Common herpes simplex symptoms can have some variation because there are two common forms of the illness that lead to different symptom expression. Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) is called oral herpes and is typically evident with symptoms around or near the mouth. Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is also referred to as genital herpes, and the bulk of symptoms will appear on, in, or near the genitals.
In both cases, the most common herpes simplex symptoms is eruption of the skin or rash, but it can look very different in oral and genital herpes. The rash from oral herpes may begin as a blister and turn into a single sore that can be about the diameter of a pencil eraser. The sore eventually crusts over and heals, and since the virus recurs, other sores usually manifest at a later point. No form of the illness is presently curable, though some medications may minimize the number of outbreaks. A sore may be uncomfortable, can possibly itch, and depending on location, could make it difficult to talk, eat or open the mouth. While there is an active sore, people are very contagious to others who come in contact.
With genital forms of the disease, the most common herpes simplex symptoms is rash on, in, or around the genitals. This too, begins as a blister but the rash is usually a cluster of small bumps instead of a single sore. The rash also opens and then begins to scab, but while present can feel itchy and sore. As with HSV-1, rashes from HSV-2 ultimately resolve, usually within about two weeks of first appearance of the rash. The first symptom of outbreak indicates contagion, and is usually a tingling sensation before the rash or cold sore emerges. Becoming familiar with this sign is useful to avoid transmitting the virus to others because it is theorized most people are contagious before a blister forms, during the tingling phase.
While the most common herpes simplex symptoms typically relate to the recurrent rash or cold sore, which comes and goes after a person has been infected, there are also many people who experience onset of the initial infection in different ways that are more severe. When a first or primary infection emerges, and not all people get them, people may note they have mild fever, feel run-down, have achiness, get a headache, have swollen glands, and/or experience mild chills. With these symptoms and rash, people should see a doctor at once for diagnosis.
As the herpes illness lies dormant in the body, common herpes simplex symptoms include periodic flares. The number of flares seems to be higher in the early years of the infection and tend to be reduced over time. If this is not the case, there are antiviral medications that may help minimize active periods of the illness. They may also reduce the chances of people shedding the virus when an active infection is not present, since it appears some people with the condition are contagious at all times.