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How Do I Know if I Have Herpes?

Genital Herpes Signs and Symptoms

Determining whether or not you have Genital Herpes (or HSV-2) can be difficult, especially since symptoms are often different for different people (and some people may experience no symptoms at all). However, there are some signs to watch for, and they may range from mild to extreme. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:

Young people and STDs.

An Itching or Burning Sensation

During an outbreak of Genital Herpes, the area around the genitals and buttocks may become red and inflamed, and this is usually accompanied with an itching or burning sensation. This is often the precursor to an outbreak of blisters and/or sores.


Another symptom of Genital Herpes is pain in the genital area, legs, or buttocks. When the Herpes virus multiplies in the skin cells in that area, it causes pain. This is often one of the earliest symptoms of Genital Herpes, occurring between 2 and 20-days after infection by a sexual partner.


Men may experience a discharge from the penis, and women may experience a vaginal discharge. In men, a discharge is rare, but does occur on occasion. In women, a discharge due to Genital Herpes is more common, and is usually watery.

Blisters and/or Sores

Perhaps the most well-known symptom of Genital Herpes is that blisters and sores often occur on or near the genitals. These blisters open up (these are referred to as “weeping blisters” because they ooze liquid), crust over, scab, and then re-heal. Recurrences of the virus are often accompanied with outbreaks of blisters.

Flu-like Symptoms

Because Genital Herpes is a virus, it can cause many flu-like symptoms. These include swollen glands (usually the lymph glands), headache, muscle ache, fever, and chills. Flu-like symptoms alone do not necessarily mean a person has Genital Herpes, but if these symptoms are accompanied by any of the other Herpes symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

Burning Sensation While Urinating

Genital Herpes can also infect the urethra. This causes a burning sensation during urination.

Herpes outbreaks can reoccur, and the length of time between occurrences varies depending on the person. There is no cure. Doctors believe that both physical and psychological factors (such as an immune symptom that is not functioning correctly, damage to the skin in the area, stress, and anxiety) contribute to reoccurrences. If you suspect you may be infected with Genital Herpes, contact your doctor and any sexual partners immediately.

For more information on transmission and treatment of Genital Herpes, see Herpes Facts and Photos.