Early Symptoms of Genital Herpes

Genital herpes can remain in the body without showing itself for years. However, even if it has no symptoms, it is contagious.
Early Symptoms of Genital Herpes

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 27 May, 2022

The first symptoms of genital herpes often go unnoticed. Sometimes they resemble those of a common cold. In many cases there are no symptoms for a long time, even after contracting the disease.

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. It affects members of both sexes, but is more common in women. It’s estimated that one in six young, sexually active women may be infected with genital herpes.

The vast majority of people become infected when they have sexual contact with someone who hasn’t yet shown early symptoms of genital herpes. The herpes virus can live in the body for several years without showing itself.

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a fairly common condition. Once the virus is spread, it remains in the body for life. It’s an infection caused by two types of virus: type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2).

Generally speaking, HSV-1 causes oral herpes and HSV-2 causes genital herpes. However, this isn’t always the case. A person can get HSV-1 or HSV-2 through oral sex, for example.

A woman with genital herpes.

Herpesis spread by skin-to-skincontact. This only occurs if you come into direct contact with the area that has herpes on someone who is infected. This usually happens through kissing or sexual intercourse.

Herpes is incurable. However, with time and good medical care, outbreaks become less frequent and more harmless. For people with weak immune systems, things can be more complicated.

Early symptoms of genital herpes

Genital herpes is an outbreak disease. This means that there’s a point at which the symptoms are exacerbated, but then everything returns to normal. As the virus remains in the body forever, a new outbreak occurs some time later.

The first episode usually occurs two to three weeks after contracting the virus. A large number of people have very mild symptoms, which may go unnoticed.

Sores may form on your genitals, but these are so small that they can be mistaken for a rash or an itch.

Very often the first symptoms of genital herpes appear within the first 10 days after infection. These initial signs last for an additional 10 days. They mainly include a burning sensation in the genital area.

Diffuse pain in the genitals, legs or buttocks may also occur. Many also experience a feeling of pressure in the abdomen.

Typical symptoms of genital herpes

The first episode is usually the most severe. However, four to five relapses can be expected throughout the first year.

After the first symptoms of genital herpes appear, painful blisters usually appear that cause itching and pain. These form on the vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, buttocks, anus, or inner thighs.

Such blisters burst and form sores. Some people also have other less obvious symptoms. These are similar to those that occur when someone has the flu. They include fever, malaise, muscle pain, and swollen glands.

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A virus that remains active


After the first year, following the first episode, outbreaks become more sporadic. Genital herpes symptoms generally become milder and easier to cope with.

What we know is that after each outbreak, the virus becomes inactive. It travels and lodges at the end of the spinal cord. There it remains in the nerve cells, without generating any symptoms or causing any discomfort.

Periodically it becomes active and returns to the place where the infection first started. People will know they have a new outbreak when they experience the first symptoms of genital herpes again, basically pain or itching in the genital areas.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.