If you are sexually active then STD's are a real risk. It is very common to have the occasional rash, itch, or other skin irritation in the genital area. Most of these are harmless and temporary. But sometimes the symptoms can indicate a sexually transmitted disease or infection.
This page will help you become familiar with the most common genital herpes symptoms in both men and women. You will also learn which common skin conditions can be mistaken for genital herpes.
It is important to remember that 80% to 90% of people infected with genital herpes never show any symptoms or show genital herpes symptoms so mild they mistakenly believe they have some other skin condition. Every person is different in the symptoms they display and the severity of those symptoms.
The physical symptoms of genital herpes are the result of active herpes viruses invading human host cells and producing more herpes viruses. There are no physical symptoms when the herpes virus is in its latent form hiding within nerve cells.
Symptoms of herpes usually show up within two weeks of initial exposure to the virus. This first outbreak will typically last between two and four weeks. A person can expect between four and five outbreaks per year on average with subsequent outbreaks decreasing in severity and length.
Only a small percentage of those infected with genital herpes will display the classic symptoms of herpes. These classic symptoms of herpes include either a single blister or several itchy blisters in the genital area, buttocks, or upper thighs. These blisters look like small pimples with whitish centers. Eventually, these blisters will burst open turning into sores or ulcers. At this point the itchiness will usually be accompanied by painful burning sensations and the area will become very tender to the touch. The final stage of the outbreak involves the sores crusting and then scabbing over.
Anything which weakens your immune system can trigger an outbreak. These triggers can include:
Alcohol - Excessive alcohol blocks nutrients from entering your immune system. Also, alcohol reduces the flow of oxygen and your immune system is then not able to work at peak efficiency.
Surgery - Not only is surgery incredibly traumatic physically but after surgery your body produces fewer natural killer cells. Natural killer cells are a type of white blood cell which fights off viruses and infection.
Physical or emotional stress - Stress weakens the immune system by raising hormone levels. High hormone levels negatively affect bone density, muscle tissue, blood-pressure, and immune response.
Excessive exposure to sunlight - Too much sun can also weaken immune response by reducing the number of antibodies and killer T cells.
Other illnesses, infections, and certain medications - So if you have a really bad cold/flu or if you are taking certain antibiotics you may be more likely to experience an outbreak.
Poor diet and certain foods - Junk food (sugar and fat) and food allergies will both weaken your immune system. Also, certain foods (chocolate, nuts, seeds, etc) have a long history of increasing outbreaks.
Menstruation - Fluctuating hormone levels as well as the physical and emotional stress all serve to weaken the immune system.
Sexual intercourse - There are many health benefits associated with sexual intercourse. However, many people report an increased number of outbreaks after especially vigorous or rough sexual activity.
There is a natural sequence in which herpes symptoms will appear. But, it is important to remember that an outbreak can stop at any of these stages. Every person is unique and they may not experience all of these stages.
First Stage: Prodrome
Prodrome is the medical term for early symptoms that signal the start of an infection before specific symptoms occur. These prodromal symptoms are your body's warning signs that an outbreak is a day or two from happening.
These Prodromal symptoms include:
These herpes symptoms are an indication that the virus has reactivated and is making its way along the nerves to the skin surface. These symptoms are also a sign that your body is actively fighting the genital herpes infection.
Second Stage: Inflammation
The first sign of an outbreak is inflammation. You may also experience some or all of the following herpes symptoms:
Third Stage: Blisters
The next stage in the outbreak is the formation of blisters.
Fourth Stage: Ulcers
After a while, these blisters may burst and turn into ulcers. These ulcers can look like open sores or small areas of broken skin. The ulcers usually discharge a white or clear-colored fluid. There may also be some bleeding at this stage of the outbreak.
This is the stage of an outbreak where a person is most contagious. The discharge oozing from ulcers is actually millions of active herpes viruses. Also, this is usually the most painful part of the outbreak. There can be sharp shooting pains and an intense burning sensation.
During the second, third, and fourth stages there are many other skin conditions which can be easily mistaken for genital herpes:
Fifth Stage: Scabs And Healing
The final stage of the outbreak occurs when the sores dry up. The sores will crust over and scabs will form. The skin will begin to heal at this stage although viruses may still be present. In general, sores in moist areas of the body will take longer to heal. An outbreak should be considered contagious until all scabs fall off and the affected skin clears up. Usually, any scarring will go away completely in time.
There is some information on herpes symptoms in men which is specific to them.
Lesions in men can be located on the penis, scrotum, upper thighs, pubic area, buttocks, and in or near the anus.
Infection of the urethra can cause painful urination.
Although rare, there can also be a clear discharge coming from the urethra.
Occasionally, sores can become so swollen that they block the urethra, this can make it difficult to urinate.
There is also some information specifically dealing with herpes symptoms in women.
Lesions in women can be located on the lips of the vagina, vulva, cervix, pubic area, upper thighs, buttocks, and in or near the anus.
Woman will occasionally feel pressure in the area just below the belly button.
Painful urination is more common in women and occurs when urine happens to flow over active lesions.
There can be a vaginal discharge. This discharge is usually clear, white, or pale-yellow in color and is a sign that the body is trying to clear itself of the herpes infection.
During an outbreak a woman can also experience cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix) and urethritis (inflammation of the urethra).
Hopefully you have found this information useful. Be sure and visit the rest of this website as well as the Herpes Dating eBook. Inside of this eBook you will find information on all issues surrounding genital herpes including: