Signs and symptoms of herpes

Signs and symptoms of herpes

woman with lips infected with herpes simplex virus (HSV-1)You may only ever really know that you are carrying the HSV-1 virus once cold sores appear. Other than painful, swollen blisters, what other symptoms can you experience?

  • Itching or tingling at the site of sores or blisters
  • Swelling of the lips
  • Pain or discomfort in the mouth or tongue
  • Fever (a high body temperature)
  • Headaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes or a sore throat
  • Unual fatigue / tiredness
  • Loss of / lack of appetite
  • Herpes keratitis (an infection that spreads to the eyes causing eye pain, a discharge or gritty sensation in the eye)
  • Eroded gums (this is generally quite painful)
  • Muscle aches
  • Lesions on the inside of the mouth (common in children under the age of 5)
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea

Symptoms may also develop other infections, such as:

Cold sores generally clear up on their own, but if you find that you experience frequent outbreaks or have noted the following, you can seek advice from your doctor:

  • If you notice that you have a weak immune system
  • Your cold sores don’t appear to heal within 2 weeks
  • Your overall symptoms are severe
  • Your eyes become sore and irritated

In most instances, the dominant symptom or sign of discomfort will be the appearance of painful, swollen blisters, which recur from time to time. The first outbreak may be the most severe too. Symptoms are generally more severe in young children who are still growing and building up antibodies in their system as a means of defence against infections. Recurring outbreaks usually occur in the same spots on the body each time and aren’t as severe or painful with each occasion.

What are the different stages of an HSV-1 outbreak?

When cold sores develop, they typically occur in three stages:

  • Tingling and itching sensations: You may notice sensitivity around the mouth or feel sensations such as itching, tingling and even burning as skin begins to become inflamed.
  • Blisters: The fluid-filled blisters then develop within a day or two, most often around the edges of the lower lip. Lymph nodes or glands in the neck may also begin to swell and become enlarged. Blisters can also break out on the cheeks or around the nose (nostrils). Once sores develop, you will feel sensations of pain as well as tenderness and itching or burning.
  • Blister leakage and crusting: Once a group of blisters form, they soon break open and begin oozing the fluid inside. Sometimes the group of blisters that surface on the skin merge together and then burst open. Once they have split, a yellow scab or crust forms over the inflamed area, covering the inflamed pink / red skin underneath. The crust then heals within a week or two and disappears without leaving a scar.
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