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Genital Herpes (cont.)

Genital Herpes Symptoms

Signs of genital herpes tend to develop within three to seven days of skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Genital herpes infections look like small blisters or ulcers (round areas of broken skin) on the genitals. Each blister or ulcer is typically only 1 to 3 millimeters (1/32 inch to 1/8th inch) in size, and the blisters or ulcers tend to be grouped into "crops." Usually the blisters form first, then soon open to form ulcers. Herpes infections may be painless or slightly tender. In some people, however, the blisters or ulcers can be very tender and painful.

Location of genital herpes

  • In men, genital herpes sores (lesions) usually appear on or around the penis.
  • In women, the lesions may be visible outside the vagina, but they commonly occur inside the vagina where they can cause discomfort or vaginal discharge and may not be seen except during a doctor's examination.
  • The ulcers or blisters may also be found anywhere around the genitals (the perineum) and in and around the anus.

First outbreak of genital herpes

The first genital herpes outbreak is usually the most painful, and the initial episode may last longer than later outbreaks. Symptoms may last for two to four weeks.

Some people develop other signs of genital herpes infection, particularly with the first episode including:

  • fever,
  • muscle aches,
  • headaches (may be severe),
  • vaginal discharge or painful urination, and
  • swollen and tender lymph nodes in the groin (these swell as the body tries to fight the infection).

Later outbreaks of genital herpes

  • If the disease returns, later outbreaks generally have much less severe symptoms. Many people with recurrent disease develop pain or a tingling sensation in the area of the infection even before any blisters or ulcers can be seen. This is due to irritation and inflammation of the nerves leading to the infected area of skin.
  • These are signs that an outbreak is about to begin. The condition is particularly contagious during this period, even though the skin still appears normal.

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