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If you have genital herpes, you may not know it. Most people are not aware that they have genital herpes because they may not have experienced any symptoms. They may also not recognize the symptoms. When you first become infected, symptoms can begin to appear within 2 weeks. The symptoms can last between two to four weeks and include:

  • Sores that start to form on the part of the body where the virus was contracted
  • Sores that begin as small red bumps, develop into blisters, and then become painful open sores
  • Sores or blisters that appear and occur in clusters or small groupings
  • Itching, burning, and/or pain in the genital or anal area
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, body aches, and swollen glands

Genital Herpes

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The outbreak is coming to an end when the sores form a scab-like outer layer and then fall off.

The virus can become active and inactive over time. This means the symptoms will come and go. The frequency of these reoccurrences vary from person to person. You may experience symptoms a number of times throughout the year or you may only experience an outbreak once or twice in your lifetime. Doctors and researchers do not yet know why these reoccurrences happen.

The first year of the virus is usually the worst. The first outbreak is usually the most severe and painful, with the second outbreak often happening only a few weeks later. Also, you may tend to experience more outbreaks the first year. The good news is that, as time goes on, the frequency of outbreaks usually lessen and become much less severe. Reoccurrences tend to become milder and do not last as long. Sometimes, you may even be able to feel when an outbreak is about to occur.

Keep in mind, some people have genital herpes but do not have symptoms. You can still spread genital herpes even if you have no symptoms. It is a virus that stays in your system.

Many people fail to recognize the symptoms of genital herpes. Women often confuse the discomfort with a yeast infection. Men often confuse the symptoms with jock itch or friction burn.

If you have any symptoms of genital herpes, see your doctor right away.


Genital herpes symptoms. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/genitalHerpes/understanding/Pages/symptoms.aspx. Updated January 26, 2011. Accessed May 23, 2013.

Herpes genitalis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated May 2, 2013. Accessed May 23, 2013.

Workowski KA, Berman S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

Last reviewed June 2013 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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