Anonymous on November 23, 2011

What is the symptoms of herpes?

How do I know if I have genital herpes? What is the symptoms?


answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on November 23, 2011

Thanks for asking about the symptoms of genital herpes.

You may be surprised to hear that most people who have a herpes infection don’t have any noticeable signs or symptoms. In fact, research tells us that only 10-20% of people with herpes have any obvious indications of infection.

That said, for those who do experience signs or symptoms of genital herpes, they may include:

  • Small clear blisters on reddish skin that become red, painful open sores in the genital area
  • Flu-like symptoms (muscle aches, headache, fever, and so on)
  • Tingling, discomfort or itching in the genital area
  • Discomfort with urination
  • Vaginal discharge (in women)
  • Swollen lymph glands

Typically, when someone develops symptoms of herpes for the first time, the outbreak occurs about two weeks after contact with an infected person. Although uncomfortable, herpes outbreaks aren’t life threatening and can be controlled with treatments so that they won’t last as long or occur as frequently.

Keep in mind that herpes sores usually heal within about two weeks, but recurring outbreaks are common. The good news is that the first herpes outbreak is often the most severe. As the body learns to fight the infection, the symptoms become less intense over time. 

If you’re concerned about symptoms that may be genital herpes, I encourage you to visit a doctor. You might also be interested in our Herpes Simplex Virus Type-Specific HSV-1/2 IgG blood test.

To learn more about herpes symptoms and testing, I hope you’ll visit our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.

Thanks for your question and I wish you the best of 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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