Herpes on leg: Everything you need to know

Herpes on leg is a very mysterious condition. Whenever people develop any rash on their leg, they are worried if this is herpes on leg. Some people also get confused if it’s is shingles on their leg. Many people don’t know the reason for the rash on their leg.

They also don’t know the difference between herpes simplex and shingles. So, let us try to clear your confusion. We shall discuss in detail about Herpes simplex virus causing herpes on leg and also about shingles.

Human Herpesvirus (HHV):

There are many different viruses which fall under the category of Human Herpes viruses. Some important examples of this virus are Herpes simplex virus(HSV) and Varicella zoster virus(VZV).

Herpes simplex virus (HSV):

Herpes simplex virus or HSV are of two types. They are the HSV 1 and HSV 2. Both of these viruses can be transmitted sexually. HSV1 can also be acquired during respiratory infections during childhood.

HSV viruses travel to the nerve root ganglia near the spinal cord and stay dormant there. HSV1 virus stays dormant in the nerve root ganglia behind the cheek. HSV2  stays dormant in the nerve root ganglia near the lower abdomen.

Both of them are dormant in the majority of the people without causing any symptoms. But, in some people, they become reactivated due to a weak immune system or other causes and lead to the development of rash.

In most people, HSV1 leads to the formation of rash on mouth or lips or oral area, so it’s called oral herpes. In most people, HSV2  leads to the formation of rash in the genital area, so it’s called genital herpes. But, sometimes HSV1 can lead to genital herpes, and HSV2 can lead to oral herpes. HSV2 can also lead to a rash on buttocks, rectal area, lateral part of the thigh, etc.

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Herpes on leg:

herpes on leg

Sometimes, in people with weak immune system, both HSV1 and HSV2 can lead to the formation of rash on other parts of the body like arms, legs, trunk(chest, abdomen), etc. This is called disseminated herpes and is very rare. If you suspect that you have this condition, you will need to consult your physician immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of herpes on leg:

There can be mild itching, tingling, and burning on the leg prior to the appearance of the rash. Burning sensation is more severe than the itching. Herpes on leg first appears like vesicles or blisters which are filled with fluid. Later the blisters break open and form open sores that ooze fluid. The rash or blisters of herpes on leg are extremely painful.

These blisters and the rash of herpes on leg can last from 7 to 10 days. Apart from the rash, herpes on leg can also lead to systemic symptoms. It can produce flu-like symptoms like fever, muscle aches, etc.

There can also be swollen lymph nodes. If your herpes on leg is being caused by HSV1, you can have swollen lymph nodes in the neck. If your herpes on leg is caused by HSV2, you can have swollen lymph nodes in the groin.

If your herpes on leg is caused by HSV2, you can also have symptoms like burning micturition or difficulty urinating. Some people may also develop herpes keratitis, which is the inflammation of the cornea of the eye caused by HSV virus.

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Diagnosis of herpes on leg or HSV virus infection:

Your physician might take swabs from the blisters and send them for viral culture. Alternatively, your physician might take blood samples to detect antibodies to HSV1 and HSV2 viruses. You are tested for IgG and IgM antibodies to two viruses.

The presence of IgM antibodies indicates current active infection. The presence of IgG antibodies indicates past infection or development of immunity. In many people, HSV viruses can be present asymptomatically. The presence of HSV viruses in such people can be detected by antibody testing in them.

Treatment of herpes on leg:

As herpes on leg is caused by HSV viruses, it needs to be treated with antiviral medications. You might be prescribed antiviral creams or ointments to be applied on the rash. You also might be prescribed oral antiviral drugs or intravenous antiviral drugs depending on the severity of the condition. The most common antiviral drugs used for the treatment of herpes on leg are Acyclovir, Valacyclovir, and Famciclovir.


Have you ever heard of shingles? It is also called as Herpes zoster. Shingles can also occur on the leg, which makes it confusing with herpes on leg. Shingles are caused by varicella zoster (VZV) virus. VZV virus causes chicken pox too.

In people who develop chicken pox earlier, the VZV virus goes to the dorsal root ganglion of the spinal cord and remains dormant there. When the immune system of the person is weakened, it becomes reactivated and produces shingles.

In shingles, there is a rash on only a particular dermatome of the skin. A dermatome is the area of the skin supplied by a particular nerve. Shingles most commonly occur in the trunk (chest or abdomen). But, sometimes, shingles can also occur on the arms, legs, etc.

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Shingles also have pain, numbness, burning, tingling in the area of rash, many days or weeks before the appearance of the rash. This is called preherpetic neuralgia.Then the rash appears with fluid-filled blisters that can break and form open sores, ooze fluid and finally crust.

Shingles also have flu-like symptoms just like HSV virus. Shingles can also cause enlargement or swelling of lymph nodes just like HSV virus or Herpes virus. In shingles, there is postherpetic neuralgia, that is a pain, burning and tingling sensation in the area of the rash about 30 days after the disappearance of the rash. Shingles are treated in same ay like HSV virus with antiviral medicines.

Herpes on leg  (Vs) Shingles on the leg:

The leg is an unusual or rare location for both Herpes and Shingles to develop. Also, the rash of both Herpes on leg and shingles on leg appear similar with fluid filled blisters. The pain, burning and tingling sensation over leg is also same for both the infections.

Both herpes on leg and shingles on the leg are associated with flu-like symptoms and swelling of lymph nodes. Due, to so many similarities, it is almost impossible to distinguish herpes on leg from shingles by just physically examining the lesions. They are differentiated using laboratory tests like viral culture and antibody tests. But, still, both of them are treated with antiviral drugs.

Now, you must have understood clearly, the various causes of herpes on leg, the symptoms associated with it, the diagnostic tests to be done to find out herpes on the leg, and also the treatment options for herpes on legs. Now, you must have got an answer for your question, ‘can you get herpes on your leg’.

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