Initial and Recurrent Genital Herpes Outbreaks
An outbreak of genital herpes may occur as an "initial" or first outbreak or it may be a recurrent
infection. Read on to learn more about each of these types of outbreaks, as well as what triggers an outbreak.
Initial Genital Herpes Outbreak
An initial genital herpes infection occurs in people who have never been
previously exposed to the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Symptoms of an initial outbreak are usually the most severe
because the body does not have any type of immunity to the herpes virus. This is important because your body does
not have the "resources" to fight this first infection.
When your body is first exposed to the herpes virus, it responds by attacking
the virus with antibodies (a type of protein that is made by your body to fight a virus). Specific immune cells
and antibodies now present in your body learn how to target and keep the herpes virus in check. However, the
antibodies that attack the virus during specific outbreaks do not eliminate the virus overall, which is why once
genital herpes is contracted a person has it for life. Herpes outbreaks are usually milder after your body has
produced these antibodies, and after several years you may experience fewer outbreaks or no outbreaks at all.
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After first becoming infected with the genital herpes virus most people develop
symptoms within 2 to 12 days, but it can take days, weeks, months, or even years for any symptoms to appear.
Remember, the amount of time it takes for symptoms to appear and the severity of these symptoms can vary greatly
from person to person. Because of this, it may be difficult to know when and from whom you may have contracted
genital herpes. Some people may have mild symptoms and not even realize they are having an outbreak of genital
herpes, while other people have severe outbreaks and others may have no symptoms at all.
You may experience any of the following symptoms during an initial
- You may feel sick like you have the flu, with fever, muscles aches, and
- Sores are more likely to develop during an initial infection, especially
in women. These sores can range in size, and may appear in several areas, including the genitals, mouth,
thighs, buttocks, and around the anus.
- The skin in the affected area may feel raw, painful, and
- There may also be a lot of swelling in affected areas. This is normal
because your body is attacking the virus.
- Lymph nodes (glands) may be swollen in the groin area, which means that
your immune system is fighting off the virus.
- In women, the cervix is infected in about 80% to 90% of initial
infections, and vaginal discharge may occur.
- It's possible to have GH without any symptoms
Without treatment, the first outbreak of genital herpes can last as long as 3
to 4 weeks, but in many cases, symptoms usually completely resolve within 2 to 12 days. If you are experiencing
symptoms that you suspect may be from a genital herpes outbreak you should see your doctor or go to a health
clinic while you are still experiencing the symptoms.