Symptoms and Signs of Genital Herpes in Women

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 8/12/2021

Doctor's Notes on Genital Herpes in Women

Genital herpes is a type of sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can cause painful genital sores and recurrent outbreaks. STDs are infections that are transmitted from person-to-person during sexual activity. 

The incubation period for the herpes virus is 3-7 days before a lesion develops. During this time, there are no symptoms and the virus cannot be transmitted to others. Within 2 weeks, symptoms of genital herpes in women are similar to those in men and include: 

  • itching or tingling sensation followed by 
  • redness of the skin, followed by
  • blister formation and subsequent ulcers that form when the blisters break that are painful to touch and can last from 1-2 weeks. 

Specific symptoms of genital herpes in women include tiny, fluid-filled blisters (vesicles) on the vulva and vaginal opening. The blisters rupture and result in painful ulcers. In most women, females, inflammation of the cervix occurs (cervicitis) and may be the only sign of genital herpes in some women. Other symptoms of genital herpes in women may include painful urination and infection and inflammation of the urethra (urethritis).

What Is the Treatment for Genital Herpes in Women?

Antiviral medications are the main treatment for genital herpes in women, although these medications do not cure the condition.  While herpes infection persists throughout life, antiviral medications can prevent or shorten outbreaks and reduce the likelihood of transmitting herpes to a sexual partner. Three different antiviral medications are approved for the treatment of herpes. 

Generally, treatment is indicated during a person’s first infection with the virus. Treatment can also be given during recurrent outbreaks, or, in some cases, as long-term suppressive therapy to prevent outbreaks.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.