If you have recently noticed your discharge to have turned foul-smelling and of an unusual color, you most likely have a yeast infection, thrush, or any other sexually transmitted infection (STI). In case of abnormal discharge coupled with sores on the mouth or genitals, your condition may be herpes. While herpes discharge is concerning, it can be treated following a prompt diagnosis. Herpes discharge is one of the symptoms that make this STI contagious. According to a report by WHO, the HSV-2 is so common and easily spread that an estimation of 491 million people over the world who fall in the age group of 15-49 have this infection.
What is Herpes?
Herpes is a sexually contracted or transmitted infection (STI) classified into two types: the HSV-1 and the HSV-2 respectively known as oral herpes and genital herpes. While they are untreatable illnesses, their symptoms can be largely reduced by antiviral agents. Since HSV-1 is oral herpes, it is transmitted via making contact with the mouth of a person with herpes, such as in the act of kissing. On the other hand, genital herpes or HSV-2 can be contracted upon having unprotected anal, oral, or genital sex with someone who already has the virus. The latter type of herpes virus is more commonly diagnosed in females or people with vulvas.
Symptoms of Herpes
Both types of herpes virus show somewhat similar symptoms. One of the most common ones during a herpes outbreak includes the onset of one or more clusters of round, small, and painful sores, which bear some semblance to pimples or blisters, filled with clear fluid. Since these blisters occur at the site of infection, the HSV-1 blisters form inside of or around the mouth, while the HSV-2 blisters form around the mouth (in case of oral sex), around the anus, genitals, bottom, or thighs.
Aside from blisters, other symptoms observed in an outbreak of the herpes virus include, but are not limited to:
- High fever or temperate (101°f or above)
- Pain in multiple areas of the body
- Pain during urinating
- Tingling in legs
- Irritation, itching, or burning in the genital area
- Swelling in lymph nodes of the neck
- Herpes discharge
Vaginal discharge is normal and its amount varies throughout the different phases of your menstrual cycle. Most pregnant women observe a ‘pregnancy discharge’; other women sometimes show brown discharge at the end of their period. While a healthy and normal discharge does not have a strong odor or any visible color, this is not the same for people with herpes. The concern arises specifically for herpes discharge when your emitted fluid shows one or more of the following characteristics.
- The discharge is thicker or heavier than usual
- Herpes discharge could have pus-like consistency
- Herpes discharge color is green, grey, or yellow
- White and clumpy (consistency almost like that of cottage cheese)
- Unpleasant odor (fish-like)
Along with the abnormal colors of herpes discharge and other patent characteristics of herpes discharge, there are other symptoms too. These may include itching, burning, or sore genitals, bleeding, pelvic pain, or sores/blisters on your genitals coupled with herpes discharge.
Penile and Vaginal Discharge
Bodily discharge is sometimes commonly associated with genital herpes. It occurs in men and women who experience recurrent outbreaks of herpes. The term discharge refers to the leaking or emission of fluid from a human’s genitalia or sex organs. In a male, the herpes discharge is emitted from the penile head, whereas in a woman, herpes vaginal discharge leaks out from the vaginal opening.
A person experiencing herpes discharge will notice that it is different from that of a normal discharge. It has a strong, foul, and pungent odor in both men and women, generally described as “fishy”. However, the smell is more noticeable in females and noticeable in men only when they ejaculate. For this reason, the discharge in men due to genital herpes is usually confused for semen or pre-ejaculate. The foul odor associated with herpes discharge gets worse after sex.
In both cases, whether it is herpes vaginal discharge or penal discharge, the appearance of the liquid may be clear and thin or it can be a murky and thick fluid. In addition to the colorless fluid, some people may even observe a small amount of blood leak from either of the sex organs in the discharge or during urination.
Managing Herpes Symptoms
While some of the symptoms of a herpes outbreak can be managed by home remedies or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, others need immediate assistance from a healthcare professional. One of the most promising home remedies is using a warm bath regularly to alleviate any sort of discomfort and inflammation caused by the blisters. Since these sores are contagious, it is best to avoid any intimacy, such as sex or kissing, during a herpes outbreak. Other self-care tips for preventing the worsening or spread of herpes include:
- Gently wash the skin around your genitals with warm water
- Avoiding scalding hot water baths
- Avoiding strong scented soaps, wipes, or deodorants in the name of hygiene products
- Avoiding scrubbing or thoroughly washing your vagina, termed douching
- Strictly avoid sharing sex toys
- Avoid wearing panty liners on a daily basis
- Removing thongs and lycra from your items of clothing and wearing soft cotton underwear
Other home remedies to reduce any risk of infection include applying a warm compress or an ice pack to the affected area, keeping the area clean and dry, and refraining from popping blisters or picking at scabs over healing sores. It is also advised to avoid wearing any tight clothing, such as thongs or other items of clothing that will stick to your genitals and worsen your sores. Additionally, some OTC medications can be consumed regularly under medical supervision, such as Acyclovir, which is an antiviral agent, and acetaminophen.
When to Consult Your Doctor?
It is important to see a doctor as soon as you suspect your symptoms to be those of herpes. A prompt diagnosis would allow you to fully understand how herpes may affect your daily life, followed by treatment and preventative measures to avoid the spread of this sexually transmitted infection (STI). Timely treatment reduces the frequency and severity of the recurring herpes outbreaks.
Your doctor is likely to give you the following advice to manage herpes discharge and other symptoms:
- Reduce your sexual activity
- Use a condom during penetrative or oral sex with your partner
- Using protection even in oral sex, such as a penile condom or dental dam
- Avoid sex if you or your partner are facing a herpes outbreak
- Frequently change your underwear in case of penile or vaginal herpes discharge
Some people do not take herpes seriously since it is an illness that cannot be cured. However, you must see a doctor immediately if you observe any herpes discharge or other common symptoms. The ‘treatment’ of herpes mostly revolves around taking measures that limit the frequency and strength of any outbreaks you may have. If your treatment is successful, your herpes vaginal discharge will return to normal discharge.
At Family Medicine Austin, we offer diagnostic-based healthcare. Book your appointment with the best board-certified doctors now and learn more about herpes discharge management from our expert medical team.