The incurable sexually transmitted disease, genital herpes, has three stages. The herpes sores will go through their own stages.
These are the three stages that the genital herpes virus will go through:
1. Primary stage-outbreak
2. Latent stage-virus travels
3. Shedding stage-virus multiplies
This stage of genital herpes usually starts 2 to 8 days after infection occurs. For some who are infected with genital herpes, the primary stage can take much longer to begin. Commonly, the infection causes groups of small, painful blisters in the genital area, buttocks area, and/or thighs. The fluid in the genital herpes blisters may be clear or cloudy. Under the blisters it can be red and the blisters break open easily. The open blisters quickly become open sores and the blistering stage may go unnoticed.
Other symptoms of genital herpes may occur during the primary stage. This would include pain during urination or during a bowl movement due to the location of tender blisters or sores. There may be flu-like symptoms, fever, and body aches.
Usually the primary stage of infection is pronounced and painful, but some people infected with genital herpes don't have any symptoms at all, and may not even know they're infected.
There are no blisters, sores, or other symptoms of genital herpes during the latent stage. During this stage of genital herpes, the virus is traveling from the skin into the nerves near the spine.
This is the genital herpes stage that the virus starts multiplying in the nerves. The herpes virus can then get into body fluids, like saliva, semen, or vaginal fluids during the shedding stage. This stage of herpes has no symptoms, but the virus can still be spread during sexual contact. For those who don’t realize that they are infected with genital herpes and are not taking precautions, the virus can spread quickly to any of their partners.
Genital herpes sores go through the following stages:
• Redness may be seen in a small area of skin. This area may be sensitive, itchy, or painful to the touch. If it is in an area where there is hair, the redness may not be noticeable.
• If the outbreak is in an area where the skin is easily seen, there may be a small area of swelling. Often the swelling is unnoticed.
• Small blisters filled with fluid (clear, whitish, or red) will erupt from on top of the area that had the redness and/or swelling. There may be one blister, a few blisters, or groups of blisters. The outbreak may be so mild that it goes unnoticed.
• Wet ulcers (open sores) appear when the tops of the blisters come off. They may look like red, swollen areas, or small cuts. These sores may feel tender and/or raw to the touch. Outbreaks vary and may only be one tiny sore, a group of sores, or several large ulcers.
• Dry crust (scab) forms over the sore when it begins to heal. The crust hardens as the sore dries. New skin forms under the scab.
• Healing is considered complete when the scab falls off or the sore dries without forming a crust or a scab. The area where the sore appeared may be red or look different than the surrounding skin. It is uncommon, but sometimes there will be a scar where the scab was.
No matter what the stage that genital herpes is at, it cannot be cured. There are treatments to relieve the symptoms of herpes and reduce the risks of transmission.