Signs & Symptoms of Genital Herpes

The signs and symptoms of genital herpes appear 3 to 7 days after direct contact with an infected individual. The infection appears as small blisters or sores on the genitals. The blisters tend to develop in clusters and then form ulcers after some time. The infection may lead to tenderness in some cases while in other cases, they may be painless. However, some people may develop blisters that are also very painful. In men, the sores develop on or around the penis. In women, they may appear inside or outside the vagina and may lead to symptoms such as discomfort and vaginal discharge. Blisters that develop inside the vagina may be detected only during a medical examination. Genital herpes blisters may also occur in the anal region.

The initial genital herpes outbreak is usually very painful and the symptoms may last for much longer as compared to subsequent outbreaks. The symptoms tend to persist for up to 4 weeks. Genital herpes may lead to certain other symptoms such as:

In the initial outbreak, even if there are no signs or symptoms, it is important to seek medical care early. Genital herpes outbreaks rarely constitute a medical emergency, but the treatment is more effective if administered as early as possible. In later outbreaks of genital herpes, the symptoms are not very severe. Some people may experience a tingling sensation in the infected area before the blisters develop. This can be attributed to the inflammation of the nerves in that particular area. The infection is very contagious during this time even though there are no sores. Later outbreaks of genital herpes usually do not require immediate medical attention.

In rare cases, genital herpes may spread to other areas of the body such as the lungs, liver, esophagus, eyes and brain. Such complications tend to develop more commonly in individuals with weak immune systems, usually due to the HIV virus or due to the intake of certain medications. Individuals with active genital herpes infections are at a higher risk of developing HIV if they have sexual relations with an individual who is HIV positive. Since individuals with HIV or AIDS can develop severe illnesses if genital herpes is left untreated, they should seek treatment as soon as they notice genital sores.

  1. Lawrence Stanberry, Anthony Cunningham, Gregory Mertz, Adrian Mindel, Barry Peters, Michael Reitano, Stephen Sacks, Anna Wald, Sawko Wassilew, Paul Woolley, New developments in the epidemiology, natural history and management of genital herpes, Antiviral Research, Volume 42, Issue 1, May 1999, Pages 1-14, ISSN 0166-3542, 10.1016/S0166-3542(99)00004-2.
  2. Margaret Perlia Bavis, Diane Yeager Smith, Martha Zervopoulos Siomos, Genital Herpes: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Counseling in the Adolescent Patient, The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, Volume 5, Issue 6, June 2009, Pages 415-420, ISSN 1555-4155, 10.1016/j.nurpra.2008.11.004.