Early genital herpes pictures

Early genital herpes pictures DEFAULT

What does herpes look like?

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Herpes sores can affect many areas of the body, including the mouth, genitals, and eyes. Knowing what herpes looks like across the body can help people diagnose the condition.

Herpes is a skin condition caused by the herpes simplex virus. The symptoms include sores that come and go over time. Different types of herpes affect different body parts.

This article will explain what herpes is, how people get it, and what herpes looks like with pictures.

What does herpes look like?

Most people with HSV are asymptomatic, meaning they will not experience any symptoms. Others will notice sores or lesions. These sores look like blisters filled with fluid. Over a few days, the sores break open, ooze, and form a crust before healing.

People may also notice a tingling, itching, or burning feeling a few days before the sores appear. Some people may also experience flu-like symptoms, such as:

Someone who has contracted the virus will usually have their first sores, or an outbreak, between 2 and 20 days later. The sores may last up to a week or 10 days.

An outbreak may involve a single sore or a cluster of sores. They often affect the skin around the mouth, the genitals, or the rectum. The blisters can take between 2 and 4 weeks to heal.

The symptoms will usually reappear from time to time, though they do not tend to be as severe as the first time.

The following sections discuss the symptoms of herpes that arise on commonly affected body parts.

What is herpes?

Herpes is a mild condition that causes small sores to appear on the skin.

People develop herpes after being exposed to the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of this virus:

  • herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1), or oral herpes, which usually affects the mouth
  • herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2), or genital herpes, which generally affects the genitals

According to the , 67 percent of people under 50 years old have the HSV-1 virus, and 11 percent of 15 to 49 year-olds have the HSV-2 infection worldwide.

Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can occur on the face or the genitals. People can contract both herpes viruses through bodily fluids, including genital fluids and saliva.

Once someone has the virus, the symptoms can flare up from time to time for the rest of their life. While the sores can be uncomfortable and even painful, they are not usually dangerous for otherwise healthy adults.


In oral herpes, most blisters appear on the lips or mouth. They can also form elsewhere on the face, especially around the chin and below the nose, or on the tongue.

At first, the sores look similar to small bumps or pimples before developing into pus-filled blisters. These may be red, yellow or white. Once they burst, a clear or yellow liquid will run out, before the blister develops a yellow crust and heals.

People with oral herpes may experience swollen lymph nodes in the neck during an outbreak.

Female genitals

Females with genital herpes may develop sores on the vulva, which is the external part of the genitals that includes the outer lips (labia), or inside the vagina. It may be difficult to see sores that develop inside the vagina.

Genital sores vary in size and number, but as with oral herpes, they look like pimples or blisters filled with fluid. They will burst and develop a yellowy crust as they heal.

Females are more likely to have trouble urinating during a genital herpes outbreak than men. They may experience a burning sensation while passing urine. They may also notice they have swollen lymph nodes in their groin.

Male genitals

Males with genital herpes may develop sores on and around the penis.

Small red or white pimples develop into larger, fluid-filled sores that may be red, white or yellow. As with oral herpes and female genital herpes, these sores tend to burst before crusting over.

Along with other flu-like symptoms, men may experience swollen lymph nodes in their groin.


Both men and women with genital herpes may develop sores or blisters on the buttocks or around the rectum.

A person may notice open, red wounds on or around the anus.

Herpes sores may also appear around the rectum, and a person may also develop swollen lymph nodes in the groin.


Herpes blisters can also develop on the fingers. This is called herpetic whitlow and is most common in children who suck their thumb.

Herpes can cause one or more sores to develop around the fingernail. A person will often experience pain or a tingling sensation in the area before the sore develops.

If multiple sores appear, they tend to join up and become one large, honeycomb-like blister within a week. They may also spread to the nail bed.


Herpes keratitis refers to a herpes infection in the eye. It may affect one or both eyes and causes:

  • eye pain
  • sensitivity to light
  • discharge from the eye

Anyone who suspects herpes keratitis should see a doctor. Without treatment, the infection can scar the eye, leading to cloudy vision, or even vision loss.


Herpes is a mild skin condition caused by the herpes simplex virus. It causes blister-like sores to appear anywhere on the body. The most commonly affected areas include around the mouth, the genitals, and buttocks.

There is no cure for HSV, and people who have contracted the virus will usually experience breakouts from time to time. The sores usually clear up on their own, though people can help treat outbreaks using antiviral medicine, such as:

  • acyclovir
  • famciclovir
  • valacyclovir

These treatments, which are available as creams or pills from drug stores or on prescription, can shorten the duration of a herpes outbreak.

To avoid transmitting herpes to other people, avoid skin-to-skin contact during flare-ups of symptoms, especially when the sores are open.

When a person has genital herpes, they can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus by using a condom between outbreaks. People with oral herpes can reduce the risk of transmission by avoiding kissing, sharing tableware, or performing oral sex during an outbreak.

Antiviral medication is available for purchase online.

Read the article in Spanish.

Sours: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/

What you will see?


In this section, we summarize the signs of genital herpes in men and women. Unlike symptoms, which are subjective and felt only by the patient, signs are the visible, objective changes caused by the disease process. Because signs are objective, they are more reliable (seeing is believing) than symptoms when it comes to early disease diagnosis and treatment.

Only 20%–30% of herpes-positive persons experience any disease-related signs and symptoms. The overwhelming majority are asymptomatic for life.

Even though having signs of herpes is uncommon, we’ve summarized information about them so that people who get them will be able to recognize the infection and take early action.

You will find below the signs of herpes summarized in tables and photographs:

  • Signs in symptomatic males and females
  • Oral and rectal herpes signs
  • Herpes outbreak photographs

The tables and photos are followed by FAQ about the signs of herpes answered by our expert STD doctor.

Let’s dive in!

Genital herpes signs: symptomatic males and females

This table summarizes genital herpes signs in symptomatic males and females (remember, only 20% of people with herpes are symptomatic). We’ve divided the symptoms into groups:

  • Common (most symptomatic people experience them)
  • Uncommon (very few people experience them)
  • Most reliable (the signs doctors rely on the most because they can be explained by the pathophysiology of the disease process)
Common signsUnusual signsMost reliable signsIncubation periodChance of being sign-free

Skin signs

Herpes lesions go through stages:

Skin redness > multiple blisters > roof of the blister comes off, forming sores > sores crust > crusted sores heal without leaving a scar

Areas affected in males:

  • Penile foreskin
  • Head of the penis
  • Scrotum
Areas affected in females:

Systemic signs

  • Fever
  • Generalized aching
  • Headache
  • Locally enlarged and painful lymph nodes (groin area)
Penile dischargeGrouped blisters, sores or crust (depending on the disease stage) on the same red base2–12 days after initial exposure70%–80%

Oral and anal signs of herpes

This table summarizes the signs of herpes in symptomatic people (only 20% of herpes-positive people are symptomatic) in the oral and anal (rectal) areas. We’ve divided the signs into groups:

  • Common (most symptomatic people experience them)
  • Uncommon (very few symptomatic people experience them)
  • Most reliable (the signs doctors rely on the most because they can be explained by the pathophysiology of the disease process)
Most reliable
Incubation PeriodChance of being


Skin signs

Herpes lesions go through stages:

Skin redness > multiple blisters > roof of the blister comes off, forming sores > sores crust > crusted sores heal without leaving a scar

Areas affected:

Systemic signs

  • Fever
  • Generalized aching
  • Headache
  • Locally enlarged and painful lymph nodes (neck)
Blisters on the tongue or the roof of the mouthBlisters and ulcers around the mouth2–12 days after initial exposure70%–80%


Skin signs

Herpes lesions go through stages:

Skin redness > multiple blisters > roof of the blister comes off forming sores > sores crust > crusted sores heal without leaving a scar

Local areas affected:

  • Around the anus
  • Inside the rectum (less common)
Systemic signs

1. Fever
2. Generalized aching
3. Headache

Locally enlarged and painful lymph nodes (neck)
Bloody or mucus discharge from anusBlisters and ulcers around the anus

Herpes outbreak photos

We present here some photos of herpes outbreaks borrowed from other websites. We believe it’s helpful to see the herpes lesions so you can understand what we’re referring to in the tables.

As with anything in life, the more you see the more experience you get, and you start noticing minor but important differences.

Let’s take a look together at some photos so we can clarify what makes us think lesions are herpes and not something else.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here we summarize real patients’ questions, grouped by topic, and Dr. Fuzayloff’s answers to them. “Dr. F” (his patients’ name for him) has been an STD doctor for over two decades in Midtown Manhattan, NYC

  • How common are herpes signs? arrow down

    Herpes signs are uncommon. Only 20% of infected people experience any herpes-related signs. Sometimes, herpes has such a mild manifestation that it goes unnoticed. The strong immune system of most people keeps the virus in check and without signs. Although about 90% of the U.S. population has one of the two types of herpes simplex, we rarely meet a person with an active infection.

  • Symptoms or signs: which is more reliable for the herpes diagnosis, and why? arrow down

    Signs! They are objective because they can be seen and confirmed by people other than the patient. However, in the diagnostic process, even though doctors trust signs more, we consider both signs and symptoms and their timing to get a complete picture of what’s going on.

    Both signs and symptoms need to be considered in the right context: how soon after exposure they started, how are they evolving over time (herpes should go through stages), whether there are any systemic symptoms, and other things.

  • What signs do doctors consider reliable for establishing a diagnosis? arrow down

    Doctors consider a sign “reliable” for diagnostic purposes when it is consistent with the logical disease process for a condition. In diagnosing herpes, two things are the most important: the anatomic location of the lesions and the appearance of the lesions.

    Anatomic location

    Herpes lesions prefer thin, moist skin. This kind of skin is found in areas where skin transitions into mucosa. These areas are preferred because it’s easier for herpes to penetrate thin skin.


    Herpes lesion can be found in different stages: blister, sore, crust. Regardless of the stage, the following are typically true:

    • The lesions are clustered together on the same red base.
    • The lesions are very superficial, affecting only the top layer skin. When you pinch the skin, you can’t feel a bump.
    • The lesions are usually one-sided and confined to one anatomic area.
    • Local lymph nodes might become enlarged, especially with the first outbreak, on the side of the skin lesion.
  • How does herpes progress? arrow down

    If you happen to be one of the minority of people who get herpes symptoms, they usually appears within a few days of exposure; the time varies depending on whether it is the first outbreak or a later one. Herpes has the following disease progression:

    Stage 1:

    A symptomatic patient begins to experience a tingling or itching sensation in the area of exposure 12–24 hours after initial herpes exposure (this is a symptoms; i.e., what you feel). In addition, systemic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and headache might occur. Systemic symptoms are more common during the first herpes outbreak.

    Stage 2:

    • Herpes-specific blisters develop in the affected areas. There are multiple blisters clustered on a red base.
    • These blisters will always follow stage 1 in symptomatic patients unless medication is taken to suppress progression.
    • In the first outbreak, it can take 2–12 days (the average is 4 days) before lesions appear; in subsequent outbreaks, skin blisters can appear as soon as 12 hours after stage 1.

    Stage 3:

    The blisters break within 7 days of appearing and leave aching ulcers or sores (which may bleed).

    Stage 4:

    Once ulcers develop, healing takes about 1–4 weeks. Scars don’t develop. The time is longer (2–4 weeks) for newly infected people and shorter (1 week) for people experiencing a recurrence.

  • I think I have herpes symptoms that aren’t progressing to visible signs. How common is that? arrow down

    It is very unlikely that anyone will have symptoms of herpes that don’t evolve into signs.

    • If you have symptoms (tingling and itch) and didn’t take any medication to stop the progression, herpes skin lesions should eventually appear. The time between symptoms and the appearance of the signs is called the prodromal period and it usually last from 12 hours to 2–3 days.
    • Occasionally, the immune system is strong enough to suppress the progression of symptoms to signs, but in that case, symptoms should subside as well.

    It is very unusual to have symptoms of itch and tingling in the area for weeks or months without progression to a visible stage of the disease.

  • What is the chance of lymph node enlargement during a herpes outbreak? arrow down

    • The chance of lymph node enlargement is high during the first outbreak and lower during subsequent outbreaks.

    What are lymph nodes?

    Lymph nodes are tiny structures that filter infection and prevent its further development. Though lymph nodes are scattered throughout the body, in some areas these little structures are grouped together and responsible for the control of infectious processes in that region (they are called regional lymph nodes). These regions are the neck, armpits, abdomen, chest, and groin.

    What is an enlarged lymph node?

    “Enlarged” means bigger than normal size. It is not a feeling but rather a visible, palpable thing.

    • In a herpes outbreak, regional lymph nodes become enlarged in response to infection.
      • Oral herpes: neck and armpits lymph nodes
      • Genital herpes: groin lymph nodes
    • Lymph nodes usually become enlarged on the side of the skin lesion.
    • Lymph nodes become enlarged during the early stages of a herpes manifestation (initial symptoms). They slowly return to the normal size within 2–4 weeks but usually persist longer than the visible signs of the disease.
  • I had my first genital herpes outbreak. A swab test confirmed that the skin lesion was herpes 2. I am symptom- free now. Where should I expect the next outbreak? arrow down

    If the swab test confirmed HSV-2 in the genital area, the herpes virus will be suppressed by your immune system in that area. The next outbreak can happen anywhere in that area, not necessarily in the exact same place.

  • Can herpes cause urinary symptoms? How common is that? arrow down

    Yes, it can. But it is uncommon.

    Common urinary tract infection symptoms are burning, urgency, and increased frequency of urination. Since herpes causes the formation of sores, which can be on the outside of the vagina or urethral area, the most common symptom is burning while urinating. This burning pain might be pretty significant and it is more common among women.

    Occasionally, when blisters form inside the urethra, the patient might have difficulty with urination (expelling urine from the bladder) due to swelling of the urethra.

  • Can penile or vaginal discharge occur with herpes infection? If so, what kind of discharge? Is it smelly? arrow down

    Yes, one can get a discharge with herpes. Although this is not common and not specific to herpes, some people do experience it. There are some gender differences.

    Herpes discharge in men

    This discharge usually appears on the tip of the penis head. It occurs when the virus affects the urethra (in 35%–45% of infected symptomatic males). Typically, the penile discharge is whitish, thick, and clear. It may have a strong fishy odor, which is more noticeable during ejaculation. However, the odor is not as common as it is in females. In rare cases, the discharge may contain blood.

    Herpes discharge in women

    A vaginal discharge develops when the herpes virus affects the inside of the vagina. As with penile discharge, a vaginal discharge is whitish, thick, clear fluid that may contain blood.

    Females are more likely to have a smelly (fishy) discharge than males. It is more noticeable after intercourse, which can cause the normal healthy bacteria of the vagina to be mixed with “unhealthy” bacteria or viruses (in this case the herpes virus).

    Unlike with other vaginal infections that are well known for their odor (such as bacterial vaginosis, which has a fishy odor), doctors don’t rely on odor in diagnosing herpes.

  • How long does a herpes outbreak last? Can I have a herpes outbreak for longer than a month? arrow down

    Yes, you can, but that’s very unusual. It mostly happens to people who have a weak immune system:

    • Immunosuppressive condition (such as AIDS or advanced cancers)
    • Taking medication that might suppress the immune system (e.g., chemotherapy; heavy and prolonged steroid use)

    In people with the above-mentioned conditions, outbreaks are more frequent and more severe in addition to being prolonged.

    For most people, herpes sign and symptoms resolve within 2–4 weeks: longer with the initial outbreak and shorter with subsequent outbreaks. They also are less frequent and less severe as time goes on (it’s a regressive condition).

  • Can herpes travel to other parts of the body on its own? arrow down

    The herpes virus, once contracted, will stay dormant (inactive) in the nerve ganglion locally. It will not travel to any other part of the body unless you pass it to another area of the body (autoinoculation) during the outbreak, which is extremely uncommon. An example of this is touching the active sore and immediately touching another part of the body.

    Herpes remains local (in the area of exposure), and when certain triggers activate the virus you may have an outbreak in the area of exposure (oral or genital). It might not be in the same exact spot as during the last outbreak.

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What to know about genital herpes in men

Genital herpes is a common condition that can cause red bumps around the genital area, including the penis, scrotum, and anus. There is no cure for genital herpes, but some antiviral medications can shorten the duration of symptoms and help prevent future occurrences.

The herpes simplex virus causes genital herpes, while the condition usually does not trigger symptoms. Many people can have the virus without knowing it.

Keep reading to learn more about genital herpes in males, including the symptoms, causes, and possible treatments.

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is an acquired infection with the . It primarily transmits through sexual activity.

The herpes simplex virus is widespread. There are two types: type 1 and type 2. According to the , around billion people under the age of 50 have the type 1 virus, while million people aged 15–49 years have type 2.

Most people who acquire the herpes virus do not experience symptoms and are often unaware they have contracted it.

However, some experience symptoms that may include genital herpes. Both types of herpes viruses can trigger this condition.

Those with symptoms of genital herpes can encounter blisters or lesions around the genitals. The symptoms may occur in cycles.

In contrast, oral herpes trigger sores around the mouth, teeth, or gums, often known as cold sores or fever blisters. The herpes type 1 virus usually causes this condition.

According to the , around , people contract genital herpes each year in the United States.


Genital herpes is a result of acquiring an infection with the herpes simplex virus.

People pass the virus through , including direct oral or genital contact. For example, someone may acquire the virus by receiving oral sex from someone with herpes.

People usually pass on type 1 viruses through touching or kissing. In contrast, people typically transmit type 2 viruses during sexual intercourse.

It is possible to contract herpes from someone with no visible sores or lesions. Not everyone will be aware if they have acquired or transmitted the virus.

How are they different in males?

Genital herpes is less common in males than in females. The CDC estimate that around aged 14–49 years contract the infection each year.

The virus that causes the infection is more easily passed on from males to females during intercourse, which may explain the difference. In addition, people can also acquire the virus from anal intercourse.

The symptoms are the same for males and females. However, females who experience genital herpes during pregnancy can experience complications.


Most cases of herpes do not cause symptoms, and many people have the condition without knowing it. Others may experience symptoms that present at a later date if the virus reactivates.

Symptoms of genital herpes can include:

  • tingling sensations in the genital area, including the penis, scrotum, anus, buttocks, or thighs
  • small red bumps that turn into blisters around the genital area
  • swelling in the groin, neck, or under the arms
  • muscle aches
  • fever
  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • trouble urinating

People with symptoms typically experience them around after exposure. They can last a couple of weeks and may re-emerge again in future occurrences.

The first episode is typically longer and more likely to include body-wide symptoms, such as fever or aches. People who experience future occurrences usually experience red bumps or blisters for a shorter period.

Testing and diagnosis

People rarely require a doctor for genital herpes. Most cases are mild or cause no symptoms. Symptoms that do occur usually go away within a couple of weeks in the first instance.

However, some people may experience body-wide symptoms that cause discomfort. Doctors can prescribe antiviral medications to speed up recovery and reduce the risk of future occurrences in these cases.

To check for genital herpes, a doctor may use tests. These tests amplify small parts of the virus DNA for detection.

Other tests include serologic tests, a blood analysis used to detect the antibodies that the body uses to fight the virus.

The sooner a person starts on medication following an occurrence of herpes symptoms, the more effective it is.


There is currently for genital herpes. However, most people experience zero or mild symptoms, with no long-term complications from the virus.

Doctors can prescribe antiviral medications to those who experience symptoms. These drugs may shorten the duration of symptoms or prevent future occurrences. Topical creams could also help ease the pain.

Daily suppressive therapies can of transmission to partners.

There are currently no vaccines to prevent a person from contracting a genital herpes virus. However, people can reduce their risk of acquiring or passing on genital herpes through practicing safe sexual practices, such as:

  • avoiding sexual activities when a person is experiencing symptoms
  • using a condom
  • limiting the number of new sexual partners
  • talking with a doctor about treatments to preventing future occurrences

These practices can reduce the risk of contracting genital herpes but cannot prevent symptoms from flaring up.

It is also important to note that if a person touches the fluid from the herpes sores, or the sores themselves, they can transfer herpes to another part of the body, such as the eyes.

Therefore, avoid touching these where possible to prevent spreading herpes elsewhere on the body. People should also wash their hands thoroughly if they do touch these sores or fluids.


Genital herpes is a commonly acquired infection with the herpes simplex virus.

It typically triggers mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, genital herpes can cause small red bumps to develop, which turn into blisters.

There is no cure for genital herpes, although antiviral medications can help with symptoms and prevent future occurrences.

Sours: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/genital-herpes-in-men

How To Tell Genital Herpes Apart From Other Skin Conditions

What to expect on this page?

We summarize in this article how to recognize genital herpes and why it’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re worried you may have it.

The most common symptom of herpes is skin lesions. These lesions can be confused with similar-looking lesions caused by a number of other conditions.

Using photographs to help you see what we’re saying, we describe herpes lesions and compare and contrast them with the lesions caused by these diseases:

  • Syphilis
  • Chancroid
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • Molluscum contagiosum
  • Ingrown hair and pseudofolliculitis
  • Folliculitis
  • Jock itch
  • Genital eczema
  • Epstein–Barr virus
  • Other rarer conditions

Oops … Is that Herpes?

How to recognize genital herpes


Genital herpes is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is so common that many people, when they find any skin lesion around the genital areas, are likely to think that it is herpes. They are not entirely wrong to think that way. Genital herpes is the main cause of genital ulcers worldwide.1 And the condition is usually associated with a stigma that can itself cause anxiety and even depression2 and might influence the affected person’s decision to disclose the infection to others or seek care.3

A genital sore is not great news regardless of what is causing it. However, many other conditions causing genital sores have a prognosis different from that of herpes. Some can be worse, but others, unlike herpes,4 can be completely cured. That’s why we’re beginning this article with an explanation of how to recognize genital herpes and differentiate it from other genital skin lesions.

A sleeping virus

The herpes virus is known for staying “asleep” in the body for a long time without showing symptoms. This feature is called latency: once the virus infects a person, after an initial phase that does not necessarily manifest with symptoms, it remains hidden in the body for many years, reactivating every now and then.4 Its reactivation is usually triggered by weakness of the immune system, such as in times of sustained stress, accumulated fatigue, heavy physical activity, or fever, but may not have any apparent cause.5, 6

“….genital herpes skin lesion suddenly appears as multiple vesicles”

The reactivation of the virus rarely manifests with symptoms, so most people who have herpes don’t know it and most genital herpes transmission occurs in the absence of a visible skin lesion.

Herpes skin lesions

The most characteristic and most common symptom of genital herpes is skin lesions. They typically appear during periods when the virus is active, which corresponds to when the virus becomes highly infective through sex. When a person acquires herpes for the first time through sexual contact, after about two to four days of incubation, a genital herpes skin lesion suddenly appears as multiple vesicles (small sacs with a thin membrane and liquid inside) piled together and sitting on an inflamed base. These vesicles are commonly called herpes sores. They are a bit whiter or browner than the rest of the skin and are often delimited by a reddish ring from the inflammation. They resemble blisters and can progress into an ulcer, which is usually more painful. An ulcer is a break in the skin that usually takes time to heal. Lesions start to heal around 12 days after the sexual contact.8 The sites most frequently involved are, for women, the vagina, vulva, buttocks, anus, and thighs, and for men, the penis, scrotum, anus, buttocks, and thighs. Herpes skin lesions are expected to be fully healed after about 19 days.9

Genital herpesGenetial Herpes

Image 1. Genital herpes in the vesicles phase on the upper image,10 and in the ulcer phase on the bottom image.11

General symptoms

The initial herpes infection is sometimes associated with general symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, and muscular aches. In addition, there is often a tender local lymphadenopathy (enlargement of lymph nodes) that manifests as a painful lump in the groin area. When the virus reactivates in an already infected person, these symptoms are milder or absent and the skin lesion, if it manifests, heals more quickly. However, the reactivation is often accompanied by prodromal symptoms (feelings that are experienced before the main symptoms), such as pain, tingling, and burning preceding the appearance of the skin lesion.5

It is not always Herpes

It is a sore but not a herpes

While genital ulceration is often associated with herpes, it can be the result of several other conditions, including but not limited to, other sexually transmitted diseases, inflammatory conditions, skin irritation, and allergic skin lesions. In addition to herpes, the main sexually transmitted diseases that present with a genital ulcer are primary syphilis and chancroid. In the United States, syphilis infection is more common than chancroid.


The skin lesion of primary syphilis usually develops about three weeks (up to 90 days) after contracting the disease through sexual contact. Initially, it appears as a dark red mark or spot, and it rapidly becomes ulcerated.

Unlike the genital herpes skin lesion, which presents with multiple vesicles, primary syphilis’s skin lesion is usually solitary. However, when grouped herpes vesicles progress, they might take look like a solitary ulcer and can resemble an ulcerated primary syphilis. However, a herpes ulcer is usually painful, while a primary syphilis skin lesion is typically painless. The lymphadenopathy of syphilis is also painless, unlike the lymphadenopathy associated with genital herpes, which is often painful.12

Herpes vs SyphilisBoth very prevalent in the United States. Both can present with multiple vesicles and get ulceratedHerpes usually presents with multiple fluid-filled vesicles that turn into ulcers over time. Herpes ulcers are shallow, small, and on a red base (that is, they are surrounded by red skin). They are painful and may occur with painful lymphadenopathy. Syphilis usually has a solitary sore. A syphilis ulcer is usually deeper and larger and is painless in itself with painless lymphadenopathy.

Syphilic UlcerSyphilic Ulcer

Image 2. Primary syphilis skin lesions that could be mistaken for genital herpes Joseph Engelman, MD; San Francisco Department of Health.13


Chancroid is less common in the United States. It is prevalent in Africa and Asia. Its skin lesion appears about five days after sexual contact as a painful and inflamed spot that turns into an ulceration in several days.

Sometimes the skin lesion is solitary, but often more ulcers are present. A chancroid ulcer is usually deeper and bleeds easily when touched. It sometimes releases a purulent (infected) liquid. After some days, a painful local lymphadenopathy presents.14

Chancroid particularly resembles genital herpes when the latter is in its ulcerated form.

Herpes vs. chancroidBoth very prevalent in the United States. Both can present with multiple vesicles and become ulcerated.Herpes starts as vesicles before it ulcerates. Its ulceration is superficial and sometimes appears as an elevation with a hole in the middle. Chancroid starts as an inflamed patch before it ulcerates. Its ulceration is deep and bleeds easily, and it can release a purulent liquid.

image of Chancroids ulcer

Image 3. Chancroid of the penis accompanied with its lymphadenopathy. Source: CDC/Dr. Pirozzi.15

Lymphogranuloma Venereum

Another sexually transmitted disease that presents with a genital ulcer resembling herpes is lymphogranuloma venereum, which is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. This disease is more common in tropical countries, but in the United States it tends to be particularly prevalent in men who have sex with men.

A genital skin lesion usually develops three days to three weeks after the sexual contact as a small vesicle that can ulcerate on its top and that heals after a few weeks. It is usually soft and painless.

The most characteristic sign of this disease is perhaps the painful lymphadenopathy that can progress to fistulas (a fistula is an abnormal canal that usually gets created by pus making its way out of where it formed).

Herpes vs. Lymphogranuloma VenereumBoth can present with an ulceration. In the United States, both are most prevalent in men who have sex with men.Herpes starts as vesicles that can be painful. It is possible to have a painful lymphadenopathy in herpes, but it is unlikely to progress to fistulas, and the main symptom is the skin lesion. Lymphogranuloma venereum starts as a button that may go unnoticed. The skin lesion is painless. Painful lymphadenopathy is the main symptom and can progress to fistulas.

Lymphogranuloma Venereum’s

Image 4. Lymphogranuloma Venereum’s lymphadenopathy16

Non-sexually transmissible diseases

Some other medical conditions that are not necessarily sexually transmitted can present with a skin lesion that patients sometimes confuse with a genital herpes. Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) in rare cases manifests with a painful genital ulceration that resembles common herpes. However, other manifestations would be more prominent in EBV infection, resembling the symptomatology of infectious mononucleosis with high fever and a swollen liver or spleen.17 Other rare conditions that can present with a herpes-like genital ulceration include Behcet disease, genital tuberculosis, amebiasis, and chancriform pyoderma.18

These conditions and the previously mentioned ones are challenging to diagnose even for doctors. Inspection of the skin lesions and history alone are usually not sufficient to accurately identify a genital ulcer. Laboratory testing is often necessary to confirm a diagnosis.7

When it is clearly not genital Herpes

The following are some conditions that cause skin imperfections around the genital area. They do not necessarily look like genital herpes or pose a diagnostic problem. However, they are common conditions and many patients ask if their skin lesions are related to herpes.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that can manifest with warts in different parts of the genital area. HPV warts typically are cauliflower shaped. However, there are about types of HPV, and flat, spiky, and dome-shaped forms are also commonly seen. HPV warts are usually firm and, unlike herpes, very unlikely to ulcerate.19

Herpes vs. HPVSkin lesion may present as multiple buttons organized in a flower shape.Herpes vesicles (sacs full of liquid with thin membranes) have a fragile consistency and are likely to ulcerate. HPV lesions are firm and very unlikely to ulcerate.

Genital HPV warts

Image 5. Genital HPV warts. Source

Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a highly infectious condition caused by a virus and commonly seen in HIV patients. It usually presents with a growth sort of skin lesion. The skin lesions, known as mollusca, can appear anywhere on the body. They are small and raised and usually have a characteristic pit in the center. They may become itchy or painful, but they are smooth and firm and do not look like an ulcer.20

Herpes vs. Molluscum contagiosumSmall buttons that can be found grouped. The dimpled aspect of mollusca can look like ulcerated herpes.Herpes lesions are fragile vesicles that ulcerate. They typically around the mouth and in the genital area. Molluscum contagiosum lesions are firm and smooth and only rarely ulcerate, and they are more likely to also be present on other body parts, such as the abdomen, legs, and arms.

Molluscum contagiosum

Image 6. Molluscum contagiosum21

Ingrown hair and pseudofolliculitis

When the hair is not properly shaved on fragile skin, it can curl inside it, forming a bump, and can progress to pseudofolliculitis or even folliculitis.

The skin in the genital area is particularly fragile, and ingrown hair can easily occur there as a result of a nonoptimal shaving technique. The bump of ingrown hair is usually small and firm, but it can look like a blister, which makes it look like a herpes lesion. It can also be painful, but its pain does not resemble the distinctive burning pain of herpes. It also does not ulcerate, and if it pops open it usually heals very quickly, unlike herpes.

When there is recurrence of ingrown hair, inflammation can occur in that area and present as redness of the surface of the skin and a chronic recurrence of itchy buttons. The condition is commonly seen in the beard area, especially on the neck and under the chin where the skin is more fragile, but it can also be seen in the pubis and other areas.

Estimated probabilities of HPV transmission from the penis to the anus were significantly higher than were those from the anus to the penis.

The skin lesions of pseudofolliculitis are, like ingrown hair and contrary to herpes, unlikely to ulcerate. They follow the pattern of hair growth, and they have particularly more pruritis or pain a day or two after shaving.22

Herpes vs. ingrown hair and pseudofolliculitisLike herpes, ingrown hair can look like a blister, and pseudofolliculitis tends to be more symptomatic a day or two after shaving.Herpes has vesicles that ulcerate and a characteristic burning pain. Ingrown hair and pseudofolliculitis have small, firm lesions that do not ulcerate and mild tingling pain and itching.

Ingrown hair and pseudofolliculitisIngrown hair and pseudofolliculitis

Image 7. Ingrown hair (left) and pseudofolliculitis (right). Source : NHS


A hair follicle can become infected and form an inflamed button, most commonly because of a superficial bacterial or fungal infection or the progression of ingrown hair toward the infection.

“ Herpes has vesicles that ulcerate”

Folliculitis appears as a pimple, usually with a hair topping it and reddish surroundings. A white coloration—a sign of pus—can sometimes be seen under the skin of the button. If the folliculitis is due to ingrown hair, the ingrown hair can also sometimes be seen under the button.23

The pimple of folliculitis does not ulcerate and heals quickly when it opens. The condition is benign and usually self-limiting.

Herpes vs. folliculitisFolliculitis’s pimples might look like ulcerated herpes when they open.Herpes has vesicles that ulcerate. It has no relationship to hair. Folliculitis presents as pimples that do not ulcerate. Either a hair will top each pimple or an ingrown hair will be seen underneath it.


Image 8. Folliculitis. Source: HC-UFPR Dermatology Service

Jock itch

Jock itch, or tinea cruris, is a common dermatologic condition, especially in men. It is caused by a fungus and classically results in a well-delimited red patch of skin formed by a pattern of rings. The patch usually forms in the groin and skin folds in the genital area but can spread to other parts of the body. The infection might cause itching and even a burning sensation but does not cause the distinctive ulceration of genital herpes.24

Herpes vs. Jock itchThe delimited red patch of jock itch might look like the inflamed background of herpes.Herpes has vesicles that ulcerate. Jock itch has no buttons or ulcerations.

