What will I see or feel if I have genital herpes?

This will depend on whether this is your first outbreak or if it is a recurrent infection. First outbreaks are referred to as primary and are not common on the vulva. With primary infections the skin of the area becomes red and swollen and covered with groups of blisters of varying sizes. These will rapidly break open leaving small, raw ulcers that can be very painful with burning and irritation. It can be so severe that passing urine becomes painful. The lymph nodes in your groin may be swollen and you may have a fever with muscle aches, headaches and flu-like symptoms that will resolve in a week or so.

Symptoms of recurrent infection are milder and do not last as long. There may be a fever but usually there is tingling and irritation at the site of the infection, which is usually close to the original infection. There often are just a few blisters that will break down into sore ulcers that will heal. This episode lasts just a few days to one week – much shorter than the primary infection discussed above. You may have a minor fever or “flu-like” symptoms. Many of these recurrent outbreaks are minor, non-specific and are often mistaken for the various problems listed above. It is the repeated pattern that is the best clue to the diagnosis.