How Do You Know You Have Herpes?
Herpes sores can affect many areas of the body, including the mouth, genitals, and eyes.
What is herpes?
Knowing what herpes looks like on the body can help people diagnose the condition.
Herpes is a skin disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. Symptoms include sores that come and go over time. Different types of herpes affect different body parts.
This article will explain what herpes is, how people catch it, and what herpes looks like with pictures.
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What is Herpes?
The appearance of herpes will vary depending on the body area it affects.
Herpes is a mild condition that causes small sores on the skin.
People develop herpes after exposure to the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of this virus:
- Herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) or oral herpes that usually affects the mouth
- Herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2) or genital herpes, which usually affects the genitals
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 67 percent of people under the age of 50 have the HSV-1 virus, while 11 percent of 15- to 49-year-olds worldwide have HSV-2 infection.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can occur on the face or genitals. People can pass both herpes viruses through bodily fluids, including genital fluids and saliva.
Once someone has contracted the virus, symptoms may flare up from time to time for the rest of their life. While the wounds can be uncomfortable and even painful, they are generally not dangerous for healthy adults.
What Does Herpes Look Like?
Most people with HSV are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t show any symptoms. Others will see symptoms with sores or lesions. These sores look like fluid-filled blisters. Over the course of several days, the sores burst, ooze fluid and form a crust before healing.
People may also experience a tingling, itching, or burning sensation for a few days before sores appear. Some people, for example:
- He may feel muscle aches.
The infected person usually experiences their first wound or a lesion after 2 to 20 days. The sores can last for a week or up to 10 days.
An outbreak may involve a single wound or a series of wounds. It usually affects the area around the mouth, genitals, or rectum. Blisters can take 2 to 4 weeks to heal.
Symptoms often recur from time to time, but do not tend to be as severe as the first time.
The following sections discuss the symptoms of herpes that occur in commonly affected body parts.
Herpes Herpes in the Mouth
In oral herpes, most of the blisters appear on the lips or in the mouth. It can also occur elsewhere on the face, especially around the chin and under the nose or on the tongue.
At first, the sores look like small bumps or pimples before turning into pus-filled blisters. These can be red, yellow or white. When they burst, a clear or yellow liquid will ooze out before the blister develops a yellow crust and heals.
People with oral herpes may experience swollen lymph nodes in the neck during an outbreak.
Herpes Herpes on Female Reproductive Organs
Females with genital herpes can develop sores on their outer lips (labia) and the vulva, which is the outer part of the genitals, or inside the vagina. It can be difficult to see the sores that develop inside the vagina.
Genital sores vary in size and number, but as with oral herpes, they look like fluid-filled pimples or blisters. As they heal, they burst and form a yellowish crust.
Women are more likely to have urination problems than men during a genital herpes outbreak. They may experience a burning sensation when passing urine. They may also notice swollen lymph nodes in their groin.
Herpes Herpes on Male Reproductive Organs
Men with genital herpes may develop sores on and around the penis.
Small red or white pimples turn into larger, fluid-filled sores that can be red, white, or yellow. As with oral herpes and female genital herpes, these sores tend to burst before they crust over.
Along with other flu-like symptoms, men may experience swollen lymph nodes in their groin.
Herpes Herpes in the Rectum
Both men and women with genital herpes can develop sores or blisters on the buttocks or around the rectum.
The person may see open, red sores on or around the anus.
Herpes sores can also occur around the rectum, and a person may also develop swollen lymph nodes in the groin.
Hand Herpes Herpes on Fingers
Children who suck their thumbs can develop herpes.
Herpes blisters can also develop on the fingers. This is called herpetic whitlow and is most common in children who suck their thumbs.
Herpes can cause one or more sores around the nail. A person may experience pain or a tingling sensation in the area often before pain develops.
If multiple sores appear, they tend to coalesce into one large honeycomb-like blister within a week. They can also spread to the nail bed.
Herpes Herpes in the Eyes
Herpes keratitis refers to herpes infection of the eye. It can affect one or both eyes and causes:
- Eye pain
- light sensitivity
- runny eye
Anyone who suspects herpes keratitis should see a doctor. Without treatment, the infection can injure the eye, causing blurred vision or even vision loss.
Herpes Herpes Outlook Summary
Herpes is a mild skin disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. It causes blister-like sores to form anywhere on the body. The most frequently affected areas include the mouth and genitals.
HSV has no cure, and people who get the virus often experience breakouts from time to time. Wounds usually heal on their own, although people often help them treat outbreaks using antiviral medications:
Available from pharmacies or as prescription medications or creams, these treatments can shorten the duration of herpes illness.
To prevent the transmission of herpes to other people, avoid skin-to-skin contact during the onset of symptoms, especially when sores are open.
If a person has genital herpes, they can reduce the risk of contracting the virus by using a condom during the illness.
People with oral herpes can reduce the risk of transmission by avoiding kissing, sharing plates, forks and spoons, or having oral sex during herpes illness.
MedicalNewsToday, What does herpes look like?, 2019
Genital herpes – CDC fact sheet (detailed). (2017). https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes-detailed.htm
herpes simplex. (n.d.). https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/contagious-skin-diseases/herpes-simplex
Herpes simplex virus. (2017). https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/herpes-simplex-virus