Jock itch

Image 9. Jock itch on the inner thigh of a man25

Genital eczema

Eczema, or dermatitis, refers to a group of skin diseases that cause skin inflammation. They have an allergic and environmental causal mechanism and are not contagious.

The genital area can be particularly prone to eczema since its skin and fragile and easily irritated and because of moisture and friction from clothing. Various types of eczema could affect the genital area, and each has its own characteristics. However, all types of eczema cause skin redness and itching. The skin lesion is poorly defined, and itching is usually the predominant symptom. Swelling is also a common feature of eczema. Bumps that can scar are frequent, blisters are rarer, and ulceration similar to that of herpes is almost exceptional unless the lesions have been extensively scratched.26, 27

One type of eczema looks especially like herpes but has nothing to do with the herpes virus. It is called dermatitis herpetiformis. It is characterized by blisters filled with a clear fluid and is intensely itchy. It is related to celiac disease and gluten intolerance and its skin lesions can appear in multiple places on the body.28

Herpes vs. EczemaBoth can present with blisters.With herpes, lesions that look like blisters are frequent, very prone to ulceration, and cause a burning sensation. With eczema, blisters are rare, ulceration is exceptional, and itching is the primary symptom.

Genital eczema

Image Allergic Eczema. Source

Should I talk to a doctor about it?

Now that you have a broad idea of how to differentiate a genital herpes ulcer from other commonly encountered conditions, you should consult your doctor when you suspect genital herpes for the first time. The first episode of herpes can have more noticeable symptoms than recurrences later will and it will be less difficult to ensure that the prognosis is benign and rule out more harmful conditions.

Herpes is still a condition often associated with anxiety, fear, and shame. Your healthcare provider can talk to you about your feelings in that regard and give you support and guidance.

With any genital condition, it is important to have the correct diagnosis made by your doctor, who will use laboratory tests for confirmation to establish a proper management plan.


1. Gupta R, Warren T, Wald A. Genital herpes. The Lancet. ;() doi/S(07)

2. Mindel A, Marks C. Psychological symptoms associated with genital herpes virus infections: epidemiology and approaches to management. CNS Drugs. ;19(4) doi/

3. Fortenberry JD. The effects of stigma on genital herpes care-seeking behaviours. Herpes J IHMF. ;11(1)

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STD Facts - Genital Herpes.Published October 22, Accessed November 1,

5. Whitley RJ, Kimberlin DW, Roizman B. Herpes simplex viruses. Clin Infect Dis Off Publ Infect Dis Soc Am. ;26(3); quiz doi/

6. Freeman ML, Sheridan BS, Bonneau RH, Hendricks RL. Psychological Stress Compromises CD8+ T Cell Control of Latent Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Infections. Immunol Baltim Md ;(1)

7. Mertz GJ, Coombs RW, Ashley R, et al. Transmission of genital herpes in couples with one symptomatic and one asymptomatic partner: a prospective study. J Infect Dis. ;(6) doi/infdis/

8. Kimberlin DW, Rouse DJ. Clinical practice. Genital herpes. N Engl J Med. ;(19) doi/NEJMcp

9. Corey L, Adams HG, Brown ZA, Holmes KK. Genital herpes simplex virus infections: clinical manifestations, course, and complications. Ann Intern Med. ;98(6) doi/

Merck Manuals. Image: Genital Herpes on the Penis. Merck Manuals Consumer Version. Published Accessed November 8,

Draeger E. Management of genital herpes: a guide for GPs. Prescriber. February Accessed November 8,

Lautenschlager S. Cutaneous manifestations of syphilis : recognition and management. Am J Clin Dermatol. ;7(5) doi/

Klausner JD. The Great Imitator Revealed: Syphilis. Top Antivir Med. ;27(2)

Wolff K, Goldsmith L, Katz S, Gilchrest B, Paller AS, Leffell D. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 7th Edition. Accessed November 4,

Buensalido JAL. Chancroid: Background, Pathophysiology, Epidemiology. October Accessed November 8,

Latini A, Zaccarelli M, Paglia MG, et al. Inguinal and anorectal Lymphogranuloma Venereum: a case series from a sexually transmitted disease center in Rome, Italy. BMC Infect Dis. ; doi/s

Halvorsen JA, Brevig T, Aas T, Skar AG, Slevolden EM, Moi H. Genital ulcers as initial manifestation of Epstein-Barr virus infection: two new cases and a review of the literature. Acta Derm Venereol. ;86(5) doi/

Laetsch Semadeni B, Lautenschlager S. Le diagnostic différentiel des ulcères génitaux. 1re partie. Forum Méd Suisse ‒ Swiss Med Forum. ;9(03). doi/fms

Anic GM, Giuliano AR. Genital HPV infection and related lesions in men. Prev Med. ;53(Suppl 1):SS doi/j.ypmed

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Molluscum Contagiosum | Poxvirus | CDC. Published January 3,

File:Molluscaklein.jpg. In: Wikipedia.

Ogunbiyi A. Pseudofolliculitis barbae; current treatment options. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. ; doi/CCID.S

Winters RD, Mitchell M. Folliculitis. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; Accessed November 5,

Degreef H. Clinical forms of dermatophytosis (ringworm infection). Mycopathologia. ;() doi/s

Tinea cruris. In: Wikipedia. ; Accessed November 8,

Williams HC. Atopic Dermatitis. N Engl J Med. ;(22) doi/NEJMcp

Nedorost ST. Generalized Dermatitis in Clinical Practice. edition. Dordrecht: Springer;

Katz SI, Hall III RP, Lawley TJ. Dermatitis Herpetiformis: The Skin and the Gut. Ann Intern Med. ;93(6) doi/

Sours: https://stdcenterny.com/articles/herpes-and-other-genital-sores.html

Herpes pictures genital early

What Does a Herpes Rash Look Like?

Typical Lesions on Finger

This picture shows a herpetic whitlow, or herpes infection of the finger, that has blisters and sores. Herpetic whitlow will go away on its own, although often Zovirax (topical acyclovir) is given for treatment.

Oral antivirals are generally not needed unless the infection is severe or a person has a weak immune system. 


HSV-1 was formerly known as oral herpes and HSV-2 as genital herpes, but both types can occur anywhere on the body. In fact, herpes virus infections are common on the finger and in one or both eyes.

Though their appearance can vary, they usually cause a red patch with fluid-filled blisters. The blisters will pop and ooze, turning into sores that eventually crust over.

Especially during the first outbreak, sores can be painful and even be accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Herpes simplex infections can mimic other skin conditions and some people have no symptoms at all.

