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What are the Herpes Stages?

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What are the Herpes Stages?

writtenByWritten by: Leah McCabe
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Reviewer

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.

June 14, 2021 Read Time - 4 minutes

What are the Herpes Stages?

An outbreak of herpes, oral or genital, can show no symptoms or has a progression of blister development and healing.

The various herpes stages include:

1. The prodrome stage with itching and tingling

2. The development of blisters

3. The development of ulcers

4. The healing of ulcers



Let’s take a closer look at the various herpes outbreak stages and examine what happens during each of them.

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1. The Prodrome Stage

The first stage of herpes is the prodrome. The prodrome is a phase of herpes signs or symptoms that indicates the onset of an outbreak.

During this first stage of herpes, the virus is traveling to the surface of the skin. This might cause redness, itchiness, tingling, pain, or burning in and around the affected area. If the outbreak occurs inside the urethra or around the labia, painful urination can occur.

The prodrome stage is a period of symptoms that marks the onset of an outbreak, typically lasting several hours. During the prodrome of a herpes outbreak, some might experience flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, or swollen glands.

Pain can also occur in the legs, buttocks, or hips during the beginning stages of herpes. These symptoms are generally worse if it’s the patient’s first outbreak. Even though sores and blisters have not developed during the beginning stages of herpes, the skin is still highly contagious and remains contagious for the duration of the outbreak.


Read: Is There a Cure For Herpes?


2. The Blister Stage

What does a single herpes bump look like? Once the virus reaches the surface of the skin, blisters begin to form.

Blisters from the herpes virus begin as small red bumps that become fluid-filled and range from clear to whitish-yellow in color. Bumps and blisters can be sensitive or painful. The blister stage is when red spots form, which soon become fluid-filled blisters. The skin around the blister appears red, and blisters commonly form in clusters.

The appearance of blisters from herpes can be similar to pimples, ingrown hairs, jock itch, or razor burn. Because of these similarities, herpes is frequently mistaken for one of these other conditions. Fever-like symptoms can continue through this part of the herpes stages, but only if an outbreak is associated with the initial infection.


Read: How Long Does a Herpes Outbreak Last?


3. The Ulcer Stage

Eventually, the blisters break and drain. When this occurs, open sores called ulcers form at the site of the blister.

Initially, ulcers look like pink or red craters that ooze fluid or more rarely bleed. During this stage, the open sores are more uncomfortable or painful than preceding blisters.

Ulcers eventually accumulate  some whitish-yellow colored fluid. This material hardens and turns into a crust or scab. Crusts and scabs form by the area drying out, which doesn’t happen in wet areas, such as inside the mouth or genitals.

4. The Healing Stage

Ulcers can take a long time to heal. During an initial herpes outbreak, healing can take 2 to 4 weeks. Healing during subsequent outbreaks is usually quicker.

As ulcers crust and scab, they begin to heal from the outside in. Itchiness is a common symptom during this stage. The scab or crust may crack, possibly causing some bleeding to occur. After the scab is gone, the area may remain red for a while. Scarring can occur if the scabs are picked at.

At What Stage Is Herpes Contagious?

While herpes is contagious in every stage, it is the most contagious during the ulcer stage when blisters have burst and fluid is present. According to Planned Parenthood, “Herpes is spread from skin-to-skin contact with infected areas, often during vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex, and kissing.”

It is crucial to take measures to prevent the spread of herpes. These include using condoms and dental dams, refraining from sexual activity and touching, including kissing (for oral herpes), when you are experiencing an outbreak.

A great way to prevent herpes and the spread of herpes is by using prescription medication from a doctor. Wait until your sores have healed and the scabs have fallen off before having sex again. Don’t touch your sores, as this is an easy way to spread the virus.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Get a Prescription For Herpes Online Now

Are you experiencing any signs or symptoms of herpes? Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician to get a prescription treatment today.

Common medications our doctors can prescribe for herpes treatment are:

The typical telehealth appointment lasts an average of 15 minutes. If the doctor finds that you may benefit from prescription medication as a part of your herpes treatment plan, they will electronically send one to the pharmacy of your choice.


Read More About Herpes


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital Herpes. Accessed on May 20, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm

Planned Parenthood. Oral & Genital Herpes. Accessed on May 20, 2021 at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/herpes

Mayo Clinic. Genital Herpes. Accessed on May 20, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/genital-herpes/symptoms-causes/syc-20356161

Mayo Clinic. Cold Sore. Accessed on June 13, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cold-sore/symptoms-causes/syc-20371017

Family Doctor. What is Herpes? Accessed on June 13, 2021 at https://familydoctor.org/condition/herpes/ 

U.S. National Library of Medicine. DailyMed. Valtrex. Accessed on June 13, 2021 at https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=f8e0d8f8-cb73-4206-a484-88f5c4fbd719

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Famvir. Accessed on June 13, 2021 at https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/020363s037lbl.pdf

U.S. National Library of Medicine. DailyMed. Acyclovir Capsule, Acyclovir Tablet.. Accessed on June 13, 2021 at https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=d13b8cdd-59fd-472b-8125-a19f42ef5402

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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