What does it look or feel like?

First of all, if you think you might have contracted herpes, see your doctor immeditately. Don't delay - some diagnostic procedures become less reliable the longer you wait to seek treatment. Also, many people who contract herpes don't experience any symtoms. Blood tests can help detect if the virus is present and if it's active.

It's important to recognize the symptoms that indicate an outbreak to prevent exposure of the virus to other people, as well as to help your body begin to fight it. The first, initital outbreak is generally the worst and usually lasts about two to three weeks, depending on the individual. In time, outbreaks tend to become less intense and shorter in duration.

After contracting the HSV II virus, symptoms may appear within the first 48 hours to two weeks. The first signs are normally the "prodrome" - the sensation of mild tingling, numbness, itching or burning where an outbreak will occur. In men, this is generally on or around the penis - in women, on and around the external genitalia (labia, perirectal skin).

In men, the testicles and groin area may be tender - in women, the upper, inner thighs may feel tender. In both sexes, there may also be soreness or tenderness in the lymph nodes (located in the groin area). Also common are flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, muscle aches and swollen glands. The prodrome generally lasts a day or two before lesions appear.

Visual Symptoms - Lesions - top
For both men and women, watery blisters will form in the infected areas, appearing at first like small white rings. Women may notice watery discharge and pain during urination. For women, blisters will occur on the external genitalia as well as inside the vagina and cervix. Rarely, men can experience lesions inside the urinary tube.

The blisters form, then rupture and finally form a scab, the last stage. Soon the skin heals and scabs disappear. Lesions can lasts a few days to a week or more. When active lesions are present, the herpes virus is most contagious. Great care must be taken to keep hands and towels clean (and sterilized) during this stage to prevent cross infection to other areas of the body or to other people.

Final Stage - Healing
When sores are completely healed, the infection may appear to be over, but it's still possible to transmit the virus by asymptomatic viral shedding. Once healed, there are usually no scars from the blisters. After the outbreak, the virus retreats into the nerves and lies dormant. During the outbreak, your body will develop antibodies that should helf fend off future outbreaks.





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