Herpes - How do you know if you have herpes?
The very suspicion of herpes is enough to throw one in dread since there is no definite cure for this very uncomfortable and often painful condition. But how does one know that he or she has contracted herpes, since the symptoms of this condition are different for men and women and even within the same sex, it may vary from one person to another.
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The two types of herpes
First, it is important to keep in mind that not every condition diagnosed as herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. There are two strains of herpes, the Herpes Simplex Type 1 and Herpes Simplex Type 2. Herpes Simplex Type 1 is responsible for oral herpes which is more commonly known as cold sores. A person suffering from this condition will develop blisters on or around the mouth. Herpes Simplex Type 2 causes genital herpes which is sexually transmitted from the infected person. Once a person is exposed to this virus by direct skin-to-skin contact, it may take from 2 to 20 twenty days to develop the first symptoms of genital herpes. If you are concerned that you may have contracted herpes, here are the main symptoms to watch out for.
The most common sign of herpes is red, sensitive skin with small bumps on the infected area of the skin. They may become inflamed and develop into blisters or sores. As the blisters burst, they will exude pus or a clear fluid. The blisters will then form scabs as they proceed to heal. If it is oral herpes, the blisters develop in and around the mouth. In case of genital herpes, the blisters also known as herpes bumps develop around the genital region. In women, the lesions may occur inside the vagina along with areas around it, like the vulva, cervix, urethra, anus, thighs and buttocks.
Yet another symptom to watch out for among women is unusual vaginal discharge or persistent vaginal discomfort. If a woman suffers from this, it is a good idea to get tested for genital herpes.
A woman suffering from genital herpes may also experience difficulty while urinating. This is because if the herpes blisters have developed along the urethra, they may burn or pain while passing urine. In fact around 10 to 15 percent of women infected with herpes complain of having trouble while passing urine.
Swollen lymph glands. In case of oral herpes the lymph nodes around the neck get swollen while in genital herpes the lymph glands in the groin are enlarged. This is because with the onslaught of the infection, the lymph glands in the body go on an overdrive to produce cells which will fight the infection-causing organisms.
Headaches which may be severe.
Pain in the muscles.
Lower back pain in case of genital herpes.
Fever is yet another common symptom of any virulent infection and occurs with the contraction of herpes too, especially in the initial stages.
Among the people who develop herpes sores on the first contraction of herpes, as many as 80 percent go on to experience a recurrent outbreak of the condition. Even though the later outbreaks may of shorter duration and less severe than the first outbreak, for some people they can be as uncomfortable as the initial one. Very often individuals may experience certain warning symptoms prior to the recurrent outbreak. A person may experience pain and soreness in the infected region even before the sores develop in that area. This is due to irritation and inflammation of the nerves connecting the infected areas of the skin. During this period, the infect person is highly contagious even though he/she may not develop visible blisters.
Herpes in women
Women are at greater danger of contracting genital herpes since their genital region has a greater surface area with mucosal cells – which contract the infection – as compared to men. On an average, the first outbreak of herpes among women may last as long as three weeks. In women, the symptoms genital herpes are very often confused with signs of some other infection like a yeast infection, pelvic inflammatory disease or an inflamed cervix known as cervicitis. Since the blisters develop inside the vagina, it is quite common for the herpes blisters to be mistaken for an outbreak of boils. But boils are larger and often more painful as compared to the herpes lesions. Moreover there are several treatments available for boils while it is more difficult to treat genital herpes. Women are also prone to greater complications arising out of a herpes infection. For instance one out of four women may go on to develop meningitis after an episode of herpes.
Herpes in men
On an average men experience a shorter duration of herpes, the first outbreak lasting around two weeks. Men usually develop the herpes blisters on the tip of the penis or perhaps the shaft but rarely on the base. Men who have same-sex partners may also get the outbreak in or around the anus. With the onset of the infection, men may experience discharge from the penis and a painful burning sensation while passing urine.
Symptoms of herpes vary widely from one individual to the next. The first outbreak can be the most severe for some since the body is yet to develop antibodies for the condition. On the other hand, for some the first occurrence of herpes can be very mild with hardly any symptoms. However in the both cases the person remains highly contagious and a danger to other sexual partners.
In case you have the above symptoms it is crucial that you seek medical help as soon as possible. A professional guidance is especially important if you are pregnant, if you are getting recurrent outbreaks or if such symptoms have been previously experienced but not correctly diagnosed. Even though there is no cure for herpes, the sooner you treatment under the guidance of a medical professional, the easier it will be for you to manage the symptoms and even prevent further outbreaks.