Genital Herpes in Women

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Quick GuideSTDs Pictures Slideshow: Facts About Sexually Transmitted Diseases

STDs Pictures Slideshow: Facts About Sexually Transmitted Diseases

What are the signs and symptoms of genital herpes?

Many people infected with genital herpes have mild symptoms or symptoms that are mistaken for another condition. It is also possible to be infected and have no symptoms, so not everyone who is infected may be aware of the infection.

When signs and symptoms are present, they consist of:

  • Typically painful blisters (that may appear like "pimples") around the genital area
  • Blisters around the anal area
  • Ulcer formation after the blisters break open
  • Blisters take 2 to 4 weeks to heal.

With the first outbreak of genital herpes, a person may also experience flu-like symptoms including:

Immediately prior to an outbreak, there may be an itching, burning, or tingling sensation of the skin.

In women, genital herpes usually causes blistering lesions on the vulva and around the vaginal opening that progress to ulcer formation. The infection spreads to involve the cervix in most cases, leading to cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix). In some women, cervicitis may be the only sign of genital herpes infection. Infection and inflammation of the urethra accompanies the infection in some women, leading to pain on urination.

After the initial infection, a person may or may not have outbreaks later in life.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/25/2016
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