When infected with the herpes simplex virus (HSV), you won't see any signs of the illness right away. The virus lays dormant in your body for about three to seven days before any visible symptoms occur.
What are the Physical Symptoms of Herpes?
After the incubation period (that lasts for three to seven days), you will find a lesion on your skin. This lesion can develop into a group of blisters on a red base that are itchy and tingly. These blisters usually last for about seven days to two weeks before drying up. During the healing of the blisters, they will open up, forming into ulcers that are itchy and painful to the touch. From the time of itchiness to the drying period, the HSV is highly contagious. Even after the lesions have healed, the skin can shed off the virus, which can spread to others who come in contact.
Sometimes you will feel the itching and tingly feelings days or hours before the blisters appear. This is called prodrome.
Where do the Lesions Appear?
There are two types of the herpes virus, type one and type two. Type one herpes only has blisters that occur above the waist, such as oral cold sores or other lesions on the face or other places of the body. Type two herpes occur under the waist, usually in the form of genital herpes , but can also appear on the thighs, anus and buttocks. Both types of the herpes simplex virus can appear on any part of your body.
How can you know for Sure if you have Herpes?
Of course, going to the doctor is the surest way to know if you have herpes or not. A lot of times canker sores are confused with herpes. These canker sores are small, round gray bumps that appear on the body and are not contagious. Sometimes herpes will come in the form of one blister and other times will come in a group.
Studies also show that those who come in to the doctor's office with painful blisters, 80% of them are tested positive with the herpes virus. The other 20% are tested negative, but often times the test will be false. There's never a false-positives, but there are occurrences of false-negatives due to the latent characteristics of the virus. Sometimes it takes a while to detect the virus, even after the blisters occur. The doctor can take fluid from the blister on your skin and run a test that is much more accurate.
Recurrences of Genital Herpes
Recurrence varies in each person. Some people with the herpes virus experience outbreaks every couple of years, multiple times a year or never again. There are some factors that can trigger a herpes outbreak such as the following:
- Suppression of the immune system caused by drugs such as steroids, chemotherapy or infections like HIV and AIDS
- Friction from vigorous sexual intercourse
The amount of recurrences for each person varies, depending on the strength of their immune system. It is important to boost your immune system to help prevent herpes outbreaks from developing.