Herpes is a viral infection that causes sores or blisters. It is often transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids and does not have a cure. There are two types of herpes: herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2. The symptoms of herpes can vary depending on the virus type, as well as by gender.
The herpes simplex 1 virus tends to be the more widespread of the two virus types and is typically responsible for facial herpes infections. Cold sores, also referred to as fever blisters, are usually the most common symptom of a facial herpes infection. The sores are swollen, red blisters that generally appear on the lips or the outer skin of the mouth. The blisters tend to burst and leak clear fluid before drying up and healing usually within two to three weeks. Other symptoms of facial herpes include sore throat, fever, swollen glands, or pain around the mouth.
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that is most often caused by the herpes simplex 2 virus. In rarer cases, genital herpes can be caused by herpes simplex 1. Herpes symptoms can manifest as red blisters or sores on or around the genitals, which dry up and heal in the same manner as oral cold sores. Genital herpes can affect any areas of the genitalia, including the vagina, labia, penis, or scrotum; however, it can also affect surrounding areas, especially the anus, buttocks, and upper thighs.
Some people do not show any major symptoms of herpes. They may have slight patches of red skin around the genitals or very small sores that resemble ingrown hairs or pimples. People with herpes around the buttocks or anus may notice bumps or pain that they may mistake for hemorrhoids. Herpes sores inside the urethra can result in difficulty or pain while urinating. Women with genital herpes may notice increased vaginal itching.
Since herpes is a virus, there is no cure; therefore, the symptoms of herpes may heal and then reappear over time. The reappearance of herpes, referred to as outbreaks, tend to have milder symptoms because the sufferer’s immune system becomes used to the virus. Sores and blisters tend to be the most noticeable symptoms of herpes of both the facial and genital varieties. Other symptoms that may continually occur are fever, headache, sensitivity to light, swollen glands, or sore throat.
Some cases of herpes outbreaks are extremely mild and show few visible symptoms. Some people with the virus experience physical sensations, referred to as prodrome, that can serve as a forewarning of an outbreak. Prodrome symptoms include tingling in the previously affected areas, leg pain, and back pain.