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Women Herpes Symptoms

Many people infected with genital herpes ( What causes herpes? )have mild symptoms or symptoms that are mistaken for another condition. It is also possible to be infected and have no symptoms, so not everyone who is infected may be aware of the infection. When symptoms are present, they consist of typically painful blisters around the genital or rectal area. The blisters break open, form ulcers, and take 2 to 4 weeks to heal. With the first outbreak of genital herpes, a person may also experience flu-like symptoms including fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Immediately prior to an outbreak, there may be an itching, burning, or tingling sensation of the skin.

In women, genital herpes usually causes blistering lesions on the vulva and around the vaginal opening that progress to ulcer formation. The infection spreads to involve the cervix in most cases, leading to cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix). In some women, cervicitis may be the only sign of genital herpes infection. Infection and inflammation of the urethra accompanies the infection in some women, leading to pain on urination.

Women with herpes virus may have no outbreaks or signs of infection. Many do not know they have the virus. Once you are infected, the virus stays in your nerve cells for life. When the virus is not active, there is no sign of infection. When the virus becomes active, a herpes outbreak occurs. Some women may not have any outbreaks or may have only one outbreak, while others may have multiple outbreaks.

First Outbreak

The first herpes outbreak often occurs within the 2 weeks after contracting the virus from an infected person. The first signs may include:
  • Itching, tingling, or burning feeling in the vaginal or anal area
  • Flu-like symptoms, including fever
  • Swollen glands
  • Pain in the legs, buttocks, or vaginal area
  • A change in vaginal discharge
  • Headache
  • Painful or difficult urination
  • A feeling of pressure in the area below the stomach

After a few days, painful sores, blisters, or ulcers may develop where the virus entered the body. These areas include:

  • The vaginal or anal area
  • The mouth
  • Inside the vagina
  • On the cervix
  • In the urinary tract
  • On the buttocks or thighs
  • On other parts of your body where the virus has entered

Sometimes the first outbreak will not occur until months or years after infection.

Other Outbreaks

After the first outbreak, you may have more outbreaks. For most, these outbreaks occur less often over time. The signs of herpes infection are usually milder than during the first outbreak, and they go away faster.
For people with a weak immune system, outbreaks can be severe and long-lasting.

See your health care provider to be tested if you have signs of herpes.


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