a herpes culture, or a blood test can be done to confirm the diagnosis through detection of the herpes antibodies. There are genital herpes treatments available that can help shorten the outbreaks duration.

Once the blisters or sores have crusted over they will generally heal within ten to fifteen days.

The sores can be painful, and it might hurt to urinate. The lymph nodes in your groin area may become sore and swollen. During the primary or first outbreak you might also feel as if you were coming down with the flu, experiencing symptoms that include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • General feeling of being unwell

Facts about Genital Herpes

Herpes in the genital area is almost always caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 or HSV-2. In a few cases, HSV-1 or herpes simplex type 1, which is commonly called oral herpes, may cause herpes in the genital area.

The latent or dormant period of herpes occurs when the virus shifts into the nerves near the spine. Outbreaks occur when the virus emerges to replicate itself and shed cells. This is when you are contagious.

If you have genital herpes your body can shed the virus without obvious outbreak symptoms. This is called asymptomatic shedding. During this time the virus is active and you are contagious.

Often recurring outbreaks can occur in the same area as the primary outbreak. Having signs and symptoms in the same area on a recurrent basis is a strong signal that this problem could be genital herpes.

The onset of a outbreak is often signaled by a tingling feeling that those infected with herpes can recognize. This early warning signal is called a prodrome. It can indicate that the virus has activated and is moving through the nerves to the site of infection. Sufferers who can recognize this sign can start antiviral treatment immediately and possibly shorten this next outbreak.

Using a condom for protection during an active outbreak may not protect your partner from getting the disease. The virus can shed in an area that is not protected by the condom. Any damaged skin, like a small cut or scrape, on an unaffected partner will allow genital herpes to spread more easily.

For information on how to prepare to see your doctor if you think you have genital herpes, see here.


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