Can Genital Herpes manifest in Non-genital Areas?

Dear Dr. Tom:

Is it possible to have herpes that is not directly in the genital area? I am 33 year old female who had an outbreak about twice a year for the past ten years, but only in one small place on the back of my leg. Never in the genital area itself. This seems strange, although I’m glad for it. Can this be what is known as genital herpes?

Thanks! Confused.

Dr. Tom’s Response:

Dear Confused:

Yes, herpes infections can manifest themselves in body areas other than the genitalia. The simplest explanation is that if herpes virus lesions appear in the genital region, it must be considered genital herpes, irrespective of whether it is HSV-1 or HSV-2. Conversely, if lesions appear in non-genital areas, then the infection must be considered non-genital. Examples are herpetic whitlow, where painful lesions emerge on the hands, herpes corneac of the eyes, and herpes gladitorum passed between wrestlers? sweaty bodies. Of course, these conditions also could have resulted from genital cross infection or auto-inoculation. I can offer you no explanation for the outbreak site on the back of your leg. If the virus behaved the way we would have expected it to do, you perhaps experienced the initial infectious contact there during past years. Recurrences do not always take place at the original infectious contact site, but they do more often than not.


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