Genital HerpesSymptoms And Treatment


HSV2 infection occurs in two stages:

The primary stage appears 2-20 days after exposure to the virus. Many primary infections are asymptomatic. In this case there are no visible sores but it IS contagious. It is now estimated that over 80% of all genital herpes is transmitted when there are no lesions and no symptoms. When they are symptomatic, they are usually more severe than recurrent infections. Women's symptoms are more severe, and women have a higher rate of complications than men. Symptoms include fever, headache, malaise, and myalgia (prominent in the first 3-4 days), pain, itching, dysuria, vaginal and urethral discharge, and tender lymphadenopathy. In women, herpetic vesicles appear on the external genitalia, labia majora, labia minora, vaginal vestibule, and introitus (the vaginal opening). In moist areas, the vesicles rupture, leaving exquisitely tender ulcers. In men, herpetic vesicles appear in the glans penis, the prepuce, the shaft of the penis, and sometimes on the scrotum, thighs, and buttocks. In dry areas, the lesions progress to pustules (small blisterlike elevations of epidermis from which spores emerge) and then crust. Persons who engage in anal intercourse may develop herpetic vesicles on perineum or rectum, which can lead to herpetic proctitis. Primary lesions persist from 4-15 days until crusting and reepithelialization occur. New lesions can occur during the course of the illness in 75% of patients, usually forming in 4-10 days.

Recurrent genital herpes occurs after a period of latency, which can last several months. Recurrent outbreaks are milder and and often preceded by a prodrome of pain, itching, tingling, burning, or paresthesia (a sensation of burning, prickling, tingling, or creeping on the skin) that can last from 2 hours to 2 days. In women, the vesicles are found on the labia majora, labia minora, or perineum. The lesions are often very painful. The lesions heal in 8-10 days and viral shedding lasts an average 5 days. The symptoms are more severe in women than men. In men, recurrent genital herpes presents as 1 or more patches of grouped vesicles on the shaft of the penis, prepuce, or glans. Pain is mild, and lesions heal in 7-10 days. The frequency and severity of recurrences decrease with time.


While there are no known cures for herpes, there are several safe medications to reduce outbreaks. Medical treatment of HSV revolves around specific antiviral treatment: Acyclovir (Zovirax), Valacyclovir (Valtrex), Famciclovir (Famvir).


There is no vaccine that prevents this contagious disease, but other methods of prevention before and during an outbreak are important. If tingling, burning, itching, or tenderness occurs in an area of the body where there is a herpes infection, the area should be kept away from other people. Condoms can help prevent transmission of genital herpes between sexual partners and should always be used. However, they will not protect against the virus that may be living on nearby genital skin that is not covered by the condom.

If you experience HSV symptoms it is important to seek medical care.