The symptoms of genital herpes vary greatly from person to person, with many people having no noticeable symptoms (asymptomatic).
The first episode is the most severe as most people have not been exposed to the virus before and antibodies will not have been produced to trigger the immune response.
When the herpes virus gets into skin cells
it reproduces itself and
starts to multiply, making the skin red and sensitive. Blisters or bumps
may appear on the genital area, the blisters first opening, then healing with the regeneration of new skin tissue.
Other symptoms include:
Up to 60% of people who have genital HSV show no signs of the disease and are unaware that they are infected, but are capable of transmitting the virus to others (asymptomatic viral shedding).
Subsequent recurrences of the virus may cause an outbreak of blisters.
After the lesions have healed, and the symptoms of recurrence have ended, pain and discomfort in the genital area is still sometimes felt (post-herpetic neuralgia).
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be used to treat this condition. Some people find these drugs effective for the discomfort of the prodrome, and for the duration of the outbreak.
How common are recurrences?
A recurrence takes place when the virus replicates in the nerve ganglia and particles of virus travel along the nerve to the site of primary infection in the skin or mucous membranes (inner, moist lining of the mouth, vagina etc).
There are very subtle forms of recurring herpes found on the penis, vulva, anus, thigh and buttocks or anywhere in or around the genital area that heal very quickly (within a matter of days).
Signs of Recurrent Outbreaks:
Although it is not known exactly why the virus reactivates at various times, both physical and/or psychological factors can bring on an outbreak.
Physical factors differ from person to person, but may be caused from:
A warning sign (prodrome) is experienced by many people in recurring outbreaks. Warning symptoms which indicate the virus is becoming active, and is on its way to the skin's surface may include:
The symptoms of an active herpes outbreak or recurrence may occur in the following phases.
Symptomatic Course of the Disease:
Swelling, tenderness, and/or redness that may appear before the actual outbreak, and may include itching, and sensitivity. The inflammation may never progress to blisters.
One or several small fluid filled lesions, tiny red bumps, or rash may form and can resemble small fissures, especially near the anus.
When the skin breaks on the blisters, small, round, wet looking, ulcers leaking clear to milky colored fluid can be seen
The sores begin to dry, scab, and crust over beginning the healing process. The virus may possibly still be present until the ulcer has completely healed, and the scab falls off.
NOTE: the sores do not always crust before healing.
New skin is formed and may look slightly red, or silver. Viral replication is complete, the virus has left the skin's surface, and the skin is now safe to touch. Healing of the skin does not normally leave scarring. The virus then retreats into the nerves and lies dormant.
A check up for herpes is important because:
Herpes outbreaks can be mistaken for:
There are many conditions and STDs that are often confused with herpes. Click here for information.
Should any of these symptoms occur, consult
your doctor or other healthcare provider
immediately. Genital herpes should be
diagnosed and treated professionally.
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