Many people with genital herpes never have sores. Or they have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for insect bites or another skin condition.
If signs and symptoms do occur during the first outbreak, they can be severe. This first outbreak most often happens within 2 days to 2 weeks of being infected.
General symptoms may include:
- Decreased appetite
- General sick feeling (malaise)
- Muscle aches in the lower back, buttocks, thighs, or knees
- Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the groin
Genital symptoms include small, painful blisters filled with clear or straw-colored fluid. Areas where the sores may found include:
- Outer vaginal lips (labia), vagina, cervix, around the anus, and on the thighs or buttocks (in women)
- Penis, scrotum, around the anus, on the thighs or buttocks (in men)
- Tongue, mouth, eyes, gums, lips, fingers, and other parts of the body (in both genders)
Before the blisters appear, there may be tingling, burning, itching, or pain at the site where the blisters will appear. When the blisters break, they leave shallow ulcers that are very painful. These ulcers crust over and heal in 7 to 14 days or more.
Other symptoms may include:
- Painful urination
- Vaginal discharge (in women) or inability to empty the bladder that requires a urinary catheter
A second outbreak can appear weeks or months later. It is usually less severe and it goes away sooner than the first outbreak. Over time, the number of outbreaks may decrease.