Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by the herpes simplex virus. There are two types of herpes simplex virus, HSV-1, which normally causes cold sores, and HSV-2, which is usually the type that causes genital herpes. Genital herpes is a very contagious and commonly infectious that does not have a cure. There are treatments available to help keep it from spreading and to reduce symptoms. Being aware of the symptoms of genital herpes is important in order to seek diagnosis and treatment as early as possible.
Symptoms of Genital Herpes
1. Symptoms of the First Outbreak
The first outbreak of genital herpes often does not have symptoms or offers mild symptoms that may be mistaken for other problems, such as vaginosis or a yeast infection. Some people suffer pain and other symptoms.
The first outbreak usually last the longest time and can happen with the most severe symptoms. Symptoms of genital herpes during the first outbreak can include:
- Symptoms that are similar to the flu, such as muscle aches, fever and headache, which normally improve in less than a week.
- Redness, burning, itching and tingling on the genitals, the area where the outbreak will take place.
- Blisters those are itchy and painful on the vulva, inside the vagina, or on the penis. Other areas that blisters may appear include the scrotum, thighs, buttocks or anus. The blisters may be large or hardly seen and can occur in one or in groups. When the blisters rupture, sores can occur.
- Sores that are painful and may ooze as a result of blisters that have ruptured.
- Pain when urinating.
- Swollen lymph glands in the groin.
- Vaginal discharge or discharge from the penis.
If you experience these symptoms of genital herpes, it is important to visit your doctor as soon as you can.
2. Symptoms of Later Outbreaks
People who have been infected with genital herpes experience it differently. Herpes outbreak symptoms may occur frequently for some and less often for others. It is common to experience symptoms of genital herpes less often as time goes on.
When outbreaks occur, they often recur when the person is sick, traumatized, experiencing stress, during menstruation or after surgery. This is because at times like these, your immune system may be less capable of fighting off the virus, leading to an outbreak.
Prior to experiencing genital herpes symptoms, the following signs may be experienced.
- Lower back pain and pain in the legs and buttocks
- Itching, burning and tingling in the genitals
During recurrences of genital herpes, pain is usually not as bad as during the initial outbreak, and healing time is often faster.
Symptom Locations in Men and Women
The location of the sores depends on where on your body you were first infected. Ways that the infection can be spread include touching an infected area and then touching an uninfected area, including eyes.
Areas of the body that can develop sores in men and women are outlined below.
Both Men and Women
Diagnosis of Genital Herpes
If your doctor believes that sores on and around your genital area appear to be those caused by genital herpes, treatment will be offered right away. Your doctor may also take a sample from a sore in order to have it tested for genital herpes. Other tests that may be completed include:
- A virus culture
- A polymerase chain reaction in order to determine the virus’s genetic material
- Antibody testing to check for virus presence
These tests usually take a few days to complete. Your doctor may also take blood in order to test it for an immune response to the genital herpes virus.
Preventions of Genital Herpes
Since genital herpes cannot be cured, you need to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Here are some key measures to help prevent becoming infected with genital herpes.
- Use a latex condom. A condom will help reduce the risk of contracting the virus by covering infected areas.
- Be aware of your partner's sexual health by
- Asking your partner if he or she has ever had an STD. It is not uncommon for someone with genital herpes to be unaware that they are infected. People who have had other STDs are more likely to have genital herpes than those who have no history of STDs.
- Asking your partner about their sexual history. People who have had multiple partners are more likely to be infected with genital herpes.
- Avoiding sex with someone who has genital sores. If your partner has sores on the genitals, avoid having sex with him or her in order to reduce your risk of contracting genital herpes.
- Avoiding receiving oral sex from someone who has a cold sore. Genital herpes can be passed along by receiving oral sex from someone infected with the herpes simplex virus on the mouth.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. The fewer people you engage in sexual activities with, the less likely you will be exposed to the virus.
- Avoid sex while intoxicated. Being intoxicated can impair your judgment and cause you to be more likely to take careless sex experience.