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Symptoms of genital herpes

Genital herpes can present with varied symptoms, some obvious and others more discreet, emphasizing the need for awareness and knowledge.

  • 24 Nov 2023
  • 3 min read

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that causes herpetic sores. These sores are the main symptoms of genital herpes, painful blisters filled with fluid. They can break open and ooze fluid, thus spreading by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by two types of viruses. The Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1) usually spreads through saliva, forming cold sores in or around the mouth and face. In rare cases, HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes. The Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 (HSV-2) usually spreads through sexual contact to cause genital herpes. In some cases, it can also cause cold sores. There is no cure for genital herpes, though there are some medicines to ease the symptoms and lower the risk of infection.


What are the symptoms of genital herpes?

The symptoms of genital herpes vary depending on whether the infected individual is experiencing their first herpes outbreak or if it is a repeat. Recurring symptoms are usually milder than the first outbreak. Some people may experience only one or two outbreaks during their lifetime, while others may have to contend with four or five outbreaks in a year. Common genital herpes symptoms in men and women include:

  • The appearance of small blisters that burst and leave red, open sores around the genitals and anus.
  • Tingling, burning, or itching sensation around the genitals
  • Pain while passing urine
  • Unusual discharge 
  • Newly infected individuals can experience fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Herpes-related sores are typically painful, and a person may further experience: 
    • Fever
    • Body aches
    • Sore throat in case of oral herpes
    • Headache
    • Swollen lymph nodes 
    • Discharge from vagina
    • Discharge from urethra

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Genital herpes is a lifelong condition once a person is infected with the virus. It can lead to outbreaks wherein the symptoms are apparent, but there can be long periods without any symptoms. While this disease has no cure, understanding the common genital herpes symptoms in women and men alike can help detect it on time and manage the number of outbreaks. An infected person should take antiviral medications regularly to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks. They can also use contraceptives during sexual activity. It is always advisable to look for safer sex options as a precaution is essential since the infection may not show any signs or symptoms. Research is ongoing to develop new strategies to prevent and control HSV infections. These include herpes vaccines and other topical microbicides that can help stem infections.

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