Symptoms of genital herpes include a rash of blisters. In women, the blisters usually appear in the vulva, vagina, anus, cervix, buttocks or the thighs. Men generally get sores on their penis or the shaft of the penis. The blisters are very painful, and are very contagious. The blisters are what contain the virus, and sex should be avoided.
The first outbreak is normally the worst, and can include these other symptoms as well:
- Muscle pain
Woman are four times as likely to develop genital herpes (HSV2) as men.
The first outbreak can last for about 2-4 weeks. Pain in the area of the sores can last up to 6 weeks. Once the blisters dry out, the crust falls off. This is when the area is usually not contagious, although some people can still pass the virus.
The recurrence factor for HSV 2 is about 90 %. Most occurrences will happen within 6 months to a year of the first breakout.
Testing For Genital Herpes
If you think you have been exposed to the HSV 2 virus, it is best to talk to your doctor about getting tested. If you are having a breakout, the doctor can do a culture test. If you do not have an active case of genital herpes, your doctor can do an antibody blood test. This test will show if you have come in contact with the disease. Be sure to get only the “Virus Specific” blood test, as well as an IgG blood test. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) does not recommend getting an IGM test (download PDF here). This test is cross reactive. If you had the chicken pox, this test is NOT accurate, and can come out as a false positive.