Understanding Genital Herpes Symptoms: A Comprehensive Guide

Dinesh Patel
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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genital herpes symptoms

Genital Herpes, is a highly contagious condition that can affect both men and women. 

It is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2). 

According to WHO, around 491 people worldwide have HSV-2, which causes Genital Herpes. 

One of the challenges with Genital Herpes is that individuals infected with the virus may not always exhibit noticeable symptoms, leading to the potential for unintentional transmission. 

This article aims to shed light on Genital Herpes symptoms and available treatment options.

Understanding Genital Herpes symptoms

A person infected with Genital Herpes usually does not have any or mild symptoms. 

The mild symptoms may go unnoticed or be mistaken for other skin conditions like pimples. 

This increases the chance of transmission as people are unaware they have Herpes. 

First outbreak and signs

Headache - side effectSource: Kwangmoozaa_from_Getty_Images_Pro
Image of a person suffering from headache

During the initial outbreak, flu-like symptoms might accompany the typical symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • Fatigue

Onset and range of symptoms

Symptoms typically appear between 2 to 12 days after exposure to the virus. 

These can include:

  • Pain or itching around the genitals
  • Small bumps or blisters around the genital area, anus, or mouth
  • Painful ulcers that form when blisters rupture, causing oozing or bleeding
  • Scabs that develop as the ulcers heal
  • Painful urination
  • Discharge from the urethra or vagina
Genital Herpes is common in people with HIV. The outbreak of Genital Herpes can become severe in people with HIV, requiring medication for the sores. 

Location of sores

Genital Herpes sores can manifest in various locations where the infection enters the body. 

These include the buttocks, inner thighs, rectum, anus, vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, or scrotum.

If you come into contact with Herpes sores, washing your hands is crucial. Doing so helps prevent the virus from spreading to other body parts.

Recurrent outbreaks

Repeat outbreaks of Genital Herpes are common after the initial infection. 

Once infected, the virus remains in the body for life. 

After the first outbreak, which is often the most severe, the virus can become dormant, residing in nerve cells near the initial infection site.

The frequency and severity of recurrent outbreaks vary from person to person. 

Generally, individuals tend to experience more outbreaks in the first year after contracting the virus. 

However, the number of outbreaks usually decreases over time, and their intensity tends to diminish.

Recommended Article
To know the treatment methods available for Genital Herpes, read Genital Herpes Treatment: A Comprehensive Guide.

Vulnerable individuals

Anyone can have repeat outbreaks of Genital Herpes, but individuals who are more prone include:

  • Men
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems
  • Those who experienced a prolonged first outbreak

Some individuals experience warning signs, termed prodromal symptoms, a few hours or days before a new outbreak. 

These can include:

  • Genital pain
  • Tingling
  • Shooting pain in the legs or hips

Identifying triggers

couple hugging on bedSource: Getty_images
Sexual activity

Understanding potential triggers for genital herpes outbreaks is crucial for managing the condition. 

Common triggers include stress, fatigue, illness, sexual activity, surgery, and, for some women, menstruation. 


Given that individuals infected with Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2) may not always display noticeable symptoms, a higher transmission rate is a significant concern. 

The initial outbreak may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms followed by pain or itching, small bumps or blisters around the genital area, painful urination, and many more. 

The location of sores is diverse, and the potential for recurrent outbreaks is a common feature of Genital Herpes. 

While the virus remains in the body for life, the frequency and severity of outbreaks tend to decrease over time. 

Antiviral medications, over-the-counter pain relievers, topical anesthetics, and simple self-care measures like warm baths and loose-fitting clothing contribute to symptom relief.

By raising awareness about the symptoms, people can make informed decisions regarding their health and prevent the spread of this prevalent STI.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the first symptom of Herpes?

The initial symptom of Herpes can vary, but often, it presents as a cluster of small, painful blisters or sores on or around the genitals, mouth, or rectum. These blisters can break open and turn into painful ulcers before eventually healing.

What does Herpes look like?

Herpes typically appears as small, red bumps that develop into blisters filled with clear or yellowish fluid. These blisters can be itchy or painful and are accompanied by other symptoms like fever, swollen lymph nodes, or discomfort during urination.

Does Herpes go away?

Herpes is a viral infection, and currently, there’s no cure. However, antiviral medications can manage the symptoms to reduce outbreaks’ frequency and severity. The virus can become dormant in the body, and while the symptoms might go away, the virus remains and can reactivate.

Can you get Herpes from kissing?

Herpes can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, including kissing, oral, vaginal, or anal sex. The virus is most contagious when sores are present. Still, it can also spread even with no visible symptoms through viral shedding.

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