Signs and Symptoms of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2)

Signs and Symptoms of Herpes

Feeling a tingle? Perhaps an itch? Maybe you’re one that doesn’t experience any signs or symptoms at all. Or you’re one that has the worst outbreaks when they do come on. Although both types of herpes viruses are incurable, they are both manageable. Steps to minimize the severity of the symptoms and prevent outbreaks altogether can be taken as soon as you suspect an outbreak coming on. Knowing when to apply treatment remedies appropriately can all depend on knowing the early herpes symptoms and signs.

  • Signs – What you can physically see developing or changing on your skin.
  • Symptoms – What you can physically feel developing or changing on your skin or in your body.

HSV:1: Oral Herpes

This type of herpes is a very common condition that tends to be more bothersome and irritating to its victims. It can be very vexatious to its victims since its appearance notifies everyone that sees you that you’re suffering with an outbreak. HSV-1 is not a discriminator of persons, and the severity of the outbreaks can vary each time.

Although it’s typical for signs and symptoms to be experienced around or inside the mouth, it can actually occur anywhere on the skin including anywhere on the face and even the neck. Inside the mouth you can experience lesions on the roof of the mouth, inside of the cheeks, on your tongue, and gums. A tingly or itchy sensation can immediately send someone into panic mode that an outbreak is going to happen any day now. So what are the symptoms of herpes?

Early Symptoms of Oral Herpes

  • Incubation Period: Time it takes to come in contact with the virus or for the virus to become active to the time that signs and symptoms appear.

The incubation period can serve as a good estimation to measure when you think an outbreak may occur. This time period can be anywhere between two to 12 days, although it’s typically around three to six days before symptoms start to appear. During the incubation period you may experience early symptoms of oral herpes that may give you a heads up to start stocking up and applying your treatment remedies to beat or lessen the severity of an outbreak. These early symptoms can manifest themselves as:

  • TinglingHerpes
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Appearance of red bumps

You may be one that doesn’t experience any early symptoms before an outbreak occurs. But if you do, these sensations are often the ‘give-aways’ that an outbreak is on its way. You can feel these sensations in the area that is affected by herpes and devise your treatment plan now to help minimize painful and distressing symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of HSV-1 Outbreak

There are many who don’t experience any early symptoms of oral herpes, nor do they experience any symptoms or distress during an outbreak. This is called an asymptomatic infection. Although that may sound ideal, the HSV-1 virus is still extremely contagious and asymptomatic infections occur twice as frequently as the disease where signs and symptoms manifest themselves and are experienced. Outbreaks can last between two to three weeks. When an outbreak is experienced, it can be quite distressing because you can experience all the expressions that are typical to HSV-1. These herpes outbreak symptoms and signs are:

  • Sores/Blisters: Symptoms of herpes on lips and anywhere around the mouth and face may start off looking like raised red pimples that tend to develop in clusters. They burn, itch, and tingle during development until they eventually fill with a slightly yellow fluid.
  • Lesions: This occurs when the clusters of blisters break open and the fluid inside them ooze out. The area can be extremely tender and painful. It’s important to allow the lesions to empty out and stay dry. They will eventually dry up and crust.
  • Flu-like symptoms: Although these symptoms occur less often, they can still be experienced during an outbreak. You might suffer with a fever and muscle aches. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck that are tender and painful to the touch are the most reported symptom of this kind.
  • Throat infection: This kind of symptom is typically associated with young adults and adults in their 20s. Swollen and painful tonsils can also develop a grey colored coating on them, while painful ulcers can line the inside of the throat.

Eye Herpes Symptoms

Since oral herpes can technically appear anywhere on the skin including around the face, chin, and neck, it can also spread to the eyes. One eye or even both can be affected and this is called herpes keratitis. This can be painful and extremely distressing since it can affect your vision. You may experience a discharge from the eye, a ‘gritty’ sensation, and even light sensitivity. Herpes keratitis needs medical intervention and treatment promptly since scarring to sensitive eye tissue can occur. When scarring does occur it can cause cloudy vision and sometimes even partial or a total loss of vision.

HSV-2: Genital Herpes

This type of herpes is also a very common disease and it shares a lot of similarities to the HSV-1 oral herpes virus. Since the signs and symptoms manifest themselves in the genital area there is more concealment about an outbreak than the HSV-1 virus since it’s not noticeable nor exposed to others.

