Anal Herpes Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

If you are experiencing anal discomfort, it’s important not to ignore it. The professionals at Rapid STD Testing understand that dealing with any infection is a stressful and overwhelming experience. Still, we urge you not to ignore your anal herpes symptoms.

Knowledge is power. The best thing you can do for yourself and any current or future sexual partner is to stay informed and get tested.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about anal herpes. When you’re ready, Rapid STD testing provides confidential rapid STD tests.

Types of the Herpes Simplex Virus

The virus that causes herpes infections is called the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types: HSV-1 and HSV-2. These two types differ in how they are transmitted and what parts of the body they affect.


The first type is most commonly transmitted to a person through saliva. It causes cold sores, which are sores or blisters in or around the mouth. This type, often called oral herpes, is not typically transmitted through sexual contact, but this is possible through oral sex.


Type two is characterized by sores or blisters in the genital area, which includes the vagina, penis, anus, and surrounding areas. Often called genital herpes, this type transmits through vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

How Does a Herpes Outbreak in the Anus Start?

Anal herpes is a sexually transmitted infection, which means an outbreak begins with sexual contact with someone carrying the virus. This may look different from person to person but will include one or more of the following:

  • Skin-to-skin contact with a herpes sore or surrounding area
  • Contact with the saliva of a person who has oral herpes
  • Contact with the skin or genital fluids of a person who has genital herpes

On average, a person will experience the first outbreak of symptoms about four days after exposure to the virus.

Can I Contract the Virus If My Partner Doesn’t Have Visible Anal Herpes Sores?

Unfortunately, yes, it is possible to get the virus from someone who does not have any noticeable anal herpes symptoms. In fact, some people may not exhibit any symptoms for years after exposure to the virus. They may not even be aware that they have it.

This is why open communication with sexual partners is essential to having safe sexual relationships. Be upfront with your partner(s), and encourage them to be upfront with you. There are treatments available that can greatly reduce the risk of transmission and other safe practices that can help in the prevention of anal herpes.

If you or a sexual partner is experiencing anal herpes symptoms, it’s a good idea for you both to get tested. Visit a Rapid STD Testing lab near you for same-day STD testing.

Symptoms of an Anal Herpes Outbreak

The symptoms associated with anal herpes manifest in varying ways and degrees of intensity. Many people mistake them for symptoms of other conditions. Additionally, the signs of the first anal herpes outbreak often look different than those of subsequent episodes. The first outbreak tends to be more intense, include more symptoms, and last longer.

Don’t Mistake Anal Herpes Pain for Something Else

If you are experiencing pain in or around your anus, the best action you can take is to get tested, even if this is the only symptom you have. Anal herpes can be mistaken for several other conditions, including hemorrhoids, ingrown hairs, pimples, and other skin conditions.

Don’t let your mind trick you into believing “it’s no big deal.” Get tested, and continue on your sexual journey with the knowledge you need to keep yourself and your partners healthy and safe.

Symptoms of a Herpes Outbreak on the Anus

Anal herpes symptoms commonly show up in stages. If you’ve ever had a cold sore, you may already be familiar with the progression of a herpes lesion:

  • Area feels tingly or itchy: This can also be described as “pressure” below the skin’s surface.
  • Blisters form and fill with fluid or pus: You may experience swelling of the area before blisters fully form. Blisters may be red, white, or colorless.
  • Blisters open and drain, leaving open sores: Blisters may not always rupture, but they commonly do.
  • The sores scab over and begin to heal: The area remains highly contagious until it has healed completely.

The formation of blisters or sores is the hallmark sign of any herpes virus. However, the first instance of an anal herpes outbreak may also exhibit some additional symptoms.

Symptoms of the First Anal Herpes Outbreak

If identifying anal herpes wasn’t tricky enough, the first outbreak may come with several symptoms not typically associated with the herpes virus. These symptoms are often similar to symptoms of the flu virus and may include:

  • Swollen glands
  • Nausea
  • Fever and chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue

These symptoms do not typically persist beyond the first outbreak. If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms such as those listed above, you may consider getting tested or speaking to a doctor.

