Genital herpes most often appears as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. When these blisters burst they leave the tender sores known as ulcers. The first time a person has a herpes outbreak, the ulcers may take two to four weeks to heal. The next outbreaks may not occur for weeks, months, or even later. When they do, they usually are less severe than the first outbreak. Herpes infection doesn't go away, but the outbreaks tend to become less frequent over time.
The herpes virus stays in your body for the
rest of your life. After the first outbreak, it becomes
inactive. Then, in most people, it gets active again from
time to time, causing blisters and sores.
Some people have many outbreaks each year, while others have only a few
or none at all. People
who have symptoms average 5 outbreaks a year during the first few years.
Most have fewer outbreaks after that.
People report that certain things may trigger outbreaks, such as:
half of the people who have repeated outbreaks can feel one coming a few hours to a couple of days before it happens. They may
feel tingling, burning, itching, numbness, tenderness, or pain where the
blisters are about to appear.
People who have an
impaired immune system are more likely to have longer
and/or more severe outbreaks of genital herpes than people whose immune systems
Although it's rare, genital herpes can cause other health problems—some of them serious—if the virus travels to other parts of the body.
In rare cases, a newborn is infected with the herpes
virus during delivery. Because their
immune systems aren't fully developed,
newborns with herpes infection can have serious health
problems affecting many body systems. It may take up to 3 weeks after a newborn
is infected before he or she becomes ill.