Identifying Herpes Symptoms in Women: A Detailed Guide

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Identifying Herpes Symptoms in Women: A Detailed Guide



Updated on March 01, 2024

Medically verified by Dr. Arya

Fact checked by Dr. Pournami

 Herpes Symptoms in Women


10 min read

Herpes can affect men and women differently.

Are you a woman, and wondering how it could affect you, in case you have it? Or, do you already have it, and are curious to know what could be the impact?

Read on this guide, as here, Karepedia will break down what exactly you should look out for.

Whether you're trying to understand your own body or support someone you care about, this guide is here to explain things in a simple and clear way.

Let’s learn about the signs that might show up if you have herpes and why it's essential to catch it early. How to recognise and understand herpes symptoms, be aware of self care tips and treatments for women.

Let’s dive in.

What Is Genital Herpes?

Let’s do a quick recap of what Genital Herpes is. It is a viral infection caused by herpes simplex virus. There are 2 types of this virus. BOX

  • Herpes simplex 1 - causes sores or blisters over mouth or lips. It can also cause genital herpes.

  • Herpes simplex 2 - causes genital herpes.

  • HSV1 is more common than HSV2. Women are more commonly affected with herpes. Although herpes also can affect men.

  • It spreads via skin-to-skin contact with a person with herpes.

  • It can also spread through sexual contact and through saliva.

  • The virus enters the body through mucous membranes on the mouth, lips, vagina, labia.

  • It is easier to get infected with skin cuts or cracks. Greatest risk is when active sores are involved.

  • Transmission can also occur from mother to child during delivery. Neonatal herpes is a very deadly disease. Thus, the mother must be treated and cured for the same before the time of delivery. If you have active sores at the time of delivery, normal vaginal delivery is deferred. Caesarean section is preferred in such cases.

  • A weak immune system due to HIV, diabetes and other immune altering drugs can make it easier for the virus on its entry.

Signs of Genital Herpes

Most cases of herpes do not show up with any signs or have mild symptoms. This makes it difficult for the person to realise they have herpes. Thus, causing the spread of infection from person-to-person.

Symptoms occur within 2-3 weeks after exposure as painful blisters (cold sores) or open sores over the genitalia or around the mouth and lips. They may burst open to ooze pus and then lead to crusting. The crusts and scabs heal completely within 2-6 weeks.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat (Oral herpes)
  • Headache
  • Body pain
  • Swollen glands
  • Pain during urination

The virus stays latent in the nerve cells. When inactive, you may not experience any symptoms. When the virus is active, outbreaks occur.

Outbreaks are common in herpes. These episodes begin with tingling sensation, itching and pain. These are warning signs after which sores appear in that area. Pain always comes before the rash.

Luckily for most people, frequency and intensity of these outbreaks reduce over time.

Triggers for these outbreaks include:

  • Fever or other illness
  • Menstruation
  • Stress
  • Trauma or surgery
  • Sun exposure

Diagnosis of Herpes

Diagnosis is done mainly after a thorough history check and a clinical exam by your doctor. The discharge from the open sores can be then taken testing to confirm the diagnosis. A blood sample may also be taken to detect antibodies. Treatment of Herpes

How do you get treated for Herpes? Here you go.

  • Antivirals are used for treatment of Herpes - new and recurrent episodes.

  • Medicines commonly given include acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir.

  • Antivirals reduce the frequency and intensity of future outbreaks.

  • Painkillers include paracetamol or ibuprofen. Local application of lignocaine or benzocaine helps with numbing the pain.

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Self Care Tips to Manage Herpes

Here’s what you can do to help yourself.

  • Use Sunscreen as it helps with reducing triggers due to sunlight.

  • Take a sitz bath - sit in a tub with warm water for 20 mins.

  • Avoid tight fitting clothes.

  • Always use barrier methods of contraception - condoms, diaphragms, dental dams.

  • Avoid sex if symptomatic.

  • If you have oral herpes, avoid oral sex.

  • Do not share objects like toothbrushes, utensils, etc.

  • Male circumcision can help with long term but partial protection from HSV2, HIV and HPV.

  • If you happen to touch active sores, wash your hands immediately to prevent its spread.

  • Maintain hygiene.


  • Increased risk of acquiring HIV

  • Meningoencephalitis - a rare but serious infection of the brain caused by HSV2. HSV1 can affect the brain and eyes too.

  • Neonatal herpes - it can lead to long term neurological deformity in the child. In severe cases, it can even lead to death of the baby.

Key Takeaways

HSV-1 causes oral herpes. HSV-2 causes genital herpes.

HSV-1 is more common.

HSV is mostly asymptomatic but can present with painful sores in the mouth or lips (HSV-1) and genitals (HSV-2)

HSV is a recurring disease with frequent outbreaks.

Outbreaks reduce in intensity and frequency over time with adequate treatment.

Antivirals are a mainstay treatment.

Avoid sex when symptomatic.

Avoid oral sex when infected with HSV-1.

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