The majority of people who've been infected with HSV never know they have the disease, because they have no signs or symptoms. The signs and symptoms of HSV can be so mild that they go unnoticed.

When present, the initial symptom of genital herpes usually is pain or itching, beginning within a few weeks after exposure to an infected sexual partner. After several days, small red bumps or tiny white blisters may appear. They then rupture, becoming ulcers that ooze or bleed. Eventually, scabs form and the ulcers heal.

In women, sores can erupt in the vaginal area, external genitals, buttocks, anus or cervix. In men, sores can appear on the penis, scrotum, buttocks, anus or thighs or inside the urethra, the channel inside the penis leading to the bladder.

While you have ulcers, it may be painful to urinate. You may also experience pain and tenderness in your genital area until the infection clears. During an initial outbreak, you may have flu-like signs and symptoms, such as headache, muscle aches and fever, as well as swollen lymph nodes in your groin.

Recurrences are common

Genital herpes is different for each person. The signs and symptoms may recur, off and on, for years. Some people experience numerous episodes each year. For many people, however, the outbreaks are less frequent as time passes.

Various factors may trigger outbreaks, including:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Illness
  • Surgery
  • Menstruation

When to see a doctor

If you suspect you have genital herpes — or any other sexually transmitted infection — see your doctor.

May. 21, 2011