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Home: Diseases & Conditions: Genital Herpes: Symptoms

Genital Herpes: Symptoms

Symptoms Of Genital Herpes

The main symptom of genital herpes is appearance of redness on the skin with blisters and/or ulcers. Every person shows different intensity of symptoms. Note that the symptoms appear after some days of contacting the virus. During this period the virus remains dormant in the nerve centers of the body. When it travels to the genital area the symptoms appear.

Many people who contract genital herpes may not show any symptoms. Some may show mild symptoms that may be ignored, while others may get severe symptoms.

Genital herpes occurs in episodes. When you contract the virus, the virus travels to the nerve centers near the spinal cord and resides there. It travels back to the genital area and breaks out from time to time. After every breakout, the virus travels back to the nerve centers. As there is no cure of herpes, the virus remains in the nerve centers for the lifetime.

First Episode Of Genital Herpes
The first episode commonly begins within a fortnight of contact. Some people get severe symptoms of herpes in this episode while others may get very mild symptoms of herpes during the first episode. The main symptom is appearance of lesions. Blisters filled with fluid or ulcers appear on and around the genitals. The blisters rupture in to ulcers in few days and crust and heal within a month.

The common places of appearance of blisters are- on the vulva, penis, near anus, thighs, and inside the vagina. Women get more severe symptoms then men. If women get blisters in the vagina, cervix or urethra they may think of them as some other problem. The symptoms of urethra may be treated as urinary tract infection. The symptoms of the vagina or cervix may be treated as yeast infection, if they are also accompanied by a discharge. If a woman repeatedly gets such symptoms, she should get herself checked for genital herpes. Blisters in the urethra of men may also be misdiagnosed. One should keep watch over such symptoms after having unprotected sex.

Painful urination and headache may also occur during the first episode. Some patients also show flu-like symptoms during the first episode of genital herpes. Those who get mild symptoms may take them as insect bites, rashes, ringworm, etc., and may not be aware that they have genital herpes. They in turn transmit the virus to their partner without being aware of the threat.

Recurring Episodes Of Genital Herpes
The recurring episodes are milder than the first episode. The frequency of recurrence is also different. While some people may get up to eight episodes in a year, others may have only one or two episodes. The recurrence depends upon the triggers of genital herpes. Try to avoid triggers of genital herpes to reduce recurrence.

In the recurring episodes, the symptoms of genital herpes may appear like: ingrown hair, insect bites, pimples, spots, etc. If blisters form, they crust over in few days and resolve. Most of the recurring episodes resolve quicker than the first episode. Symptoms mimicking hemorrhoids may also appear on the anus. If you get repeated fissures or any other symptoms near or on the genitals, you should get screened for genital herpes. On an average, a person having genital herpes from HSV2 may have three to four episodes of recurrence every year.

Asymptomatic Shedding
Many times, despite the virus being active near the genitals, one may show no symptoms. But during this phase, the person sheds the virus. That is called asymptomatic shedding. If such a person indulges in sex, he/she will infect the partner.

Prodrome Phase
Prodrome is the early symptom that indicates that herpes attack is imminent. Some people feel pain, tingling or itching on genitals before active outbreak of genital herpes. Within a day or two of such symptoms, lesions appear on the affected area. If you recognize the prodrome, you should begin your medicines to reduce the intensity and duration of the attack.

Article updated on: May 26, 2008

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