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Last updated April 29, 2020. 2 minute read

Genital herpes in men: symptoms and treatment

In men, 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.

Written by Health Guide
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

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.

Vitals

  • Just over 8% of men have HSV-2 infection, while about 16% of women have it.
  • Genital herpes is often a silent infection. It is estimated that 85–90% of cases may be undiagnosed.
  • 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.
  • Subsequent outbreaks typically have less severe symptoms without fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes, and outbreaks tend to become less frequent with time.

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:

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Prescription genital herpes treatment

 Talk with a doctor about how to treat and suppress outbreaks before the first symptom.

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  • 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.