Nonetheless, there are a handful of commonly experienced, visible indicators that a herpes infection has occurred. It must be noted, however, that these symptoms will only become apparent during an outbreak. The potentially infected individual should also keep in mind that it is not uncommon to have a herpes outbreak, but exhibit no physical symptoms.
Visible indications of a herpes outbreak include:
Redness and swelling on, or around, the genitals
Generally preceded by a sensation of burning, itching, or tingling, the appearance of redness and swelling on, or around, the genitals is often an indication that a herpes outbreak is under way.
Fluid-filled blisters on the genitals, thighs, buttocks or groin
The most commonly-recognized symptom of genital herpes, “fluid-filled blisters on the genitals or groin area” is usually the answer given when one asks the question, “What does herpes look like?” Initially, the blisters appear as small, pimple-like bumps filled with clear liquid. Over the next few days, however, they steadily enlarge until they have grown together into reddened, painful clusters.
Within several days of the first appearance of blisters, the herpes outbreak moves into its final, and usually most painful stage, as leaking sores and ulcers develop. The accompanying irritation and sensitivity subsides as the sores dry out and heal, but the individual remains highly contagious during this period.
Small, reddish bumps in the same area where an outbreak is likely to occur
To reiterate a point made at the outset of this article, the visible symptoms of herpes do not necessarily appear the same in every individual. While most would answer “blisters” to the question of “What does herpes look like”, it is just as possible that “small, reddish bumps” (which can often be confused for insect bites) could be the appropriate response. Because herpes blisters can form beneath the skin, as well as above it, these small bumps can be an indication that an outbreak is taking place.
The appearance of any of the visible symptoms discussed in this article is not a definitive sign that you are infected with genital herpes. It is, however, an indication that you should get yourself tested by a licensed physician. It is entirely possible that your symptoms are from genital herpes, but it is also possible that it is a more serious sexual disease.
Syphillis, for example, causes symptoms very similar to those of genital herpes (e.g., small, painful blisters on the genitals). If left untreated, however, syphillis can lead to severe health complications. On the other side of the equation, there are numerous common skin irritations that can create symptoms similar to some of those experienced during a herpes outbreak.
In the end, there is no clear-cut answer to the question “What does herpes look like?” The appearance of any of the symptoms discussed in this article should be cause for the concerned person to schedule a test with his physician. Unfortunately, there is no other way to find out if you’ve contracted genital herpes, or something else altogether.