A Word From Verywell

Herpes virus infections are common. While they cannot be cured, they can be managed and prevented with medication. If you are concerned you have been infected with the herpes virus, see your healthcare provider for an evaluation. Your healthcare provider may take a sample of the sore to confirm the diagnosis.

Sours: https://www.verywellhealth.com/herpes-simplex-pictures
Herpes Simplex

Genital Herpes

Information for

Images of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Genital


Genital herpes is a recurrent, lifelong skin infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are 2 types of HSV: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Genital herpes is usually caused by HSV-2 but can occasionally be due to HSV Herpes lesions on the face, sometimes referred to as cold sores, are primarily due to HSV HSV infections are contagious and are spread to other people by skin-to-skin contact with the infected area.

Both types of HSV produce 2 kinds of infections: primary and recurrent. Because it is so contagious, HSV causes a primary infection in most people who are exposed to the virus. However, only about 20% of people who are infected with HSV actually develop visible blisters or sores. Appearing 5–6 days after a person's first exposure to HSV, the sores of a primary infection last about 2–6 weeks. These sores heal completely, rarely leaving a scar. Nevertheless, the virus remains in the body, hibernating in nerve cells.

Certain triggers can cause the hibernating virus to wake up, become active, and travel back to the skin, causing a recurrent infection. These outbreaks tend to be milder than primary infections and generally occur in the same location as the primary infection. The frequency of recurrence is unpredictable and tends to become less over time.

Who's at risk?

Genital herpes can affect anyone who is sexually active. In fact, approximately 10–60% of the general population is infected with genital herpes.

Herpes is spread from person to person by direct skin-to-skin contact. The virus is most contagious when there are visible sores in the genital region. HSV can also be spread when there are no sores present, however, which is called asymptomatic shedding. Remember that only 20% of people who are infected with HSV actually develop visible blisters or sores, which means that approximately 80% of people with HSV have not been diagnosed and are unaware of their condition. Therefore, they can unknowingly transmit the infection to their sexual partners.

Signs and Symptoms

A few days after exposure to HSV, a newly infected person typically develops a group of painful blisters or pus-filled bumps in the genital region. Because these fluid-filled lesions easily burst, many people never even notice them but instead see small, painful red sores or ulcers. These lesions usually last for 2–6 weeks for a primary infection and 5–10 days for recurrent infections. Eventually, a scab develops over each sore, which then falls off, leaving a red area that fades with time.

In women, the most common locations for HSV-2 infection are the external genitalia, vagina, cervix, and anus. In men, the most common locations for HSV-2 infection are the penis, scrotum, upper thighs, buttocks, and anus.

Primary genital HSV infection can be severe, with many painful blisters causing pain or burning with urination and vaginal or urethral discharge. People may also develop fever, headache, muscle ache, and fatigue with a primary outbreak.

Recurrent HSV infections are usually milder than the primary infection, though the lesions look similar. Many people with recurrent HSV infections have burning, tingling, or pain in the area of the outbreak up to 24 hours before any visible signs. This is called the prodromal phase of the infection. Because many people never develop the symptoms of a primary HSV infection, they may mistake a recurrent infection for a primary infection. 

Most people will have a recurrence of genital herpes during the first year after a primary infection. On average, most people will get about 4 outbreaks per year, although the frequency of recurrence is extremely variable and tends to decrease over the years.

A recurrence of genital herpes usually occurs spontaneously, but it can also be triggered by the following:

  • Fever or illness
  • Sun exposure
  • Hormonal changes, such as those due to menstruation or pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Trauma, such as those caused by dental work or cuts from shaving
  • Surgery
  • Immunosuppression
  • Friction to the area – for example, with sexual intercourse or tight-fitting clothes

Self-Care Guidelines

Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) may help reduce pain, fever, and muscle aches that accompany the herpes sores. Applying ice packs or baking soda compresses may relieve some of the swelling and discomfort. Wear loose-fitting clothes and cotton underwear, and keep the infected area clean and dry.

Because HSV infections are very contagious, it is important to take the following steps to prevent spread of the virus during the prodrome phase (burning, tingling, or pain) and active phase (presence of blisters or sores) of genital HSV infections:

  • Avoid sharing towels and other personal care items.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water if you touch an active lesion. HSV can be spread to other parts of your body via infected hands.
  • Avoid sexual contact (including oral, vaginal, and anal sex) during both the prodrome phase and the active phase.

Unfortunately, the virus can still be spread even when someone does not have lesions. Therefore, condoms should be used between outbreaks, even if no sores are present.

When to Seek Medical Care

If you develop new painful sores in or around the genitals, see a physician as soon as possible because treatment is much more effective if started early.

Recurrent outbreaks of genital HSV usually do not require a visit to the doctor. However, because some people have milder forms of herpes, you should also see a doctor for any recurring rash in the genital area, even if you think it is from bug bites, jock itch, or any other condition.

If you have an underlying medical condition such as cancer or HIV, if you have undergone organ transplantation, or if you are pregnant, you are at higher risk for more serious complications from genital herpes. Seek medical advice as soon as possible if you develop any lesions.

Genital herpes can also be passed to a newborn baby during delivery through contact with a lesion in the mother's genital tract. Be sure to speak with your obstetrician about the possible risk to your baby if you have genital herpes.

Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe

Most HSV infections are easy for physicians to diagnose. On occasion, however, a swab from the infected skin may be sent to the laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. A blood test may also be performed to determine if you have been exposed to the virus. Your doctor may also recommend a blood test for your partner to determine if he/she has been exposed to herpes in the past, or is at risk for contracting the virus.

Untreated HSV infections will go away on their own, but antiviral medications can reduce symptoms, shorten the duration of outbreaks, and decrease the chance of spreading the virus. These medicines are most effective if taken during the first 24 hours of symptoms. If you experience burning and tingling before the appearance of blisters, you can start the medicine as soon as you feel these symptoms. Unfortunately, these medicines do not cure HSV infections.

Treatment for primary and recurrent HSV infections are oral antiviral medications, such as acyclovir (Zovirax®), valacyclovir (Valtrex®), and famciclovir (Famvir®). Each of these medications is equally effective and usually taken for 7–10 days for primary infections and 1–5 days (depending on dose) for recurrent infections. Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for these medicines for possible future outbreaks, as they are most effective if taken early on.

More severe HSV infections may require additional medications such as:

  • Oral antibiotics if the area is also infected with bacteria
  • Oral antifungals if the area is also infected with yeast
  • Topical anesthetic cream, such as lidocaine ointment, to reduce pain

If you have frequent or severe herpes outbreaks, your doctor may recommend taking an antiviral medication every day to decrease the frequency and severity of attacks. This type of therapy may also be effective in decreasing the chance that an uninfected partner will acquire the virus. If you are taking a daily antiviral medicine to suppress your outbreaks, talk to your doctor about stopping these medicines yearly to see if you still need daily treatment.

