Herpes simplex: Signs and symptoms

Herpes simplex: Signs and symptoms

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                Sunburn can trigger herpes  Herpes simplex: If a person has HSV-1, a bad sunburn can trigger a herpes simplex outbreak.
                herpes on fingers Herpes simplex: Outbreaks usually develop around the mouth or on the genitals, but the sores can appear almost anywhere on the skin.

Many people who get the virus that causes herpes never see or feel anything. If signs (what you see) or symptoms (what you feel) occur, a person may experience:

  • Tingling, itching, or burning: Before the blisters appear, the skin may tingle, itch, or burn for a day or so.

  • Sores: One or more painful, fluid-filled blisters may appear. Blisters break open and often ooze fluid and form a crust, before healing. The first time sores appear, they will show up between 2 and 20 days after a person has contact with an infected person. The sores can last from 7 to 10 days. Where the sores appear often varies with type:

    • Oral herpes (HSV-1): Most blisters appear on the lips or around the mouth. Sometimes blisters form on the face or on the tongue. Although these are the most common places to find oral herpes, the sores can appear anywhere on the skin.

    • Genital herpes (HSV-2): Sores typically occur on the penis, vagina, buttocks, or anus. Women can have sores inside the vagina. Like oral herpes, these sores can appear anywhere on the skin.

  • Flu-like symptoms. Fever, muscle aches, or swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck (oral herpes) or groin (genital herpes) are possible.

  • Problems urinating. People (most often women) with genital herpes may have trouble urinating or have a burning feeling while urinating.

  • An eye infection (herpes keratitis). Sometimes the herpes simplex virus can spread to one or both eyes. If this happens, you can have pain, light sensitivity, discharge, and a gritty feeling in the eye. Without prompt treatment, scarring of the eye may result. Scarring can lead to cloudy vision and even loss of vision.

    If you develop signs and symptoms of herpes simplex, you can expect to have these for as long as listed below:

    • Oral (mouth) herpes: 2 to 3 weeks
    • Genital herpes: 2 to 6 weeks (the first outbreak)

Learn more about herpes simplex:

Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides. 

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