Signs and symptoms of genital herpes (herpes simplex virus type 2) may be so mild a person may not even notice the infection or regard it as something to be concerned about. For most symptoms first appear within a few days to several weeks after the initial contact. (2)
Symptoms common for both men and women include:
- Itching or pain: Exposure to an infected sex partner can cause itching, severe discomfort or pain within 2 to ten days. The areas around the genitals and anus may become inflamed, raw and cracked, but without any itching, tingling or pain sensations.
- Small red bumps or white blisters: These can appear within a matter of days following contact with an infected person. Raw and painful sores will generally appear where the infection entered the body (buttocks or anus, mouth, vaginal area, cervix, penis, scrotum, thighs, urethra). An infection can be spread by touching the sore and then rubbing or scratching another area of the body (for instance, the eyes).
- Ulcers: Blisters may rupture and begin to ooze or bleed. The presence of an ulcer will cause pain and tenderness in the genital area until the infection clears up.
- Scabs: Once ulcers begin to heal, scabs will form.
- Flu-like symptoms: During the initial stages of infection you may experience flu-like symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and fever.
Signs and symptoms may recur on and off, for years. Many experience numerous episodes each year. In some cases, HSV-2 outbreaks are less frequent as time passes.
Shortly before a recurrence, you may notice burning, tingling and itching sensations (where the infection first entered the body) before actual sores appear. You may also experience some degree of pain in your lower back, buttocks and legs.
Recurrences are typically less painful than the original outbreak, and sores can heal more quickly. The number of recurrences a person may have during their lifetime may vary.
Women need to take care not to confuse herpes with a vaginal yeast infectionor folliculitis due to shaving. Likewise, both men and women, can sometimes mistake herpes symptoms for other bacterial or bladder infections. If any herpes symptoms are noted it is recommended that you arrange to have a genital herpes STD test (these can be done anonymously using an at home STD test kit or at your doctor or clinic)
What does genital herpes look like?
Genital herpes, when the lesions do appear, may initially present as small raised red bumps or white, cream or yellow coloured blisters. When the blisters rupture, ooze and bleed, ulcers form and then scab over. Below are some images of what herpes may look like in the various stages.
2. MedlinePlus. August 2017. Genital Herpes: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000857.htm [Accessed 29.08.2018]