Herpes is a group of viruses, and while it is most commonly associated with the herpes simplex virus (HSV 1 and HSV 2), it is also the herpes zoster virus – the same one that causes chickenpox and shingles.

Is herpes curable?

No, but the virus and herpes symptoms are manageable. You’ll have the herpes virus for the rest of your life, and your sexual partners are at-risk, too. Knowing the herpes symptoms to look for is the first step in getting help.

Herpes Symptoms

herpes symptoms guide

A good and bad thing is that a lot of people that have herpes never have symptoms. Symptoms are often mistaken, too. Some symptoms are very mild, and it’s not uncommon for a person to assume their symptoms are just skin conditions.

Symptoms vary depending on the stage and type of herpes that a person has.

The two types of herpes are:

  1. Genital
  2. Oral

You’ll find the type of herpes listed, too:

  1. HSV-1: Normally causes oral herpes, but can cause genital herpes in some rare cases.
  2. HSV-2: The traditional virus associated with genital herpes.

When a person is in the initial stages of herpes, they may experience symptoms that are akin to the flu, including:

  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Sores

Initial outbreak symptoms are more severe than subsequent outbreaks. Outbreaks will decrease over time.

Stages of Herpes

Herpes has different phases:

  • Primary. The primary stage occurs 2 – 8 days after the infection is contracted. Small, painful blisters will occur. Clear or cloudy fluid will fill the blisters, and reddening will be seen under the blister. Blisters will break and become sores, and you may have issues urinating. Most people suffer from a painful bout of symptoms during their first outbreak, but others may never know that they have an infection.
  • Latent. The latent stage doesn’t have any outward symptoms. Instead, the stage involves the herpes virus going into the nerves near your spine.
  • Shedding. The shedding stage involves the multiplying of the virus. Depending on the virus’ location, this can allow the virus to go into bodily fluids, including: semen, vaginal fluid and saliva.

Recurrences will happen throughout your life. The symptoms during a recurrence aren’t as severe as they are during the first outbreak.

Is Genital Herpes Painful?

In most cases, yes. Just like the flu, a person may have fewer symptoms than another person. Some people won’t have severe symptoms and might not even realize that they have herpes.

What are Some Signs of Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes in men and women is slightly different. We’ll be discussing the most common symptoms that men and women will both exhibit. The symptoms may be worse for sufferers that have an autoimmune disorder, so these symptoms are just a general guideline of what a person may experience.

Most Common Symptoms of Genital Herpes

  • Pain around the genital area
  • Itching
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Aches
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen glands
  • Discharge
  • Sores or blisters in the anus

Flu-like symptoms is the best way to describe herpes symptoms when a person has genital herpes. You’ll also notice groups of painful blisters. It’s important not to scratch or pick at these blisters in an attempt to avoid infection.

Genital herpes can occur in a wide radius on the body, including:

  • Penis
  • Buttocks
  • Vagina
  • Anus
  • Thighs
  • Cervix
  • Vulva

Symptoms will occur within 2 to 20 days of getting infected in most cases. A person that has a compromised immune system may suffer from more intense symptoms. A person that has HIV or leukemia will often have a much more painful outbreak and bout of symptoms.

What are Some Signs of Oral Herpes?

Oral herpes is often less painful than genital herpes, and you won’t feel sick or like you have the flu. A major problem with oral herpes is that you have no real way to conceal the herpes at this point, so the cold sores will be easy to see.

Most Common Symptoms of Oral Herpes

  • Sores on the lips
  • Sores around the mouth
  • Sores inside the mouth

Cold sores aren’t anything serious, and you don’t have to worry about lasting side effects either. Cold sores or fever blisters will normally only occur inside of the mouth during the first few outbreaks. After you have a few outbreaks, the sores inside of the mouth are much less common.

Cold sores can last for weeks, and they will go away on their own.

Recurrences can occur, and these recurrences can be weeks, months or years. Newborn babies are at risk of cold sores being dangerous, but kids and adults have nothing to worry about when they have cold sores. While slightly painful and unsightly, cold cores will not pose any risk. Most people will never go to the doctor because cold sores are very mild.

In rare cases, oral herpes can also lead to sores on the fingers or nose. A person may also have the infection reach their eyeball or eyelid.

Canker sores are different from cold sores. Similar in name only, both will have an impact on the mouth. The canker sore is larger in size and will occur on the gums and roof of the mouth. You can also get these sores inside of the mouth.

Canker sores will resolve on their own and do not have a correlation to herpes at all.

What Does Herpes Look Like?

Visual identification of herpes should be followed up with an STD test to verify that you do have herpes. Only an STD test will allow you to, with 100% certainty, know that you have herpes and not some other medical condition.

Herpes can cause an outbreak of little sores that may look like:

  • Clusters of small pimples
  • Small clusters of blisters

When the sores or blisters progress, they will crust over and eventually scab up just like a normal cut.

The challenge of herpes is that a lot of people never know that they have the disease. Studies show that just 20% of people that have herpes know that they have herpes. The remaining often confuse the symptoms they have with bug bites, rashes or canker sores. And with some people never experiencing any symptoms, it can be a silent STD.

Herpes is a virus, and while there is no cure available, you can learn to manage your symptoms and limit your partner’s risk of getting herpes. The first step in managing your condition is to get tested. Testing for herpes requires blood to be drawn. The test will be type-specific. Medical treatment is often not required for a person that tests positive for HSV-1, or oral herpes.