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Last updated: Apr 29, 2020
2 min read

Genital herpes in men: symptoms and treatment

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Medically Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Written by Health Guide Team

Table of Contents

  1. Genital herpes symptoms in men

Disclaimer

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.

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.

References

  1. Berger, J. R., & Houff, S. (2008). Neurological Complications of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 Infection. Archives of Neurology, 65(5). doi: 10.1001/archneur.65.5.596. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/795486 
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, January 31). STD Facts – Genital Herpes (Detailed version). Retrieved April 29, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes-detailed.htm