Herpes Home > Genital Herpes Symptoms

Not everyone develops symptoms when they are infected with genital herpes. Symptoms do not have to be present, however, for the virus to be spread to other people. Early symptoms may include problems such as an itching or burning feeling in the genital or anal area; pain in the legs, buttocks, or genital area; or pain or itching during urination.

An Introduction to the Signs and Symptoms of Genital Herpes

When a person is infected with genital herpes, symptoms do not begin right away. During this incubation period, a person will feel perfectly fine. However, about two weeks after being infected, signs and symptoms may begin. When symptoms do occur, it is known as a herpes outbreak.
Not everyone infected with herpes will have an initial outbreak. In fact, it is common for people to have no symptoms with the initial infection -- but they can still spread herpes!

Early Symptoms

A person who does have early signs and symptoms of genital herpes may have a variety of symptoms. Some of these early symptoms can include:
  • An itching or burning feeling in the genital or anal area
  • Flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, a general ill feeling (malaise), and muscle aches
  • Swollen glands
  • Pain in the legs, buttocks, or genital area
  • Vaginal, anal, or urethral discharge
  • A feeling of pressure in the area below the stomach
  • Pain or itching during urination
  • Constipation or difficulty urinating.
For some people, these symptoms can be mild. For others, initial symptoms can be quite severe.

The Herpes Sore

Within a few days of early symptoms, sores (also called lesions) show up where the virus has entered the body, such as on the mouth, penis, anus, or vagina. Sores can also show up on a woman's cervix or in the urinary passage in men and women. The sores are small red bumps that may turn into blisters or painful open sores. Over a period of days, the sores become crusted and then heal without scarring. Sometimes, there is a crack or raw area or some redness without pain, itching, or tingling. The total time from the beginning of symptoms to sores appearing is usually around two to four weeks.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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