Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on November 2, 2011

What are all of the symptoms for herpes?

I’m looking for information on herpes and I just want a list of all of the symptoms for herpes. Can you help?

answered by
Lisa Oldson, MD on November 2, 2011

I appreciate your question and I’m happy to provide a general answer about herpes signs and symptoms. But keep in mind that symptoms vary from person to person...and, for many people, herpes infections are asymptomatic (no symptoms).

For people who do experience obvious signs of infection...symptoms are typically most severe during the first outbreak, which usually occurs about two weeks after contracting the herpes virus. Luckily, in most cases, herpes outbreaks become less intense over time. And antiviral medications (prescribed by a doctor) can also help if you have frequent or uncomfortable outbreaks.

That said, initial genital herpes infections may include these symptoms:

  • Small blisters, red bumps or sores in the genital area (including the vaginal area, vulva, anus or cervix in women; or the penis, scrotum, anus or urethra in men)
  • Itching, tingling or discomfort in the genital region
  • Discomfort around the groin
  • Vaginal discharge in women
  • Pain or discomfort with urination
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

However, be aware that these signs and symptoms are not necessarily unique to a herpes infection. The only way to know for sure if you have herpes is to get tested. You can learn more about herpes ⎼ including herpes testing and herpes treatment ⎼ in our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.

Thanks again for writing, and I hope you’ll continue to ask questions about your sexual health.

Related info:

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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