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What does a herpes outbreak look and feel like.

The symptoms caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus HSV can vary from person to person and there is a range of other conditions they can be confused with. Some people having no noticeable outbreaks or symptoms, while other people can have almost constant outbreaks.

Symptoms of a Herpes infection

The first outbreak | Cycle of a typical outbreak | Recurrences | What brings on or “triggers” symptoms? | Prodromal symptoms (warning symptoms) | Rare Symptoms | Type1 VS Type 2 Symptoms | Mistaken Conditions

The first outbreak…

Common experiences:

The first episode is the most severe as most people have not been exposed to the virus before and antibodies will not have been produced before the body is able to trigger the immune response.

  • Symptoms will generally develop within 2 to 20 days after contact has been made with the virus.
  • Symptoms may continue for up to 2 weeks and can be sever or mild depending on your
  • In some cases the first attack sometimes visible sores last between 10 – 21 days.

When the herpes simplex virus infects new skin cells it reproduces itself by invading and hijacking the cells, it then begins to multiply. This process causes skin redness, irritation and sensitive. Blisters or bumps may appear on the genital area, the blisters first opening, then healing with the regeneration of new skin tissue.

The infected area:

  • Begins with a tingling and burning sensation
  • Skin becomes red and sensitive.
  • Forms inflamed clusters of blisters develop.
  • Blisters open and weep fluid.
  • Blisters crust over, form a scab, and heal.

Flu like symptoms are sometimes felt, particularly with first outbreak:

  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Fever
  • Lower back pain

Cycle of a typical herpes outbreak / recurrence

The symptoms of an active herpes outbreak or recurrence will occur in the following phases. Symptomatic Course of the Herpes simplex virus HSV:

Inflammation (Redness & sensitivity)

The area of infection will experience Swelling, tenderness and/or redness will generally appear before the actual outbreak, and may include itching and sensitivity. The inflammation may never progress to blisters.

Blisters and Lesions

One or several clusters of fluid filled blisters/lesions will appear. Tiny red bumps, or rash may form and can resemble small fissures, especially near the anus.

Ulceration & Weeping

When the skin break on the blisters, small, round, wet looking, ulcers leaking clear to milky colored fluid can be seen.

Crusting & Scabbing

The sores begin to dry, scab, and crust over beginning the healing process. The virus may still be present until the ulcer has completely healed, and the scab falls off.

NOTE: the sores do not always crust before healing.

Healing & Recovery

New skin is formed and may look slightly red, or silver. Viral replication is complete, the virus has left the skin’s surface, and the skin is now safe to touch. The virus then retreats into the nerves and lies dormant. Healing of the skin does not normally leave scarring but if the scab is removed unnaturally scar may be experienced.

Detailed information about the Incubation Stages of a Herpes Outbreak

Recurrences of herpes symptoms

A recurrence takes place when the virus replicates in the nerve ganglia and particles of virus travel along the nerve to the site of primary infection in the skin or mucous membranes (inner, moist lining of the mouth, vagina etc).

There are very subtle forms of recurring herpes found on the penis, vulva, anus, thigh and buttocks or anywhere in or around the genital area that heal very quickly (within a matter of days).

In general herpes recurrences: are usually shorter and less severe than the initial episode may decrease in both severity and frequency with time are usually preceded by warning symptoms (also known as  prodromal symptoms)

After the lesions have healed, and the symptoms of recurrence have ended, pain and discomfort in the genital area can sometimes felt (postherpetic neuralgia).

How common are recurrences & future outbreaks?

80% of persons having a first episode caused by HSV-2 will have at least one recurrence 50% of persons with HSV-1 will experience a recurrence The most common scenario is occasional recurrences (about 4 attacks per year). Usually, the first year will have the most viral activity. Herpes Infection Statistics

Herpes Triggers: What brings on or “triggers” an outbreak?

The herpes virus reactivated at various times, largely due to the performance of your bodies Immune System. Both physical and psychological factors have been shown to trigger an outbreak.

Physical Factors: that tend to allow outbreaks include:

  • being run-down
  • suffering from other genital infections (affecting the local skin area)
  • menstruation
  • drinking a lot of alcohol
  • exposure of the area to strong sunlight (sunburn)
  • Immune compromising conditions(where the body’s immune system is not functioning normally)
  • ultraviolet light
  • friction or damage to the skin,
  • chafing & windburn may also lead to a recurrence
  • surgical trauma

Anything that lowers your immunity or causes local injury can trigger recurrences.

Psychological Factors that lead to herpes outbreaks:

  • Prolonged stress & anxiety can cause recurrences.

Prodromal Herpes Symptoms

A warning sign (prodromal) is experienced by many people in recurring outbreaks. Warning symptoms which indicate the virus is becoming active, and is on its way to the skin’s surface.

Prodromal symptoms include:

  • itching
  • tingling
  • numbness
  • burning
  • general fatigue flu-like symptoms
  • fever
  • swelling of the lymph nodes in the area of outbreak
  • headache
  • painful urination
  • pain in the buttocks, back of legs or lower back

Rare herpes symptoms

  • Vaginal or penis discharge
  • Infection of the urethra causing a burning sensation during urination
  • A burning sensation in the genitals (females)

No visible symptoms or signs of herpes?

Up to 60% of people who have genital herpes show no signs of the disease and are unaware that they are infected, but are capable of transmitting the virus to others (asymptomatic viral shedding).

What is the difference between HSV1 & HSV2 symptoms?

Herpes simplex v 1 (HSV1) symptoms may be referred to as Cold sore, facial herpes, oral herpes, herpes labialis or fever blister symptoms. Herpes simplex 2 (HSV2) symptoms may be referred to as genital herpes symptoms or herpes genatalis symptoms.

If you suspect you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, consult your doctor or healthcare provider immediately. Genital herpes symptoms are considered serious and should be diagnosed and treated professionally.

Conditions Mistaken for Herpes

Herpes symptoms and outbreaks can look similar to:

  • Insect bites
  • Jock itch
  • Abrasions
  • Razor burn
  • Yeast infections
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Ingrown hair follicles

There are several conditions and STDs that are often confused with herpes.

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