What Does Herpes Look Like? PDF  | Print |  E-mail

What does herpes look like? What herpes looks like depends on the type of herpes.  Herpes is caused by a virus called "herpes simplex" which has two variations, Herpes Type 1 and Herpes Type 2.  As many as 80% of US adults have one form of herpes or the other, although many don't know it.  The herpes virus is transmitted only by skin-to-skin contact, and normally only while the infected person is suffering an outbreak.  These outbreaks last anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks and are typically more frequent immediately following infection.

The herpes virus stays in the body for life and there is currently no known cure for this very infectious disease.  There are clinical trials for a herpes vaccine in progress but clinical administrators have had limited success so far.  Research is continuing and there are some promising indicators.  Research conducted within the last 20 years has shown that antiviral treatment can reduce the rate of infection by over 50%.  These antiviral medications can interfere with how the herpes virus reproduces and gives the immune system a greater chance to react.

What does Herpes Type 1 look like? This type of herpes, often called "oral herpes" or "HSV-1", looks like cold sores or fever blisters on the mouth.  Oral herpes can be transmitted by kissing, even a casual, quick kiss.  It is estimated that 50% to 80% of the adults in the US are infected with oral herpes.

What Does Herpes Look Like?


What does Herpes Type 2 look like? Called "genital herpes" or "HSV-2", this second type of herpes usually looks like small groups of blisters which will pop and scab over during an outbreak.  On a man, herpes looks like blisters on the penis, scrotum and urethra.  On a female, herpes looks like blisters on the vagina and vulva.  Herpes on both men and women can appear on the anus, buttocks and thighs.  Genital herpes may sometimes be mistaken for pimples, mosquito bites, razor burn, jock itch, hemorrhoids or a yeast infection.

What does herpes look like on a female


Frequently, because herpes outbreaks look similar no testing is necessary, however an infection can be determined for sure by one of any number of lab tests.  If you believe you may have contracted one of the herpes variants, abstain from any activity that may transmit the virus and seek the advice of your health care professional right away.  Proper treatment can reduce the frequency and symptoms of an outbreak as well as cut down the chances of infecting others.