Herpes can occur in two types, affecting the oral cavity and genitals. Even though the areas affected are different, the outbreak stages are different. Knowing and understanding outbreak signs will help you in determining when and how to avoid the most uncomfortable outbreak side effects.
Herpes infections are caused by the Herpes Simplex virus. The same Simplex virus may create infections of two types, either oral or genital. In the majority of cases, HSV-1 causes oral herpes and HSV-2 causes genital herpes. Actually, though, either HSV-1 or HSV-2 can affect both parts of the body.
Oral herpes will cause blisters to form in the area around your mouth. Actually, over 50% of adults in the US have had some level of oral herpes, which was in most cases brought on by HSV-1. Some people contract this type of herpes as a child, receiving kisses from relatives or friends.
Genital herpes causes blisters that are similar to those of oral herpes, but they are found in the areas of the genitals or buttocks.
Stages of Oral Herpes
Stage 1 – Prodome
When the herpes virus comes into contact with your skin, you will usually feel a tingling or tightening sensation, and the skin will begin to redden in the areas around your mouth. After one to two days, your skin may begin to feel itchy or irritated. Some people also have pain in the area affected.
Stage 2 – Swelling & Inflammation
If you don’t detect the herpes virus in the prodome stage, you may fail to have your infection treated in a timely enough manner to prevent an outbreak. If you don’t have the outbreak treated, the area around the mouth will soon start to become swollen and inflamed, although this isn’t always visible.
Stage 3 – Formation of Blisters
The swollen and affected area around the mouth will start developing reddish, small bumps that will become fluid-filled blisters. The blisters may be clear, red or white and may be single or in a cluster. They are quite sensitive, and usually last for about two days.
Stage 4 – Ulceration
During this stage, those blisters in the mouth area will burst. The liquid will ooze, which causes the formation of wet ulcers. The wet types of blisters are red, and may appear like small cuts. They are very sensitive. Although this stage usually lasts for just a day, it’s also the outbreak’s most painful time.
Stage 5 – Scab or Crust
In this stage, the sores start healing and will develop crusts on the top. They harden into scabs. Underneath those scabs, new skin forms within two to three days. This causes dryness, pain or itchiness. As your new skin grows in, your scabs will crack and often bleed.
Stage 6 – Completion of Healing
In the next several days, the scabs will fall off your herpes blisters and you’ll see fresh and virus-free skin there. If you pull the scabs off before the wounds heal, you may develop scars. If this happens, you can use ointment to fade the discoloration.
Stages of Genital Herpes
You should note first that genital herpes has different effects on different people. Your symptoms may vary, as may their severity. You might not even develop any blisters in the outbreak period.
The symptoms you personally experience are dependent on your immune system’s reaction to the herpes virus. You need to learn about the various symptoms you may expect so you know how to protect yourself and your partners if an outbreak occurs.
Stage 1 – Prodome
During this stage, the virus is quite active within the skin, and moving upward toward the skin surface, preparing to bring on an outbreak.
At this time, you’re contagious to other people. You may experience:
- Itching or tingling in affected area
- Pain during urination
- Pain down buttocks and then legs
- Vaginal discharge
Viral shedding also occurs during this stage. That means your skin cells in the area all contain the herpes virus, and others can become infected by them. This stage may last for up to seven days before true symptoms appear. That’s why many people spread herpes to others and don’t realize it.
Stage 2 – Skin Redness
The skin that is affected by the herpes virus will become red and sensitive. These areas may rise up, as well. This is caused by the herpes virus pushing toward the surface. This stage usually lasts for one to four days, and you are still very contagious.
Stage 3 – Formation of Blisters
At this point, blisters start their appearance on your skin. You may see single blisters or clusters of them, in the genital area. As they grow, they fill with virus-filled fluid. This herpes stage lasts between two and six days. It can be quite painful. Wear clothes that are comfortable and loose, and don’t engage in any activity that irritates the affected area in this stage.
Stage 4 – Lesions
As your lesions grow, the herpes virus reaches its peak, making you very contagious. The blisters open and release their fluid, and it will be necessary to work constantly, making sure to keep the affected area clean and dry.
You may experience pain when you urinate, sit or shower. Wear soft cotton underwear to minimize the discomfort. Do not engage in any sexual contact in this stage. Do not touch the affected area unless you have to. These blisters may remain open for one to four days.
Stage 5 – Herpes Scabs
When your blisters are done draining, the sores will dry out and scab over. Some of the blisters will not have any scabs develop – they will just reduce in size and color until they heal.
Scabs can remain on the sores for a few days. Don’t touch them or pick at them, or you could leave scars.
Stage 6 – Complete Healing
When your scabs all fall off and the blisters have all faded, your skin will be healed. You may still notice a red appearance, but that will fade as you continue to recover. The full healing time may be from three days to one week. Avoid intercourse during this time, so you don’t spread the infection.