First Signs of Herpes
It is well-known that before a breakout of cold sores you may feel a tingling sensation around your lips. As the same virus causes cold sores as genital herpes, which is called the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), you can experience similar early symptoms before you develop blisters around your genitals. Characteristic sores then appear, though not everyone has visible blisters, which is why getting tested for herpes is a good idea to control the spread of infection. However, even in the presence of genital herpes blisters you may want to get tested for HSV to identify the source of the infection, as HSV has two strains which typically affect different locations in the body.
Early Herpes Symptoms
With the virus that causes herpes tingling is not the only indication of a possible outbreak. You may also experience an itchy sensation at the site where the blisters are about to erupt. This tingling and itching may occur a matter of hours before the blisters appear, though sometimes these genital herpes symptoms may develop a day or more before the onset of the sores. Once an outbreak of herpes is imminent there is nothing you can do to prevent the blisters appearing, though taking good care of yourself by eating well, getting enough rest and avoiding unnecessary stress may reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms.
Blisters are not limited to your genitals and can develop on your upper legs, buttocks or around your rectum. These fluid-filled blisters crack open to leave painful sores that crust over. If you experience genital itching it is important to resist the temptation to scratch, as this can make the sores worse and make you more susceptible to other infections. You may find that with the presence of open sores you experience a burning sensation when you urinate. Sometimes painful urination may arise because blisters have developed within your urethra (the tube that carries urine out your body), though this occurs more rarely. Usually the sores will heal within a few weeks and you will be symptom free till the next outbreak.
Especially if it is your first episode of genital herpes you may develop flu-like symptoms alongside the outbreak of blisters. These include feeling feverish, tired, achy and having a headache. You may also notice that your lymph nodes swell up close to where the sores form. Thankfully, for most people these additional symptoms do not recur with subsequent genital herpes outbreaks.
Whether or not your partner has genital herpes, it is important to take a herpes test to confirm your diagnosis, as you can be asymptomatic and transmit the virus. Although a genital herpes test is available that takes a swab from the blisters when they are present, if you arrange a test after they have cleared up, it is still possible to check for the presence of HSV. This is because a reliable test is available that checks for herpes antibodies. Your immune system generates these in response to the virus and as the antibodies are strain specific it is possible to find out whether your genital herpes are caused by HSV1 or HSV2. The HSV1 strain is usually responsible for cold sores around the mouth, so it is likely that the virus was transmitted to you while receiving oral sex. On the other hand the HSV2 strain typically affects the genitals, so transmission through intercourse is most likely. You should be aware though that if you receive a negative test result for herpes, but you have characteristic herpes symptoms, that you may have a false negative result. This can arise if you took the test too early, as it may take several weeks for herpes antibodies to show up in your blood, so getting retested is advisable.
Although it is not possible to cure genital herpes, self-care measures can help to relieve symptoms during an outbreak. When symptoms are severe though, there are anti-viral medications available that you take at the first signs of tingling in groin area to reduce the severity of the episode. Additionally, if you find you have frequent attacks with significant symptoms, your doctor can prescribe a medication for herpes that reduce the likelihood of further episodes. This herpes treatment also carries the advantage that it reduces the risk you will transmit the infection to your sexual partners, but it is still safest to use condoms and for your partner to get regularly tested for herpes.