Trusted Links

MedlinePlus: Genital Herpes
Clinical Information and Differential Diagnosis of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Genital


nia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology, pp, , New York: Mosby,

Freedberg, Irwin M., ed. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed, pp New York: McGraw-Hill,

Gupta R, Warren T, Wald A. Genital herpes. Lancet. Dec 22; ()

Sours: https://www.skinsight.com/skin-conditions/adult/genital-herpes-simplex-virus-hsv

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A Guide to Genital Herpes Symptoms in Women

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that results from the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It’s most commonly transmitted through sexual contact, whether oral, anal, or genital sex.

Genital herpes is usually caused by the HSV-2 strain of herpes. The first herpes outbreak may not happen for years after transmission.

But you’re not alone.

About have experienced a herpes infection. Around , new cases of HSV-2 are reported every year.

There’s plenty that can be done to treat the symptoms and manage outbreaks so that life isn’t ever disrupted by it.

Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause oral and genital herpes, but we’ll be focusing mainly on genital HSV


Early symptoms tend to happen around after infection. There are two phases, latent and prodrome.

  • Latent phase: Infection has occurred, but there are no symptoms.
  • Prodrome (outbreak) phase: At first, the symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak are typically mild. As the outbreak progresses, the symptoms become more severe. The sores will typically heal within 3 to 7 days.

What to expect

You may feel a light itchiness or tingling around your genitals or notice some tiny, firm red or white bumps that are uneven or jagged in shape.

These bumps may also be itchy or painful. If you scratch them, they can open up and ooze white, cloudy fluid. This can leave painful ulcers behind that can be irritated by clothing or other materials than come into contact with your skin.

These blisters can show up anywhere around the genitals and the surrounding areas, including the:

  • vulva
  • vaginal opening
  • cervix
  • butt
  • upper thighs
  • anus
  • urethra

First outbreak

The first outbreak may also come along with symptoms that are like those of the flu virus, including:

The first outbreak is usually the most severe. Blisters may be extremely itchy or painful, and sores may appear in many areas around the genitals.

But every outbreak after that is typically less severe. The pain or itchiness won’t be as intense, the sores won’t take quite as long to heal, and you probably won’t experience the same flu-like symptoms that happened during the first outbreak.


The symptoms of genital herpes look different at each stage of an outbreak. They may start mild, but become more noticeable and severe as the outbreak worsens.

Genital herpes symptoms don’t look the same for every person. You may even notice differences in your sores from outbreak to outbreak.

Here are some examples of what genital herpes looks like for people with vulvas at each stage.

How it’s transmitted

Genital herpes is spread through unprotected oral, anal, or genital sex with someone who has an infection. It’s most commonly transmitted when a person has sex with someone who has an active outbreak consisting of open, oozing sores.

Once the virus has made contact, it spreads in the body through mucous membranes. These are thin layers of tissue found around openings in the body like your nose, mouth, and genitals.

Then, the virus invades the cells in your body with the DNA or RNA material that makes them up. This allows them to essentially become a part of your cell and replicate themselves whenever your cells do.


Here are a few ways a doctor may diagnose genital herpes:

  • Physical examination: A doctor will look at any physical symptoms and check your overall health for any other signs of genital herpes, such as lymph node swelling or a fever.
  • Blood test: A sample of blood is taken and sent to a laboratory for testing. This test can show the levels of antibodies in your bloodstream for fighting off an HSV infection. These levels are higher when there’s been a previous herpes infection or if there’s a current outbreak.
  • Virus culture: A small sample is taken from the fluid oozing from a sore, or from the area of infection if there isn’t an open sore. They’ll send the sample to a laboratory to be analyzed for the presence of HSV-2 viral material to confirm a diagnosis.
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test: First, a blood sample or tissue sample is taken from an open sore. Then, a PCR test is done at a laboratory with DNA from your sample to check for the presence of viral material in your blood — this is known as the viral load. This test can confirm an HSV diagnosis and tell the difference between HSV-1 and HSV


Genital herpes can’t be completely cured. But there are plenty of treatments for the symptoms of an outbreak and to help keep outbreaks from happening — or at least to reduce how many a person has throughout their life.

Antiviral medications are the most common form of treatment for genital herpes infections.

Antiviral treatments can stop the virus from multiplying inside the body, lowering the chances that the infection will spread and cause an outbreak. They can also help prevent transmitting the virus to sexual partners.

Some common antiviral treatments for genital herpes include:

A doctor may only recommend antiviral treatments if a person starts to see symptoms of an outbreak. But they may need to take daily antiviral medication if they have outbreaks often, especially if they’re severe.

A doctor may recommend pain medications like ibuprofen (Advil) to help reduce any pain or discomfort before and during an outbreak.

An ice pack wrapped in a clean towel and placed on the genitals can help to reduce inflammation during an outbreak.


Below are some methods to make sure herpes isn’t transmitted or contracted from another person:

  • Have partners wear a condom or other protective barrier when having sex. This can help protect the genital area from fluid carrying the herpes virus in a partner’s genitals. Keep in mind that a person with a penis doesn’t need to ejaculate to pass the virus to their partners — touching tissue infected with the virus with the mouth, genitals, or anus can cause exposure to the virus.
  • Get tested regularly to make sure there’s no HSV infection, especially if you’re sexually active. Make sure partners are tested before having sex.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners to reduce the chances of exposure to the virus unknowingly from a new partner or a partner that may be having sex with other partners.
  • Don’t use douches or scented products for your vagina. Douching can disrupt the balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina and increase the susceptibility to both viral and bacterial infections.

How to cope

You are not alone. Tens of millions of other people are going through the exact same thing.

Try talking to someone you’re close to about your experiences with genital herpes.

Having a friendly ear, especially someone who may also be going through the same thing, can make the pain and discomfort that much easier. They may even be able to provide some tips on how to best manage symptoms.

If you’re not comfortable talking with a friend, try finding a genital herpes support group. This can be a traditional meet-up group in your city, or an online community on places like Facebook or Reddit for people to talk openly, and sometimes anonymously, about their experiences.

The bottom line

Genital herpes is one of the more common STIs. Symptoms are not always immediately noticeable, so it’s important to see a doctor and get tested right away if you think you may have contracted an infection and want to avoid transmitting it.

Even though there’s no cure, antiviral treatments can keep the number of outbreaks and severity of symptoms to a minimum.

Just remember that a person can still transmit genital herpes to someone even when not having an outbreak, so practice safe sex at all times to make sure the virus doesn’t spread.

Sours: https://www.healthline.com/health/sexually-transmitted-diseases/herpes-symptoms-women

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