What are the signs and symptoms of genital herpes?

Updated: Mar 17, 2020
  • Author: Sean P McGregor, DO, PharmD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Primary herpes genitalis occurs within 2 days to 2 weeks after exposure to the virus and has the most severe clinical manifestations. Symptoms of the primary episode typically last 2-3 weeks.

In men, painful, erythematous, vesicular lesions that ulcerate most commonly occur on the penis, but they can also occur on the anus and the perineum. In women, primary herpes genitalis presents as vesicular/ulcerated lesions on the cervix and as painful vesicles on the external genitalia bilaterally. They can also occur on the vagina, the perineum, the buttocks, and, at times, the legs in a sacral nerve distribution. Associated symptoms include fever, malaise, edema, inguinal lymphadenopathy, dysuria, and vaginal or penile discharge.

Females may also have lumbosacral radiculopathy, and as many as 25% of women with primary HSV-2 infections may have associated aseptic meningitis.

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