Learn to Recognize Herpes Symptoms
The first step toward a conclusive herpes diagnosis is your ability to identify if you are experiencing herpes symptoms. Herpes symptoms can occur within days of infection with HSV and can last for several weeks. When your herpes symptoms diminish completely (i.e.: full healing of the skin), you are past the infection’s active phase, and the virus will lie dormant until the next outbreak. Read below to discover various herpes symptoms and also learn about asymptomatic viral shedding.
Typical Herpes Symptoms
Not everyone infected with HSV experiences immediate, recognizable herpes symptoms. In fact, many people only become aware that they have herpes several years after having been infected. Others experience an outbreak of herpes symptoms immediately (within a timeframe of two to twenty days after skin-to-skin exposure to the virus). Such herpes symptoms, which can recur on average five times annually, but eventually decrease in frequency,commonly include:
- Red, irritated skin—Skin becomes sensitive, itchy or tingly, and may burn or be painful.
- Blisters or Lesions—These raised, virus-filled bumps eventually burst, drain, and heal without scarring. ( Cold Sore Treatments At Home )
- Flu-like symptoms—It is not unusual to experience a headache, fever, and swollen glands.
- Burning sensation while urinating—When HSV infects the urethra, you may experience burning during urination.
- Prodrome—Often patients with herpes can sense a potential outbreak is about to occur by sensory feelings known as prodrome. Prodrome includes pain, burning, itching, tingling, or pressure in a previous or future outbreak site. Even in the absence of an outbreak these are signs that the virus is active on the skin surface and highly contagious.
The initial or primary outbreak episode in someone newly infected with genital herpes is typically the most severe of herpes symptoms and duration. Subsequent outbreaks tend to decrease in severity and duration over time. Frequency and severity can vary among individuals.
Acute Herpes Symptoms
It is not highly unusual for an initial viral outbreak to bring with it certain extreme herpes symptoms that may require medical attention, and even hospitalization:
- High fever
- Severe rash outbreak
- Inability to urinate
Subtle Herpes Symptoms
At times herpes symptoms are so slight they could go undetected or appear to be symptoms of another, milder illness:
- Slightly inflamed skin with an absence of lesions
- Appearance of tiny, non-blistering bumps (erythematous papules)
- No skin reaction at all, but sensory warning symptoms (prodrome):
- Tingling sensation in genitals and/or legs
- Urinary urgency/frequency
- Vaginal discharge resembling a yeast infection
Asymptomatic Viral Shedding
A frequent occurrence for people infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2 genital herpes is to shed viral particles through the skin while exhibiting few or possibly no herpes symptoms at all ( folliculitis or herpes ). This phenomenon, known as “asymptomatic viral shedding,” means the virus can sometimes be transmitted during what appears to be a dormant phase. It also means it is possible to contract herpes without being aware of it, and to similarly spread the virus unknowingly.
Despite the unpredictability that comes with viral shedding when no herpes symptoms are present, it is still possible to protect yourself or your partner from contracting the virus by taking certain precautions:
- Avoid all skin-to-skin contact with the infected area not just during, but also a few days prior to, and a few days following, any noticeable herpes symptoms.
- Investigate antiviral medications and natural treatments along with healthy living that help in reducing viral shedding.
- For added insurance against shedding, always use latex condoms during sexual activity, even when noticeable herpes symptoms have passed.
Studies have shown that couples exercising cautious behavior for herpes prevention have over a 90 percent success rate in not spreading the virus while maintaining a long-term, monogamous relationship. Educating yourself about herpes symptoms and its causes can help you protect yourself and the ones you love from infection.