Herpes is caused by either herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. HSV-1 is incredibly common and usually causes oral herpes. Many people notice no symptoms or show only minimal signs of herpes infections.
When signs of genital herpes do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving tender ulcers (sores). These first-time sores may take two to four weeks to heal. Another outbreak can appear weeks or months after the first. However, later outbreaks are usually not as severe or as long-lasting as the first one. Fortunately, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over time.
People can manage their symptoms, but there is no cure for herpes. Even condoms will not always prevent this infection. This is because sores can appear in different places, not just condom-covered ones. (Condoms are still important, though. Proper use can decrease the chances of catching herpes and other STDs.)