Genital herpes in Women : Symptoms, Pictures, and Treatment
Updated: Nov 16, 2020
Herpes simplex virus causes genital herpes by entering the skin or mucous membranes through microscopic breaks in the skin and mucous membranes.
There are 2 types of HSV:
Herpes simplex virus-1, that typically causes cold sores, and
Herpes simplex virus-2, which typically causes genital herpes.
Either herpes simplex virus type can cause sores on the genital areas.
Genital herpes is transmitted by any type of sexual contact with the genital area.
With the initial (first episode) genital herpes infection, some individuals may develop symptoms that seem flu-like and include
body aches, and
swollen lymph nodes.
When symptoms and signs do appear, they may include painful blisters and/or ulcers in the genital area, itching, and burning or tingling sensations in the skin.
Genital herpes symptoms come and go over the person's lifetime due to reactivations of the virus.
Diagnosis is usually done by recognizing the skin changes in the genital area but viral cultures, genetic amplification of herpes simplex virus genome material, and other tests may be done.
There is no cure for genital herpes, but there are medications to make living with genital herpes more manageable.
Antiviral medications are used to reduce the severity and frequency of genital herpes.
Genital herpes symptoms and signs in women usually develop near the vagina, buttocks, and/or anus a few days after exposure to an infected person.
Some natural and home remedies may help relieve and soothe symptoms severity but provide no cure.
Oral antiviral medications may be used in pregnancy. Check with your OB/GYN before taking any medications if you are pregnant.
The prognosis of genital herpes is variable: there is no cure, and the recurrent outbreaks may vary in frequency and severity.
Genital herpes prevention is difficult. Condoms may prevent the disease spread during sex, but not in areas of skin not covered by a condom or during oral to genital contact.
How common is genital herpes?
Herpes is very common.
Among people aged 14 to 49, an estimated one out of every six people (15.5% of the population) has been infected with HSV-2, the virus that is predominantly responsible for genital herpes.
Estimates suggest that in the U.S., 776,000 people become infected every year.
The viral infection is more common in women than in men.
Spread from men to women is known to occur more readily than from women to men.
According to WHO estimates, HSV-1 infects 67% of all humans under the age of 50. The majority of infected people are not aware they are infected.
Are home remedies or natural treatments effective for genital herpes?
There are no home or natural remedies available for genital herpes, and as mentioned above, the infection cannot be cured. The home cares such as warm baths, keeping the blisters dry after washing, and wearing loose-fitting, cotton underwear may help soothe symptoms.
What are the signs of genital herpes in women?
Women who have the herpes virus may have no outbreaks or signs of infection. Many do not know they have the virus. Once you are infected, the virus stays in your nerve cells for life. When the virus is not active, there is no sign of infection. When the virus becomes active, a herpes outbreak occurs. Some women may not have any outbreaks or may have only one outbreak, while others may have multiple outbreaks.
The first herpes outbreak often occurs within 2 weeks after contracting the virus from an infected person. The first signs may include:
Itching, tingling, or burning feeling in the vaginal or anal area
Flu-like symptoms, including fever
Pain in the legs, buttocks, or vaginal area
A change in vaginal discharge
Painful or difficult urination
A feeling of pressure in the area below the stomach
After a few days, painful sores, blisters, or ulcers may develop where the virus entered the body. These areas include:
The vaginal or anal area
Inside the vagina
On the cervix
In the urinary tract
On the buttocks or thighs
On other parts of your body where the virus has entered
Sometimes the first outbreak will not occur until months or years after infection.
After the first outbreak, you may have more outbreaks. For most, these outbreaks occur less often over time. The signs of herpes infection are usually milder than during the first outbreak, and they go away faster.
For people with a weak immune system, outbreaks can be severe and long-lasting.
See your health care provider to be tested if you have signs of herpes.