Signs And Symptoms Of Genital Herpes In Men And Women

symptoms of genital herpes in both men and women

Genital herpes strikes 776,000 new people every single year in the United States alone.1 The number of infected individuals is also on the rise because, once in your system, this infection never really leaves. While you could be among those who are asymptomatic, you might just be able to spot some of the visible symptoms if you are vigilant. Here’s a lowdown on genital herpes so you can catch the problem and treat it in time.

What Is Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus. This infection can be contracted via oral, anal, and vaginal sex with a person who is infected. Unfortunately, even if the person does not have any visible signs like sores on various parts of their body, they could be carrying it. Babies may also contract it during childbirth if their mothers are infected. And this is especially dangerous because infants with weak immune systems are ill-equipped to fight the infection.2


When Do Symptoms Show Up?

Symptoms may not always show up immediately. Each person reacts differently to the virus. While some may show no signs of genital herpes for months or even years before their first outbreak, others may experience symptoms as early as 4 to 5 days after being infected.

The important thing to remember is – and it cannot be stressed enough – you could have genital herpes with no symptoms at all. If you feel you may have come in contact with someone who is infected, no matter how slim the chances, have yourself tested just to be sure.3


Spotting Symptoms Of Genital Herpes

The symptoms that follow largely relate to the first episode of herpes. The distress and pain experienced usually ease off on subsequent outbreaks. For some people, the symptoms can be so mild (if they appear at all) that these lesions are mistaken for abrasions, jock itch, yeast infections, or insect bites!4

Sores And Blisters

Herpes becomes most visible when you have what is called an “outbreak.” This is when sores crop up at various locations on your body, including5:

  • The genital area
  • The rectal region
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs

Such outbreaks may be recurrent, particularly in the first year after you contract the virus. Subsequent outbreaks are usually of decreasing intensity and frequency. The virus will, regardless, remain in the body for life.6

Typically, the sores are centered in the part of the body where the virus has actually entered the body. The sores may first be blisters that then burst open, creating shallow and rather painful ulcers. After this, they begin to heal and form scabs.7 The entire episode lasts between two to four weeks from when the lesions or sores first show up.8


Flu-Like Symptoms

Many people with genital herpes also complain of symptoms similar to those you have with a bad bout of flu. A general feeling of being unwell can be expected. You may also have headaches or even a fever. You could also have backaches or pain in your legs and groin area. These symptoms may present with or without swollen or enlarged glands in the groin region.9

Cracks In The Skin

Besides blisters or sores, you could also have cracks in your skin in the genital or anal area. These small cracks may not even tingle or itch, so just keep a keen eye out for them.10


Pain In The Genital Region And While Urinating

It is not uncommon to hear of pain as well as swelling in the genital region. For some people, this pain can be quite bad and hard to ignore. You could also find that passing urine becomes difficult and causes you additional pain.11 As the urine flows over the sores and touches them, it causes a burning sensation for some people.12


Besides the lesions or crack, you may find the skin develops a rash. Some people with genital herpes also complain of a redness to their skin as a result of the infection.13


Additional Symptoms Of Genital Herpes In Women

Besides all of the genital herpes signs that men experience, women should also be mindful of a couple of other possible symptoms. Specifically, some visible signs of infection in the female anatomy are14:

  • Ulcers or blisters on the cervix
  • Change in the vaginal discharge from its normal clear, yellow, or white color
  • Unusual odor of vaginal discharge

Recurrent episodes can occur in women around the time of the period or following sexual activity, besides being triggered by stress or general illness.15


Symptoms In Recurrent Genital Herpes

Sexual activity, stress, or being unwell can trigger a subsequent episode of genital herpes in men and women.16 Some people may still get the blister-style lesions characteristic of genital herpes and others may have sores that are painful. But, in general, if you have already had a full-blown first episode or outbreak, the next one will not be as strong. In fact, you may notice these differences in symptoms17:

  • Symptoms are milder
  • Sores heal in between two and twelve days
  • Asymptomatic reactivation may also occur, where you have no visible lesions but the virus is reactivated