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Symptoms of Herpes in Women

written by: Jessica Bello • edited by: BStone • updated: 10/17/2010

Many women with herpes do not experience any symptoms. Those that do often mistake them for acne or the flu. Learn how to recognize female herpes symptoms and when to consult your physician.

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    Many women with genital herpes do not experience any symptoms when they are first infected. The female herpes symptoms might not appear until after a few months or even years after being exposed to the herpes virus. The majority of women also ignore the first symptoms of genital herpes as it usually start as a small rash in the vaginal area and the rash is often mistaken for a pimple or acne.

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    Female Herpes Symptoms

    If the initial herpes outbreak occurs soon after infection, the symptoms can be quite pronounced. The predominant herpes symptoms are painful, itching blisters filled with fluid around the vaginal area. Apart from blisters around the vaginal area, there might also be sores on the buttocks, thighs, vulva and opening of the anus. Other symptoms include vaginal discharge, painful urination, swollen glands, lower back pain and muscle aches. Flu-like symptoms, such as headache, fever and fatigue, may also accompany these outbreaks. The first outbreak typically happens two weeks after being exposed to the herpes virus, and it usually takes around two to four weeks for the sores to heal without treatment.

    Women that are diagnosed with herpes can expect to have four to five outbreaks within the first two years. The first outbreak is usually the worst and after that the herpes outbreaks and severity of the condition usually decreases. The female herpes symptoms can often be efficiently controlled by anti-viral medication.

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    Recurrent Herpes Outbreaks

    Herpes is a chronic illness that can be treated, but it cannot be cured. The virus lies dormant in nerve cells and can be reactivated by stress, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or an illness. Many women learn how to recognize the symptoms of when another outbreak is going to happen. They might get a warning such as a tingling sensation of the approaching herpes outbreak. It is when they feel that an outbreak is going to happen that they are the most contagious, even though there are no genital warts showing yet. The infection is contagious until the sores are completely healed. Recurrent outbreaks are often shorter than the first outbreak and the symptoms are usually less severe.

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    When to Contact the Doctor

    Seek medical advice as soon as you experience any symptoms of herpes as it is more easily and accurately diagnosed while symptoms are present. If you are pregnant and experience any symptoms, it is very important that you contact your doctor as soon as possible as you might have to be referred for specialist treatment. There is a possibility that the mother can pass the virus to her unborn baby. You should also be referred for specialist treatment if you have a weakened immune system.

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    Sources

    Medicinnet: Genital Herpes in Women - http://www.medicinenet.com/genital_herpes_in_women

    NHS: Information about Genital Herpes - http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Genital-herpes

    Royal College of Gynaecologists - http://www.rcog.org.uk