Here at Rapid STD Testing, we offer a comprehensive 10-panel STD test that can help you figure out what’s happening in your body.

How Long Do the Symptoms of a Herpes Outbreak on the Anus Last?

Although anal herpes symptoms disappear between outbreaks, there is no cure for the herpes simplex virus. The virus goes dormant after the first outbreak, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. It has taken up residence within your nerve cells and will remain there forever.

Because there is currently no cure for anal herpes, symptoms require lifelong management. But there is good news, too. Herpes outbreaks tend to lessen in intensity and frequency as time goes on, and some medications can help reduce symptom intensity and the risk of transmission.

The amount of time it takes for an outbreak to disappear depends on how many you’ve had in the past and other factors. The first outbreak is often the worst, lasting about two to four weeks and marked by the additional symptoms we’ve already discussed.

After that, outbreaks tend to last only three to seven days, with a decrease in the frequency of outbreaks over time. Some people can even stop taking previously required medication as outbreak occurrence decreases.

Find out more about living with anal herpes and blood donation with herpes here.

Risk Factors of Anal Herpes

You can take steps to keep yourself from contracting the herpes virus. As with any sexually transmitted infection, certain factors put you at a greater risk of contracting anal herpes. These factors include the following:

  • Sex without a condom
  • Improper use of a condom
  • Sex with a person who has tested positive for genital herpes
  • Sex with a person who has observable herpes symptoms
  • Sex with many partners, especially when partners change regularly
  • Sex while your immune system is compromised

Keep these factors in mind, and do your best to submit to safe sex practices. Open communication with sexual partners is key to all of these. Remember, it’s always okay to ask your partner questions about their sexual health, even if that means you’re asking for testing.

There are also a few factors that may encourage a recurrence of symptoms. Keep these things in mind if you’re experiencing frequent outbreaks:

  • Excessive sunlight (UV radiation) exposure
  • Stress and fatigue
  • Other hormone changes
  • Bodily trauma (surgeries, etc.)
  • The common cold
  • Other illnesses

Keep reading to learn about what you can do to keep yourself free of the herpes virus and what kind of treatments are available. Just because you may have anal herpes doesn’t mean you can’t live a normal life.

Prevention and Treatment of Anal Herpes

The most effective way to prevent any sexually transmitted disease is also the least realistic: abstinence. If abstaining from sex is an option for you, this is the best protection you have. After all, you can’t contract a virus if you aren’t exposed to it.

If abstinence is not an option for you, there are many other ways to help prevent the transmission of the herpes virus.

Barrier Protection

Perhaps the most common method of prevention is the use of barrier protection. This is just another way to say, “use a condom or dental dam.” Do keep in mind that sores and blisters can show up beyond the area covered with a condom.

Observation and Communication

The most important thing to remember when trying to prevent the transmission of anal herpes is to avoid having sex during an outbreak. If you or your partner is experiencing blisters, sores, or other anal herpes symptoms, the risk of transmission is significantly higher than it is when the virus is dormant.

Antiviral Medication

Although there is no cure for the herpes virus, doctors often prescribe antiviral medications to help people manage symptoms and lower the risk of passing it on to their partners. A doctor may even suggest a daily medication (suppressive therapy) to reduce the intensity and frequency of outbreaks.

Immune System Health

Managing herpes symptoms is all about reducing the frequency of outbreaks. Medication isn’t the only way to do this. You can also keep outbreaks at bay (and reduce the healing time) by promoting a healthy immune system. Follow these tips for a stronger immune system:

  • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Practice stress management.
  • Don’t drink alcohol to excess.
  • Don’t smoke.

By keeping your immune system strong, you give your body a fighting chance against the herpes virus.

Don’t Let Anal Herpes Get You Down

Are you struggling with anal herpes symptoms? Learn more about herpes and visit a local Rapid STD Testing location for fast, confidential results to determine if you have this STI.