What Are the Initial Symptoms of Genital Herpes in a Woman?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) brought about by the herpes simplex virus. It used to be one of the most common STDs, but recent research reveals that the rates of herpes are declining

Despite that, getting genital herpes can still be frightening, considering the stigma surrounding the infection. But there are ways that can help you treat the infection. While you can’t cure the infection, there is medication for herpes in the vagina available for you.

You can buy antiviral herpes medications without the need for a prescription. These over-the-counter treatments for genital herpes help soothe the pain that comes with the infection. You can also find genital herpes cream, which can lessen the duration of an outbreak.

But before you buy any herpes medication, it’s important to understand its symptoms. Knowing when the first signs of an outbreak occur will help you get the right medication. You can also prevent the virus from spreading and keep your loved ones from getting infected. 

What Happens if You Get Infected With a Herpes Virus?

You can get infected by the genital herpes virus if you have sexual contact with someone who has it. This happens even if the person shows no symptoms or indications of infection.

The virus will move via neural pathways after penetrating the skin. It could remain latent or inactive in the nerves, which you can trigger in different ways. The virus, then, goes back to the skin’s surface, where it replicates itself.

When this happens, the virus now starts showing symptoms. Other people also experience asymptomatic herpes infections where the virus goes unnoticed.

In either scenario, sexual contact makes it easy to spread the virus. If you have one, you should avoid any sexual contact with your partner. That’s because using condoms does not fully protect him from the virus. 

When you get genital herpes, the virus can spread to other areas of your vagina. The infected area can come into contact with your partner’s skin, which then infects them.

Even after your sores and lesions heal, you can still experience another outbreak. 

What Happens if You Have HIV and Get Infected With Herpes Virus?

If you have HIV, you’re more at risk of developing genital herpes, which is quite bad. You’re also more prone to getting problems like meningitis or bladder obstruction. But don’t worry. You can get genital herpes treatment to heal the sores. You’ll get even better results if you treat the infection the first time that symptoms appear.

What Does Genital Herpes in Women Look Like?

As mentioned earlier, some women with genital herpes don’t experience any symptoms at all. This can last for months or even years after contracting the infection. But even so, you can still spread the virus to other people.

If symptoms do occur, they start to appear after a few days or weeks of initial contact. Mild cases of herpes sores are often mistaken for pimples or ingrown hairs. Your first outbreak can also be severe, especially if you’re immunocompromised. 

Symptoms During the First Outbreak

The first outbreak happens 2 to 3 weeks after getting in contact with infected skin. Herpes-positive people don’t need to have sores for them to infect you.

The first symptoms of genital herpes are like those of the flu:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged lymph nodes, particularly in the groin
  • Muscle aches

Some claim to have tingling or an itchy sensation near their vagina or anus which lasts for 24 hours. You can also see a patch of swollen, red skin near these areas. This patch can also appear on your buttocks or thighs. If it does, you will experience:

  • Small blisters on the patch
  • Painful sores when the blisters rupture
  • Scabbing, which often heals within 2 to 6 weeks

Some women only have a few sores, and some get several blisters and sores. Others may also feel discomfort or have trouble urinating during the initial outbreak.

Symptoms During Recurrent Outbreaks

The genital herpes virus is a lifelong infection. Even after the first outbreak, the virus spreads to other nerves and never leaves your body. The good news is that even if it stays in your body, there’s also a chance that you won’t experience another outbreak. 

But if you did experience a recurrence, you’ll find that it heals more rapidly. Symptoms include those from the first infection but they are often less severe and last for a shorter amount of time

Recurrent infections typically do not include fever or other symptoms of illness. But, you will experience viral shedding, which makes you more infectious. So avoid engaging in sex with your partner after contracting genital herpes.

Recurring herpes outbreaks are more likely to happen within the first year, often caused by a trigger. You can trigger another outbreak through stress, exhaustion, sickness, sex, surgery, and even menstruation. 

Some patients discover that they have warning symptoms during recurrent outbreaks. This helps them know where the sores will form. The signals include pain, tingling, itching, or a burning feeling and last for 24 hours.

Treatment can lessen symptoms and limit the duration of an outbreak.

How Can You Manage Genital Herpes?

Herpes is a persistent, incurable condition that can be treated with medication and lifestyle changes. But bear in mind that herpes medication does not entirely wipe out the virus. Despite that, they can reduce transmission risk and ease symptoms.

If you have herpes in your vagina, you can get antiviral medications to stop the virus from replicating. Aside from this, these genital herpes treatments speed up the healing process. 

There are two different treatments for genital herpes: suppressive and episodic therapy.

  • Suppressive therapy. With this therapy, you get to take antiviral drugs daily to lessen the frequency of outbreaks. This lowers the chance of contracting herpes and experiencing uncomfortable genital sores.
  • Episodic therapy: If you’re experiencing infrequent outbreaks, episodic therapy is more appropriate for you. As soon as symptoms appear, you get antiviral doses to treat them and reduce the duration of the outbreak.

Doctors may prescribe you either oral or topical antiviral drugs. Oral medications include:

  • Zovirax or acyclovir
  • Famvir or famciclovir
  • Valtrex or valacyclovir

All three medications are equally effective for treating genital herpes. They only differ based on how frequently you need to take them.

Topical medications include genital herpes creams such as:

  • Penciclovir or Denavir cream
  • Xerese of Acyclovir and hydrocortisone cream
  • Zovirax or Acyclovir cream

You can also use over-the-counter medications together with prescription drugs for better results. 

If your immune system is in good shape, your body will develop an immunity to the virus. The breakouts should occur less frequently as your immune system strengthens. Your personal hygiene is also important to help you strengthen your immune system. By doing so, you may even stop the outbreaks from reoccurring completely.

When Should You Treat Your Genital Herpes?

Antiviral therapy is not necessary for every herpes outbreak. A mild genital herpes outbreak often resolves on its own without causing you any harm.

Getting treatment depends on whether it is an initial outbreak or a recurrence. You should also consider the times of recurrence and how severe it is.

This is true for HIV-positive people with herpes infections. The virus can spread from their mouths or genitals to other organs like the liver. If this happens, you need to have antiviral medications injected directly into your bloodstream or veins.

Get in touch with a doctor after having sex with someone who has genital herpes. 

There’s also a possibility of infecting your baby with herpes after giving birth. That’s why you should also consult your doctor if you’re pregnant. 

Final Thoughts

A timely response is essential for managing any herpes outbreak. Hopefully, this article will help you identify the early signs of a herpes outbreak. The sooner you detect the symptoms, the more likely you will experience a brief and mild episode.

Herpes has no known therapy, but you can control outbreaks with different medications. If symptoms are present, it’s best to consult your doctor to get prescription drugs. You can also treat the infection with at-home remedies and over-the-counter painkillers. Lastly, a healthy immune system is your best defense against infection and recurrent outbreaks.


Ritika is renowned Fitness, Nutrition & Lifestyle Specialist and contributing writer for ABOUT INSIDER. She enjoys covering current events and writing about celebrities, health, and fashion.

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