Herpes is an unfortunately common infection which plagues a lot of people. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that approximately 2 in every 3 people under 50 years of age are currently infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Herpes simplex 1 generally displays no symptoms, and additionally, causes no serious health complications. Most people don’t even realize they have the herpes virus inside them.
There is one other type of herpes, herpes simplex virus type 2. HSV-2 plagues nearly 500 million people between the ages of 15 and 49, according to WHO. Combine those statistics, and you see that more than 4.5 billion people between the ages of 15 and 50 have some type of herpes. Herpes simplex 2, like its less serious but equally frustrating and socially inhibiting simplex 1, is usually the cause for genital herpes, while HSV-1 most often appears around the mouth, creating oral herpes.
It should be noted that either of the two herpes strains can cause genital or oral herpes, depending on how the virus was contracted. As far as symptoms go, there are plenty of similarities and differences between men and women, depending upon the type of herpes infection.
Herpes Symptoms for Men
The most common symptom of oral herpes in men is blisters or sores. One or more blisters, often appearing in a cluster, will appear on or around the lips or mouth. They can create different levels of pain, and if the virus is not treated, oral herpes can cause swollen and tender lymph glands in the neck and under the arms. If the immunity of the infected male is very weak for whatever reason, difficulties can lead to flu symptoms, headaches, muscle aches and fever, and in extreme cases, the virus can move up into the eyes and the nervous system.
Genital herpes symptoms for men include the same types of blisters and sores, as well as the other signs of herpes just mentioned. Additionally, pain during urination or sex, pain in the upper thigh area, itching and burning around the infection site and fatigue are sometimes experienced. Less common symptoms include complications which lead to encephalitis, eye infections, meningitis and eczema.
Herpes Symptoms for Women
The symptoms of oral herpes in women mimic those just discussed for men. Painful blisters will appear on the lips or around the mouth, and they can lead to the complications just discussed for males who are infected with oral herpes. Women experiencing herpes in the genitals, anus or buttocks area may experience pain in the upper legs or genitals, a dramatic change in vaginal discharge, headaches and swollen glands, and a feeling of itching and tingling in and around the infection site.
After a few days of a genital herpes outbreak, a woman may experience ulcers and blisters near the infected area, but also in the urinary tract and on other parts of the body where the virus has migrated. Complications of genital herpes for women include transmittal to a newborn during pregnancy or delivery, bladder infections, encephalitis and meningitis, rectal inflammation, and an improved risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases at the infection site.
If there is any good news regarding herpes, it is this … in 2 out of every 3 cases, there are no symptoms, physical or otherwise. Most people with the herpes virus never suffer any negative effects because of it. However, it is important to understand that even if you don’t show symptoms, whether you are a woman or a man, you can pass the virus to others. If you have never been tested for herpes and other STDs, considering getting a test soon. Simple lab tests will reveal whether or not you are infected with the herpes virus.