What Are the Effects of Herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted viral infection. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). HSV-2 is the most common cause of genital herpes; it is spread through contact with fluids in the genitals or mouth. In the United States, one out of every four women and one out of every eight men are infected with HSV-2, notes Medline Plus. There is not yet a cure for genital herpes.

Itchy and Painful Skin

One effect of a genital herpes infection may be an itchy and painful burning feeling on the skin around the genitals. This is a precursor to the blisters that will appear on the skin during an outbreak of genital herpes.


Tiny, painful, fluid-filled blisters are a symptom of a genital herpes infection. In women they will be located on the labia, cervix, anus, vagina, thighs and buttocks. In men the blisters will be on the penis, anus, scrotum, buttocks or thighs.

Skin Ulcers

Painful ulcers may develop on the skin after herpes-related blisters open. The ulcers will develop a crust and take about 7 to 14 days to heal.

Psychological Upset

Psychological upset is a common effect of genital herpes, notes the Centers for Disease Control. The symptoms of the first outbreak are often severe and distressing. Counseling may help mitigate this condition.


Herpes may affect body temperature by causing a fever. The fever often grows more intense as the outbreak of blisters fully develops.

Muscle Pain

Muscle pain in the thighs, knees, buttocks and lower back occurs with genital herpes. The muscle pain is most intense while the blisters are present.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Tender, swollen lymph nodes in the groin can result from genital herpes. This often occurs during an outbreak of blisters. Also, the area below the abdomen may feel different from usual during a herpes outbreak; there may be a sensation of pressure in the area, notes WomensHealth.gov.

Urinary Problems

Urinary difficulty and pain while urinating are side effects of herpes. Women may also experience a vaginal discharge. If a herpes outbreak causes severe pain and limits your ability to urinate, contact your doctor.

Transmission at Birth

A pregnant mother may transmit the herpes virus to her baby at birth, although this is rare. The infection can be fatal to the baby.

About this Author

Julia Bodeeb worked on staff in medical book/journal publishing for over a decade as a reporter, managing editor, and book acquisitions. She is now a writer at Bright Hub, Associated Content, and Seed. Ms. Bodeeb has a B.A. in English and postgraduate credits in psychology and law. She won a Pulitzer Center Global Issues/Citizen Voices Award in 2008.