Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Those people who suffer from Herpes do not always necessarily know about the presence of the disease since the symptoms are not always apparent.
There are two types of herpes viruses which are know to affect human beings. The first type is called HSV-1 or Herpes Simplex Virus, type-1 and the other is called HSV-2 or Herpes Simplex Virus type-2. Type-1 primarily causes what we call Oral Herpes and type-2 leads to genital herpes though very rarely they can cause the other form of herpes as well.
While some people realize that they have genital herpes, many do not. It is estimated that one in five persons in the United States has genital herpes; however, as many as 90 percent are unaware that they have the virus. This is because many people have very mild symptoms that go unrecognized or are mistaken for another condition or no symptoms at all.
A person may show symptoms within days after contracting genital herpes, or it may take weeks, months, or years. Some people may have a severe outbreak within days after contracting the virus while others may have a first outbreak so mild that they do not notice it. Because of these possibilities, it can be difficult for people to know when and from whom they may have contracted the virus.
In case of first episodes:
If you were diagnosed with genital herpes in the last few days, you may be experiencing a number of uncomfortable symptoms. The “classic” symptoms that most people associate with genital herpes are sores, vesicles, or ulcers – all of which can also be called “lesions.” The scientific literature on herpes uses the term “lesion” to describe any break or irregularity in the skin. These classic lesions of genital herpes often resemble small pimples or blisters that eventually crust over and finally scab like a small cut. These lesions may take anywhere from two to four weeks to heal fully.
During this time, some people will experience a second crop of lesions, and some will experience flu-like symptoms, including fever and swollen glands, particularly in the lymph nodes near the groin. Headache and painful urination also sometimes accompany full-blown symptoms of first episodes.
In case of recurrent episodes:
In case you have sailed through the first episodes of herpes, the recurrent one are mild and moderate. It’s the first one that is always the worst. The recurrent episode symptoms tend to be mild and heal much more quicker. Some people have recurrent outbreaks with the so-called “classic” blister-like herpes lesions that crust over, or with painful sores. In recurrent herpes, however, this process usually takes about half the time it does in first episodes. In addition, many people have very subtle forms of recurrent herpes that heal up in a matter of days. And lastly, herpes is capable of reactivating without producing any visible lesions (asymptomatic reactivation).
The number of outbreaks that a person can have varies from person to person but in general, on an average there are 4-5 outbreaks of HSV-2 in one year whereas the average for type-1 is one episode per year. Herpes triggers are highly individual, but with time, many people learn to recognize, and sometimes avoid, factors that seem to reactivate HSV in their own bodies. Illness, poor diet, emotional or physical stress, friction in the genital area, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light, surgical trauma and steroidal medication may trigger a herpes outbreak.