Despite the fact that millions of Americans are living with genital herpes, the disease can be surprisingly difficult to detect in some cases. However, many people with genital herpes have at least some detectable signs.
The most obvious sign of genital herpes is the appearance of red bumps in and/or around the genital area, often starting around two weeks after the initial exposure to herpes. The bumps may spread to the anus and/or surrounding skin, and in some cases also develop within the vagina and/or urinary tract. These bumps turn into blisters, which in turn become sores. Often these sores become encrusted and very itchy; after a period of time, however, they will clear up. An outbreak can involve a large number of sores, but can just as easily involve just a single one.
Because genital herpes is incurable, these outbreaks will recur over time. Certain medications are available to increase the length of time in-between herpes outbreaks.
Other symptoms of genital herpes may or may not accompany an outbreak. These include a reddening and/or sudden extreme dryness of the genital area; a burning, itching, and/or painful sensation in the genital area; vaginal discharge; difficulty urinating; headache; fever; and/or swollen glands.
The most difficult aspect of genital herpes, and a large contributor to its spread, is that the herpes virus can remain inactive in many individuals and never cause them to show any signs or symptoms of the condition. However, they are still able to spread genital herpes to others. Many times the symptoms of genital herpes are confused with other conditions, such as yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and even ingrown hairs.
While it’s important to know and be able to recognize the symptoms of genital herpes, you should always seek an official diagnosis from a medical professional if you are at all concerned that you may have contracted the disease. Only they will be able to say for certain whether your symptoms are the result of herpes. If you do have genital herpes, they can provide you with medication and important information necessary to handle the condition.
If you are currently experiencing an outbreak of genital herpes, a doctor can diagnose your condition visually. A blood test or a viral culture can also check for the herpes simplex virus, although results can be vague and/or inaccurate in many cases. Two different strains of the herpes simplex virus lead to genital herpes: HSV-1 and HSV-2. The former, HSV-1, can indicate any form of herpes, including mouth sores, and does not necessarily translate into a genital herpes diagnosis. However, HSV-2 is almost always linked to genital herpes, and is a more reliable sign of the disease.