Genital herpes in men: symptoms and treatment

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM - Contributor Avatar

Written by Health Guide Team 

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM - Contributor Avatar

Written by Health Guide Team 

last updated: Apr 29, 2020

1 min read

Here's what we'll cover

  1. Genital herpes symptoms in men

Genital herpes is a common, sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-2 infection impacts about 12% of people aged 14–49 in the U.S. It is a bit less common in men than in women—just over 8% of men have HSV-2 infection, while about 16% of women have it (CDC, 2017). That doesn’t mean men don’t have to worry about genital herpes, though.

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Genital herpes symptoms in men

Often, genital herpes is a silent infection, and it is estimated that 85–90% of cases may be undiagnosed (Berger, 2008). So, even if you are infected with HSV-2, you may never experience an outbreak and, therefore, may never know you have it. This can be a problem because you can infect others even when you are asymptomatic.

If you do know you have genital herpes and/or you’ve already experienced an outbreak, there are some common symptoms you can expect when you have an outbreak:

  • The most common characterizing symptom of a genital herpes outbreak is the presence of open sores (also called ulcers) on and around the penis, testicles, and/or anus.

  • Typically, the first outbreak is the most severe, and you may experience fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes in addition to the ulcers.

  • Subsequent outbreaks typically have less severe symptoms without fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes, and outbreaks tend to become less frequent with time.

  • It’s not uncommon to experience pain or tingling in the penis, testicles, anus, and/or legs prior to an outbreak. This is called the prodrome, and it’s the best time to start taking antivirals to abort an episode or shorten it.


If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

April 29, 2020

Written by

Health Guide Team

Fact checked by

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

About the medical reviewer

Dr. Mike is a licensed physician and a former Director, Medical Content & Education at Ro.