The early signs of herpes or Prodromal symptoms are your body’s way of alerting you that an outbreak is just around the corner. Usually these early herpes symptoms will be felt before a visible outbreak of blisters or open sores appear. These warning symptoms is your body's way of letting you know that the virus is active and you are about to have an outbreak.
Prodromal symptoms can last from 30 minutes up to 3 days before you begin to experience a herpes outbreak. They are not an effect of having the HSV2 virus for the first time, but rather when you expect to have an outbreak.
Although some people who have the virus claim that they never experience any early herpes symptoms, I suspect that they have had early signs of herpes but as with an outbreak, the signs were either dismissed as “just a headache” or they were completely overlooked.
Nearly all known medical reports show that nearly everyone who suffers from genital herpes will experience a reactivation of the virus and knowing the early signs of herpes will help you determine when to begin your treatment regimen. All the major herpes medications recommend that to see the best results it’s critical that you begin using your medication during the prodromal stage of an outbreak. Outbreaks tend to be less severe and don’t last as long if you start taking them early in the outbreak.
Although medical professionals have yet to determine the exact cause of recurrent genital herpes outbreaks, there are a few triggers that are known and common to most people. For instance, too much exposure to ultraviolet or sunlight has been shown to trigger outbreaks in both HSV1 and genital herpes. Although it’s not likely that your genitals will be exposed to UV light (sunburn), it's important to keep this in mind when you're tanning or sunbathing. I am a fair skinned Irish guy and I tend to burn easily so I’m extra cautious when I’m outside for extended periods of time.
The ironic thing about this is that as long as I protect my skin with a high quality sunscreen, exposure to the sun or ultraviolet rays doesn’t seem to bring on an outbreak. It’s the burn damage to my skin that will often trigger my outbreaks. Unfortunately there is no hard fast rules with herpes, so you’ll need to be extra observant when you plan on spending a lot of time in the sun or in a tanning bed.
Friction and heavy rubbing to the genital area can also activate the herpes virus. This is especially true with me even after 20+ years living with genital herpes. I tend to wear jeans and pants that are not as tight as I used to back in my younger days. I also make sure that while having sex that my partner is “extra lubricated” by using a high quality water-based lubricant. Using low quality and oil based lubes tend to bring on my outbreaks. Again, you can take my advice or experiment on your own.
Believe it or not, the food you eat can also bring the herpes virus out of hiding. This was especially true during the first few years of my diagnosis than it is now. Check out my page on what foods trigger outbreaks for a more thorough explanation.
When the genital herpes virus activates it begins to multiply and then begins to stimulate the neurons along the nerve paths. Due to the nature and structure of the nerve pathways, recurrences of genital herpes may not always appear in the same exact place but it will stay in the general area of the body. As your body’s nerves are stimulated by the virus a tingling sensation is produced with a feeling similar to pins and needles. Prodromal early signs of herpes can affect the whole length of neurons, thus the tingling can be felt down the leg, around the mouth or genitals, depending on which nerves are infected.
Some medical scientist have developed various theories that suggest the virus takes the "path of least resistance" when coming to the surface of the skin. I tend to agree with their theories because this could explain why some people have their outbreaks in the same part of the body time after time, and why other people's outbreaks change to a different area of the body.
Unfortunately for me, my outbreaks tend to be isolated to my genitals but can be found in about three locations…I suppose I have three paths of least resistance!
It is very important that you know that if you are experiencing any of the early signs of herpes, you are contagious and the risk of transmitting it is high. Even if there are no visible signs of herpes blisters and open sores.
Even with the use of condoms, genital herpes can still be transmitted from areas of the body that are unprotected by condoms or dental dams. Viral shedding can also occur. This means that even if you don't show any signs of an infection, you can still spread the virus.
The best and the ideal way to control your outbreaks is to track and monitor your signs of herpes - prodromal symptoms. You should maintain a journal of the things that you experience before each outbreak until you notice a pattern. Once you have established a reliable prodromal pattern, start taking your herpes treatment immediately to reduce the severity and length of your outbreak. A boost of vitamins and other nutritional supplements taken when prodromal symptoms are first noticed can help lessen the outbreak as it helps the body’s immune system fight the virus. This will help you avoid a full outbreak with painful herpes blisters and open sores. It’s also important to know the early signs of herpes when you are in a relationship with a partner who does not have the genital herpes virus.
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