Herpes Symptoms in Females

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by both type one and two of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2). Because symptoms are often mild, Epigee.org estimates as many as 60 percent of those infected fail to notice them. Education about the disease and its symptoms is important because herpes can spread rapidly and can cause health problems in the babies of pregnant mothers with herpes. If left untreated herpes can cause serious health problems in even healthy adults, and according to epigee.org approximately one-quarter of women with herpes will develop meningitis as a complication of their first herpes outbreak.


Many women experience a tingling sensation during their first herpes outbreak, which usually lasts approximately three weeks, according to womenshealth.gov. This sensation usually is felt around the genital area, the buttocks and thighs between seven and 14 days following exposure. Small clusters of tiny red bumps may also appear in these areas as well as places that are harder to spot–particularly the vulva, cervix, urethra and anus.

Vaginal Symptoms

In addition to tingling sensations, many women experience vaginal discharge along with a painful or burning sensation during urination. Womenhealth.gov lists the feeling of pressure below the abdomen as an additional female herpes symptom, and Epigee.org estimates that ten to 15% of women will experience difficulty urinating during a herpes outbreak. Because these symptoms mimic those of other common female conditions, many mistake herpes symptoms for urinary tract or yeast infections. For this reason if vaginal discharge or discomfort is persistent, it may be wise to consider ruling out herpes as the source.

Blistering & Sores

As the outbreak progresses over the next two to three weeks, the red bumps that first appear in herpes outbreaks will evolve to become blisters. These will quickly rupture, leaving open sores that can be itchy and painful while oozing. Once these sores dry out, they heal quickly and do not leave a scar. The itching and pain also stop once the sore heals.

Flu-like Symptoms

Seventy percent of women develop flu-like symptoms during a herpes outbreak, according to the University of Maryland Medical System website. These can include head, muscle and body aches, fever, and swollen neck and/or groin glands.

About this Author

Based in Charlotte, N.C., Virginia Franco has more than 15 years’ experience freelance writing. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the education magazine “My School Rocks” and Work.com. Franco has a master’s degree in social work with an emphasis in health care from the University of Maryland, and a journalism degree from the University of Richmond.