Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on November 2, 2011

Do you have a picture of herpes?

I’m trying to figure out if I have herpes. Do you have a picture of herpes symptoms on your site?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on November 2, 2011

Thanks so much for your question. We don’t yet have pictures or illustrations of herpes or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) on our site...but you can find a picture of herpes on other reputable sites, like the Mayo Clinic.

That said, although I can’t tell you if you have a sore suggestive of herpes without examining you, I’m happy to describe common symptoms of a herpes infection.

What does a genital herpes infection look like? Although most people with genital herpes don’t ever experience signs or symptoms of infection, possible signs of a genital herpes infection are herpes sores. These sores typically begin with tingling, itching or discomfort in the genital region, and may then progress to red spots or small blisters. When these blisters burst, open sores can develop. Additionally, some people with a first-time herpes outbreak may experience flu-like symptoms, discomfort with urination, muscle aches, headaches or swollen lymph nodes.

Where do genital herpes sores normally show up? Genital herpes sores can be found anywhere in the genital region…in women, areas of genital herpes infection can include the vaginal area, vulva, cervix, buttocks, anus, urethra or thighs. In men, herpes sores may appear on the penis, buttocks, scrotum, anus, thighs and inside the urethra.

What about oral herpes? This infection of the mouth area can cause painful sores (often called cold sores) on the lips, tongue, gums, inside the cheeks or on the roof of the mouth. Like genital herpes, oral herpes can also cause a fever and muscle aches.

Returning to your original question, keep in mind that comparing your symptoms to pictures won’t provide a reliable diagnosis. If you’re concerned about whether you have herpes, I would encourage you to see to your doctor for a visual exam and a swab test. Or, if you don’t currently have symptoms, but you’re worried about a possible herpes infection, the Herpes Simplex Virus Type-Specific HSV-1/2 IgG blood test may be right for you.

To learn more about herpes symptoms and testing, you might want to explore our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.

Thanks for your question, and I hope you soon identify the cause and resolution to your symptoms.

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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