People usually discover that they have herpes when they develop lesions in the genital area. For many, the first infection is the longest (up to 6 weeks) and the most painful, frequently accompanied by fever. After this first infection, some may never experience another outbreak and others may experience many. It seems to be quite random, especially when you consider that when people are given blood tests, it would appear that many more people have evidence of the virus in their systems, but have never experienced typical symptoms.
Once a person has become infected with the herpes virus, the virus itself hides in the body. It stays with us and we only know about it when we have outbreaks. The herpes simplex virus isn’t the only virus that stays in the body once we have been exposed to it – both chicken pox and glandular fever stay with us as well – but it certainly seems to be the one that people make the biggest fuss about.
How long does an initial herpes outbreak last?
The short answer is about 6 weeks for an initial outbreak, and 2 weeks for recurrent outbreaks.
A few days before an outbreak, you might experience itching, tingling or a burning of the skin. The first real symptoms of your first outbreak normally appear between 2-14 days after getting infected, although in some people it may take much longer (sometimes even years).
Infection usually appears as a group of small and painful blisters. There is reddishness around the blisters and the fluid in the blisters can be either cloudy or clear. The blisters are very fragile and are prone to break very easily causing open sores.
After 2-3 days there is a scab formation on the open sores or ulcers, which is the start of the heeling process. It is very important, that the infected person does not peel off the scab. In a primary outbreak, the healing process can take up to six weeks, but in recurrent outbreaks this is usually limited to about one week.
As the new skin grows under the scab, the scab starts getting harder and if it is peeled off at this point of time, then the new skin that is being formed may not grow properly. If the herpes lesion is not pricked and peeled, then it may often heal without any scarring. If the lesions are pricked, then there may be scarring left behind.
Many people experience a recurrence of the disease after the initial outbreak. Though the symptoms are not as bad as the first attack, you still have to take adequate precautions. Any lowered immunity due to stress; being continuously tired and being sick can cause relapse of Herpes Simplex.