Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on November 2, 2011

What are the signs of herpes?

I’ve noticed some red sores on my groin, and I’m worried…what are the signs of herpes?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on November 2, 2011

That’s a great question, and I’m happy to tell you what to look for when it comes to the symptoms and signs of herpes infection.

First, be aware that herpes doesn’t always cause noticeable signs of infection. In fact, the majority of people with herpes will never have any signs or symptoms of herpes – that’s why getting tested for herpes is the best way to know whether you’re infected with the virus.

With that in mind, some common signs of genital herpes infection could include…

  • Small blisters around the genital area which may break open to reveal red, painful  sores
  • Fever
  • Pain or discomfort with urination
  • Itching, tingling or discomfort in the genital area
  • Headache or muscle aches
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Vaginal discharge in women

What about next steps? Because you mentioned visible sores on your groin, I would encourage you to visit your doctor for a swab test. If the sores have healed (or you just want to screen for possible herpes infection) the most precise test is a Herpes Simplex Virus Type-Specific HSV-1/2 IgG blood test that screens for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies. For the most accurate results, keep in mind that it’s best to wait 6-12 weeks after potential exposure to the virus before testing.

If it turns out that you’re positive for herpes...you can speak with a doctor about getting the right treatment to manage the infection. You can learn more about herpes treatment in our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.

Thanks for sharing your concern, and I wish you good health.

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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