Genital herpes is a common condition that can cause red bumps around the genital area. Symptoms in men include bumps or blisters on the penis, scrotum, and anus.

The herpes simplex virus causes genital herpes, while the condition usually does not trigger symptoms. Many people can have the virus without knowing it.

Keep reading to learn more about genital herpes in males, including the symptoms, causes, and possible treatments.

Genital herpes is an acquired infection with the herpes simplex virus. It primarily transmits through sexual activity.

The herpes simplex virus is widespread. There are two types: type 1 and type 2. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 have the type 1 virus, while 491 million people aged 15–49 years have type 2.

Most people who acquire the herpes virus do not experience symptoms and are often unaware they have contracted it.

However, some experience symptoms that may include genital herpes. Both types of herpes viruses can trigger this condition.

Those with symptoms of genital herpes can encounter blisters or lesions around the genitals. The symptoms may occur in cycles.

In contrast, oral herpes trigger sores around the mouth, teeth, or gums, often known as cold sores or fever blisters. The herpes type 1 virus usually causes this condition.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 776,000 people contract genital herpes each year in the United States.

Genital herpes is a result of acquiring an infection with the herpes simplex virus.

People pass the virus through sexual activity, including direct oral or genital contact. For example, someone may acquire the virus by receiving oral sex from someone with herpes.

People usually pass on type 1 viruses through touching or kissing. In contrast, people typically transmit type 2 viruses during sexual intercourse.

It is possible to contract herpes from someone with no visible sores or lesions. Not everyone will be aware if they have acquired or transmitted the virus.

Genital herpes is less common in males than in females. The CDC estimate that around 16% of females and 8% of males aged 14–49 years contract the infection each year.

The virus that causes the infection is more easily passed on from males to females during intercourse, which may explain the difference. In addition, people can also acquire the virus from anal intercourse.

The symptoms are the same for males and females. However, females who experience genital herpes during pregnancy can experience complications.

Most cases of herpes do not cause symptoms, and many people have the condition without knowing it. Others may experience symptoms that present at a later date if the virus reactivates.

Symptoms of genital herpes can include:

  • tingling sensations in the genital area, including the penis, scrotum, anus, buttocks, or thighs
  • small red bumps that turn into blisters around the genital area
  • swelling in the groin, neck, or under the arms
  • muscle aches
  • fever
  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • trouble urinating

People with symptoms typically experience them around 4 days after exposure. They can last a couple of weeks and may re-emerge again in future occurrences.

The first episode is typically longer and more likely to include body-wide symptoms, such as fever or aches. People who experience future occurrences usually experience red bumps or blisters for a shorter period.

People rarely require a doctor for genital herpes. Most cases are mild or cause no symptoms. Symptoms that do occur usually go away within a couple of weeks in the first instance.

However, some people may experience body-wide symptoms that cause discomfort. Doctors can prescribe antiviral medications to speed up recovery and reduce the risk of future occurrences in these cases.

To check for genital herpes, a doctor may use polymerase chain reaction tests. These tests amplify small parts of the virus DNA for detection.

Other tests include serologic tests, a blood analysis used to detect the antibodies that the body uses to fight the virus.

The sooner a person starts on medication following an occurrence of herpes symptoms, the more effective it is.

There is currently no cure for genital herpes. However, most people experience zero or mild symptoms, with no long-term complications from the virus.

Doctors can prescribe antiviral medications to those who experience symptoms. These drugs may shorten the duration of symptoms or prevent future occurrences. Topical creams could also help ease the pain.

Daily suppressive therapies can reduce the chance of transmission to partners.

There are currently no vaccines to prevent a person from contracting a genital herpes virus. However, people can reduce their risk of acquiring or passing on genital herpes through practicing safe sexual practices, such as:

  • avoiding sexual activities when a person is experiencing symptoms
  • using a condom
  • limiting the number of new sexual partners
  • talking with a doctor about treatments to preventing future occurrences

These practices can reduce the risk of contracting genital herpes but cannot prevent symptoms from flaring up.

It is also important to note that if a person touches the fluid from the herpes sores, or the sores themselves, they can transfer herpes to another part of the body, such as the eyes.

Therefore, avoid touching these where possible to prevent spreading herpes elsewhere on the body. People should also wash their hands thoroughly if they do touch these sores or fluids.

Genital herpes is a commonly acquired infection with the herpes simplex virus.

It typically triggers mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, genital herpes can cause small red bumps to develop, which turn into blisters.

There is no cure for genital herpes, although antiviral medications can help with symptoms and prevent future occurrences.