Genital herpes is a recurring virus, which has no cure. Once it manifests itself in the host’s body, it keeps recurring again and again. There are signs and symptoms that patients can be aware of, so that they can seek medical attention immediately.
Initial Appearance of Herpes
Most common way to spot the herpes virus is to note if you are having any painful or itchy inflammation along with sores and blisters. Herpes commonly appears as a painful ulcer in the genital region, which starts as a rash and goes all the way to forming a blister. The affected area becomes itchy, red and swollen. If you notice any such symptoms, contact a health professional immediately.
Are Symptoms The Same for Everyone?
Absolutely not – Many patients might have genital herpes and not even know it. Herpes virus does not show itself in many patients. Yet, when these individuals engage in sexual activity with their partners, they may pass on the virus and their partners might get more aggressive symptoms of the virus. The virus is most commonly transmitted when it is in active form; in other words, if your partner has a blister, there is a greater chance of passing on the virus if you are not taking precautionary measures during sexual intercourse.
Genital herpes is similar in both men and women; the only difference is that in women, it can cause complications during pregnancy as the mother might pass the virus on to her child. Herpes virus can also affect mouth and anal regions in individuals who engage in oral or anal sexual activity.
Lifecycle of the Infection
Genital herpes shows itself after one or two weeks of exposure in the individual. During the silent period of one to two weeks, the virus makes multiple copies of itself inside the cells, until it becomes an outbreak, and the body’s immune system fails to counterattack it in time. Many people do not notice the first outbreak. First outbreak is often mild and mistaken for ingrown hair or a pimple. The outbreak begins with an itching sensation, then develops into a blister and then bursts into a sore ulcer. The ulcer then turns into a scab and then heals on its own without scarring the area.
During the outbreak, some individuals experience a burning sensation when peeing, and suffer from headaches and fever. The initial outbreak can take a long time to heal, often weeks. After the first outbreak, the virus becomes dormant and does not appear again until a new trigger arises. The first outbreak tends to be the most severe. Patients later learn how to spot the outbreak and can prevent it from becoming worse by getting it treated on time.
Signs and Symptoms of Primary Outbreak
Primary outbreak brings its own signs and symptoms which may include all or some of the following:
- Flu-like feeling
- Muscle pain
- Pain during urinating
- Itching, burning or tingling in the affected area
Areas experiencing the feeling of itching, burning or tingling is generally the area where the first outbreak occurs.
In women, above symptoms might occur in addition with the following:
- Painful urination
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Blisters inside the vagina
- Inflammation in the cervix
Location of Herpes Virus Outbreak
The primary outbreak of herpes virus is in the form of either one blister, or a group of blisters. These blisters can be painful at times. Often, these blisters are filled with a cloudy pus-like liquid. The location of these blisters vary. In men, these blisters can appear on or inside the groin, thighs, scrotum, penis, anus or buttocks. In women, these blisters occur on or inside the groin, thighs, vagina, labia, anus or buttocks.
In individuals who engage in oral sex, blisters on lips, tongues, corners of the mouth and other parts of the body are also possible. While this is mostly a rare, the risk is much higher during the active period of the virus.
Signs and Symptoms of Recurrent Herpes
The recurrent outbreak of genital herpes will always be less severe and shorter than the first outbreak. The symptoms appear and clear themselves in less than two weeks, depending on the course of treatment. If the treatment is started in the first 24 hours, the virus can subside in the first five days.
In the recurrent outbreak, there is rarely a report of nausea or flu-like sickness. The most common way to diagnose an upcoming herpes attack is the tingling sensation that occurs a few hours before the outbreak. The treatment started at that moment can nip in the bud and alleviate the outbreak.
Frequency of Herpes Recurrence
Recurrence of herpes outbreaks depends mostly on the immune system. While it is not clear why some individuals only have one outbreak while some have recurrent outbreaks, a healthy immune system is the key to controlling recurrences.
In order to keep your immune system healthy and reduce recurrent outbreaks, it is necessary that you should maintain a healthy diet, remain stress-free and avoid consuming large quantities of alcohol. Also try to find your trigger, and then abstain from it. For some women, feminine products can increase virus recurrence, while for some men, sun exposure makes their virus outbreak aggressive.
The symptoms, outbreaks and individual virus cases also depend on the kind of virus you are infected with. People who are affected by herpes type 1 virus, for example, have fewer recurrences and less severe symptoms than people with herpes type 2.