Herpes is a transmitted virus caused by HSV, or the herpes simplex virus. It can be found in type 1, which presents most commonly around the mouth and face, or type 2, which is the form that arises after intimate exposure to someone else with the active virus. Once exposed, an individual may be unaware that they have contracted the virus for days or even weeks, as the physical evidence might not manifest until then. Even then, some of the symptoms are subtle enough to be easily mistaken for other less worrisome medical issues. If you suspect you may have been exposed to or contracted the herpes virus, it's crucial that you get tested as soon as possible. Ignoring these ten warning signs and failing to get tested in a timely manner can lead to health complications or even accidental transmission of the herpes virus to a loved one. Protect yourself and your partners by familiarizing yourself with these 9 signs of herpes.
While it won't happen in every case, the fact that herpes is a virus can lead to some unusual symptoms. For example, it can actually spread to the eyes in a condition called herpes keratitis. If your eyes suddenly hurt, you experience sensitivity to light, discover any kind of discharge in the eyes, or feel like there is gritty "sleep sand" in the corners that you just can't seem to wipe away, see a vision professional immediately. Keratitis can cause issues like cloudy or scarred vision, and even blindness if left untreated!
Anytime your body contracts a virus, it does its best to fight it off - herpes is no different. As white blood cells try to attack the virus and antibodies form, you may feel like you have a headache, or experience muscle pain, even if you haven't done any exercise recently. As with many other health issues, your body will let you know if you have a "biological intruder" and if it's working to get rid of it - the best way to spot this symptom is to remain aware of the way you feel, rather than instinctively brushing it off or "explaining it away" with implausible causes. Take over-the-counter pain medication as needed, but be sure to note when and for how long you're experiencing symptoms like these, particularly in conjunction with other symptoms - a pattern can point to herpes.
Once herpes gets past your body's biological defenses, it will start "setting up shop" and making its presence known through some flu-like symptoms, in some individuals. Body temperature may rise slightly, fatigue may set in, and overall uneasiness may become systematic. In the very young, very old, or immuno-compromised, this fever may be higher and last longer - again, the key is to pay attention to your body!
Tenderness in the lymph nodes - typically those located on either on either side of the neck or in the groin region, in the case of herpes - is one of the more obvious signs that your body is under siege by a virus. If a fever or other flu-like symptoms are present, particularly if you think you may have recently been exposed to herpes, it's time to get tested.
If you have the Type 2 version of the herpes virus, particularly if it's severe, you may have some issues with swallowing if the infection gets into your esophagus. Just as the virus can travel to the eyes, it can infect the throat as well - thankfully, this symptom is relatively rare in individuals with otherwise healthy immune systems and no other medical issues that would impair symptom healing.
If your skin feels as if you've rubbed novocaine on it, with a certain amount of numbness or "tingling," even when you aren't touching it, there's a potential for the next few herpes symptoms to show up in relatively short order. This sensation may be felt on the lips, mouth, or genitals, depending on the type of herpes virus present. Those that have lived with the herpes virus take these sensations as a warning sign that they should avoid intimate contact, sharing food and drink, and consider taking the next step of getting an STD Test. Read our in-depth review of STD testing options.
While tingling can be annoying, the itching and burning that come after are some of the most well-known signs of a herpes infection. When symptoms reach this stage, a herpes virus carrier should actively avoid intimate contact until the "flare up" cycle is completed and no symptoms are present. This is done in order to minimize any chance of accidental transmission to their partners. Avoid scratching or rubbing, it may provide momentary relief, but it can cause more severe symptoms and potentially cause the flare up to last longer.
When fluid-filled blisters appear around the mouth or genitals, testing is absolutely crucial. While this is one of the most well-known symptoms of herpes, it's important to test for confirmation during an active outbreak, when it's easiest to diagnose. These blisters can appear virtually anywhere around the affected area and tend to split open, ooze, harden into a crust, and eventually heal. The process is uncomfortable and can be embarrassing but it's important to remember that herpes is more common than people think, according to the CDC, More than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes. Testing is essential for the proper diagnosis as you might be exposed to more serious STDs.
Tenderness will follow as the sores heal and skin goes back to normal, it's best to avoid harsh detergents, soaps, perfumes, and non-medicated lotions at this time.
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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.