What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Herpes?

symptoms of herpes

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  • The herpes virus cannot be cured, and therefore remains in your body for the rest of your life. The virus becomes dormant until it is triggered and causes another herpes outbreak
  • Consult a physician immediately to have yourself tested, especially if you notice these symptoms of oral or genital herpes

Because herpes is asymptomatic in nature and only exhibits mild symptoms, it can be difficult at first to know if you have it or not.1 Nevertheless, it still pays to be vigilant, especially if you feel like you may have (or are at risk for) this sexually transmitted disease. Consult a physician immediately to have yourself tested, especially if you notice these symptoms of oral or genital herpes.

How to Know If You Have Oral Herpes

Oral herpes, a type of herpes predominantly caused by the HSV-1 virus, is mainly characterized by the appearance of small and painful blisters called cold sores around your gums, lips, mouth, and/or throat. These sores appear one to three weeks after initial contact with the virus.2 According to MedlinePlus, cold sores can appear like:3

  • Red blisters that crack open and leak
  • Small blisters containing clear and yellowish fluid
  • Many small blisters that can clump together and grow into a larger blister
  • Yellow blisters that crust as they heal and turn into pink skin

The blisters might be visible for up to three weeks.4 Prior to seeing these sores, you may experience an itching, burning or tingling sensation near your lips or mouth. You may also have a sore throat, fever, swollen glands, difficulty in swallowing, increased salivation and bad breath.5 Sometimes, patients with oral herpes may have chills, muscle pain and even hearing loss, but these are rare.6

Take note that these symptoms aren’t gender-specific and may be experienced by anyone infected with the virus. Even children as young as 6 months old may be at risk for acquiring the HSV-1 virus and consequently, oral herpes.7

Once you are infected with it, the herpes virus cannot be cured, and therefore remains in your body for the rest of your life. The virus becomes dormant until it is triggered and causes another herpes outbreak that’s milder and less severe. According to Medical News Today, this is because the patient has already developed immunity to the virus.8 Common symptoms of recurrent herpes outbreaks include:9,10,11

  • Blisters or sores on the mouth, lips, tongue, gums or nose
  • Pain around the blisters
  • Tingling or itching in the lips
  • Outbreaks of small blisters that may grow together and/or be red and inflamed

How to Know If You Have Genital Herpes

Another type of herpes virus, the HSV-2 virus, causes genital herpes, wherein the skin or mucous membranes of your genitals are infected.

Patients with genital herpes often feel tingling, burning, itching or pain where the blisters will first appear. Once the blisters become visible, they’re usually small, painful and have a clear or straw-colored fluid. The sores may appear on these body parts:12,13

In Men In Women In both Men and Women
Penis Outer vaginal lips or labia Around the anus
Scrotum Vagina On the thighs or buttocks
Urethra (the passageway in the penis that leads to the bladder) Cervix Tongue

External genitals Mouth


Eyes


Gums


Lips


Fingers


Other parts of the body

Genital herpes patients may also experience other symptoms, some of which could last for up to 20 days:14,15

Vaginal discharge (for women)

Pain when urinating

Fever

Malaise or feeling unwell

Decreased appetite

Muscle aches in the lower back, buttocks, thighs or knees

Just like oral herpes, the virus that causes genital herpes tends to become dormant in a nearby nerve. If this virus gets triggered, it could lead to another milder and less severe herpes outbreak.16 Its symptoms, which don’t last for more than 10 days, include:17

  • Burning or tingling around the genitals before the appearance of the sores
  • Blisters and ulcers on the cervix for women
  • Cold sores around the mouth, buttocks and anus
  • Red blisters that may leave ulcers on the genital area, thighs, buttocks and rectum

MORE ABOUT HERPES

Herpes: Introduction

What Is Herpes?

Herpes Types

Herpes Causes

Herpes Stages

Herpes Symptoms

Herpes Prevention

Herpes Diagnosis

Herpes Treatment

Living With Herpes

Herpes FAQ


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