Female Herpes
How to Recognize and Treat This Disease

Female Herpes overview: The Genital HSV-2 infection is more common in women (approximately one out of five women 14 to 49 years of age) than in men (about one out of nine men 14 to 49 years of age).

Transmission from an infected male to his female partner is more likely than from an infected female to her male partner. 


Female Genital Herpes Symptoms

During the first or primary herpes outbreak, women experience more intense symptoms, more pain and a higher rate of complications than their male counterparts do.

On the other hand, symptoms may be mild or unnoticeable. In fact, a mild rash or one or two tiny pimples may appear and be mistaken for insect bites.

The good news is that the primary outbreak is the worst episode you will have to endure. The bad news is that you can have several outbreaks a year.

An active outbreak starts off as a rash, itching, and the appearance of small blisters in the genital region, thighs or buttocks.

Typically the herpes blisters cluster, forming a number of larger vesicles. They then suppurate, burst, and turn into shallow open sores.

In addition, headaches and flu-like symptoms often accompany the genital lesions during the first outbreak. Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the groin are also common.

If the herpes lesions extend to the cervix, urethra or the inside walls of the vagina (as opposed to external infection), pelvic pain, vaginal discharge, and painful or difficult urination are likely to follow.

A day or two after the lesions appear they crust over. Finally, the scabs flake off within about a week to 10 days without leaving scars.

Some women are more susceptible to the virus than others. Consequently, during the primary outbreak, they will suffer a second bout of herpes sores before the episode is resolved.


Female Herpes - Prodromal Symptoms

Warning or "prodromal" symptoms usually occur from a few hours to a couple of days before an outbreak. You may feel a distinctive tingling, itchiness or pain in the area where the lesions are about to appear. This is the time to start antiviral treatment (see below).

Unfortunately, some sufferers may never experience these early warning signs.


Female Herpes - Diagnosis

Woman experiencing internal outbreaks sometimes mistake their symptoms for a yeast infection, vaginitis or pelvic inflammatory disease. This could exacerbate the spreading of genital herpes if they are not aware that they are HSV positive.

If you suspect that you have contracted the disease, see your primary healthcare provider for a diagnosis. In addition, you should arrange for a type-specific serologic tests, such as the HerpeSelect® HSV-1 and HSV-2 ELISA test or the Western Blot test. 


Herpes Treatment

Primary Female Herpes
Primary Female Genital Herpes

Primary Outbreak Treatment:

Your doctor will treat the primary outbreak with a 7 to 10 day course of antiviral medication, such as:

  • Valtrex. (Valacyclovir)
  • Zovirax. (Acyclovir)
  • Famvir. (Famiciclovir). 

Please note: The single dose version of Famvir is not recommended for primary outbreak treatment.

The primary outbreak will usually last 2 to 3 weeks. The pain will often subside after about a week, however, it can sometimes persist for up to 6 weeks.

Over-the-counter pain relievers and sensible home treatment procedures should accompany antiviral therapy.

Many patients report good results from using homeopathic medication such as Dynamiclear topical treatment or the Herpeset™ oral spray. 

Recurrent Female Herpes
Recurrent Female Genital Herpes

Episodic Treatment:

According to a recent CDC study, a 3-day course of valacyclovir (500 mg twice daily) is as effective as the standard 5-day regimen prescribed by most physicians.

Suppressive Therapy

If you experience 6 or more episodes a year, your doctor may recommend daily suppressive antiviral therapy.

If this is the case, it is advisable to have your condition checked out once a year, as herpes symptoms tend to diminish with the passage of time. In many cases, they disappear altogether after several years.




Office of Population Affairs: Genital Herpes Fact Sheet


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