The question “What does herpes look like?” is a difficult one to answer because the visible symptoms of the disease do not appear the same in every individual. Furthermore, other sexually transmitted diseases can produce symptoms that appear similar to a genital herpes outbreak. For these reasons, if you suspect that you may have been infected with genital herpes (also known as the HSV-2 virus), diagnosis by a physician is the only sure way to know.
With all of that said, there are several relatively common, visible signs of a herpes infection. The potentially infected individual must keep in mind, however, that these symptoms can only be seen during an outbreak. One must also be aware that it is possible to experience an outbreak without showing physical symptoms.
The most common visible signs of a herpes outbreak are:
Redness and swelling on, or around, the genitals
The sudden appearance of reddened, swollen patches of skin on our around the genitalia can be indicative that a herpes outbreak is taking place. This symptom will usually be accompanied by burning, itchiness and/or a tingling sensation.
Fluid-filled blisters on the genitals, thighs, buttocks or groin
The best-known physical symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak, these blisters are what most people describe when asked “What does herpes look like?” The blisters initially emerge quite small and filled with clear fluid. As the breakout progresses over a period of several days, they will become larger, begin growing into each other in small clusters, turn reddish in color and cause irritation and discomfort in the surrounding tissue.
Draining ulcers on, or around, the genitals, thighs, buttocks or groin
The final stage of a genital herpes breakout, ulcers develop as blisters burst and drain. While it is unlikely that this would be the first symptom noticed by a person experiencing an outbreak, it is possible because many infected individuals do not experience significant initial discomfort when blisters begin to form. Should a small blister burst, the sudden appearance of an ulcer may be the first warning that an outbreak has begun.
Small, reddish bumps in the same area where an outbreak is likely to occur
To reiterate a point made at the outset of this article, the visible symptoms of herpes do not necessarily appear the same in every individual. While most would answer “blisters” to the question of “What does herpes look like”, it is just as possible that “small, reddish bumps” (which can often be confused for insect bites) could be the appropriate response. Because herpes blisters can form beneath the skin, as well as above it, these small bumps can be an indication that an outbreak is taking place.
Should you begin exhibiting any of these visible symptoms, you should get yourself checked out by a trusted physician. While they may very well be an indication that you have contracted genital herpes, they could also be something more dangerous.
Syphilis, for one, can cause blisters similar to genital herpes and, if left untreated, can create severe health risks. On the other hand, there are several relatively harmless skin irritations that a nervous individual may mistake for a primary herpes outbreak.
In short, there is no definitive answer to the question “What does herpes look like?” If you experience any of the aforementioned physical symptoms, it is imperative that you see a physician and submit to a test. This is only definite way to determine whether you are infected by the virus or something else.