Symptoms of HSV 2 tend to be more severe than the oral herpes because the affected areas can be easily irritated due to everyday mobility movement such as sitting and walking. The constant chaffing of skin in the sensitive genital areas can cause even more skin abrasions and can lengthen outbreak recovery times. Since outbreak periods can last between two to six weeks, it’s important to recognize early signs and symptoms to be able to apply and initiate treatment remedies to help you recover with minimal irritation and pain as soon as possible.

First Symptoms of Genital Herpes (Primary Infection)

The incubation period for HSV-2 can be anywhere between two to seven days once you’ve had skin-to-skin contact with the virus. These first symptoms of HSV-2 is what is called the primary infection and is where the most painful symptoms are typically experienced. This is because the virus is reproducing in skin and mucous membranes to cause the expressions associated with genital herpes.

For some people, genital herpes can cause no signs or symptoms at all and this is called an asymptomatic infection. This can cause an unintentional spreading of the disease to others, which makes it vital that signs and symptoms are recognized and treatment is received. The first set symptoms are:

Vaginal Discomfort

  • Itching sensations
  • Burning sensations
  • Tingling sensations
  • Sores/Blisters
  • Lesions
  • Discharge – vaginal
  • Painful urination
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area
  • Flu-like symptoms – fever, headaches, muscle aches

Some of these symptoms such as the sensations, blisters, and lesions are similar to the HSV-1 expressions. The blisters can develop in clusters and will ooze a fluid that can cause the genital area to be uncomfortable and moist. It’s important to keep these lesions dry to encourage crusting sooner.

Although the infection tends to affect the genitals, it can actually spread anywhere in the groin area including the anus, even on buttocks, inner thighs, hips, and the lower back. While the body fights off the infection, you can experience the flu-like symptoms as the virus goes into Latency, which is the second stage of the virus. There the symptoms will subside and remain dormant until it’s reactivated by certain body conditions and you have a recurrent infection. Although there is no official cure for genital herpes, much can be done to manage outbreaks to the point that they become all but non-existant.

Signs and Symptoms of HSV-2 Outbreak (Recurrent Infections)

This occurs when the body has experienced some sort of trigger to awaken the virus into being active again. This is called a recurrent outbreak. You can experience the same signs and symptoms that as the primary infection listed above. Recurrent infections tend to be more manageable than your first primary outbreak. You can often feel a tingling, itching, or burning sensation in the groin area before any ulcers or blisters appear.

StressAlthough asymptomatic infections occur twice as frequently as typical infections, recurrent infections may only be experienced a couple times a year if that. These recurrent infections are believed to be caused by physical or emotional triggers. These triggers can be:

  • Stress
  • Sunburns
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Trauma to the infected site

Genital Herpes Symptoms in Men

HSV 2 symptoms in men tend to be the same for women, the only difference is in the location. These sores and lesions can develop anywhere on or around the penis. This can make wearing underwear very uncomfortable since it can rub up against the infected area. If urinating becomes painful and difficult, it’s important to seek medical assistance promptly since HSV 2 can affect the urinal tract of men.

Genital Herpes Symptoms in Women

The symptoms of herpes in females are the same for men, except for the location and the additional symptom of vaginal discharge. Symptoms of vaginal herpes include the lesions and blisters that can appear anywhere inside the vagina and around the groin area. All the extra fluids from the discharge and the lesions can make it difficult to keep the genital area dry. Wearing loose-fitting clothing, cotton panties, and drying with a hair dryer can help to relieve the tenderness and keep pain at a minimum.

HSV 2 in women can also affect the urinal tract making it difficult and painful to urinate. It may feel like a burning sensation during urination which can often lead to a urinary tract infection. Medical treatment is always advised if these symptoms are experienced.

Anal Herpes Symptoms

The anal area can also be affected with the clusters of blisters and lesions. This can make bowel movements difficult or make cleaning the area painful. Keeping lesions as dry as possible and wearing loose-fitting clothing can help encourage crusting and a faster recovery time.


Catching HSV symptoms early on can help you to take quick steps to help make outbreaks more manageable. Although HSV is not curable, by recognizing the signs and symptoms you can beat it before it has a chance to beat you.

You can also adopt diet and lifestyle habits that will make the occurance of herpes breakouts all but non-existant, discover more detail about natural herpes outbreak prevention here.

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