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Comparing Genital Warts vs. Genital Herpes | Are They The Same?

Are you unsure if genital herpes and genital warts are the same? Let's breakdown HSV vs. HPV differences, the symptoms of each, and the treatment options.

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Herpes vs. HPV

Are you unsure if genital herpes and genital warts are the same? Well, you aren't alone. The Strut medical team has observed some general patient confusion when differentiating between genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and genital herpes caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV2). The confusion makes perfect sense as both viruses are extremely common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and both can cause genital lesions.

However, the herpes virus and the human papillomavirus are two very different viruses - both causing similar, but not identical, symptoms. It's important to diagnose either HSV or HPV as there are different prognoses and treatments for each. We’ve consulted our experts to answer your pressing questions. Now, let's breakdown HSV vs. HPV differences, the symptoms of each, and the treatment options.

A must-know summary:

Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV 2) causes genital herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV) causes genital warts. They are not the same.

What is herpes?

Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). This virus has two main strains called herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2). Both strains of the herpes simplex virus are very contagious. Both strains cause fluid-filled blisters.

However, the herpes simplex virus type 1 generally affects the oral area of the body. Inside the mouth, and on and around the lips. This is spread by kissing or by sharing utensils or lip products with someone who has the virus. Herpes simplex virus type 2 generally affects the genitals and is spread by sexual skin-to-skin contact. This is known as genital herpes.

Related: HSV1 vs HSV2: Differences and Similarities

Are cold sores considered herpes?

Yes. Also known as cold sores, or fever blisters, these fluid-filled blisters are a contagious symptom of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1). While HSV1 is generally only associated with oral herpes (HSV2 causing the majority of genital herpes cases), herpes simplex virus type 1 can also cause genital herpes.

Important read: Oral Sex and Cold Sores: Can HSV1 Cause Genital Herpes?

Symptoms of herpes

Herpes outbreaks come and go and can be found in many areas of the body. There are several stages to the infection and outbreak, the outbreak stage will dictate your symptoms. Here are some signs and symptoms of oral and genital herpes.

Oral Herpes Signs and Symptoms

  • During the first-time initial stages of infection, you might feel flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, headache, muscle aches, and fever.
  • Tingling, burning, or itching sensation of the lips or mouth.
  • Blisters around the mouth.
  • Oozing and crusting blisters might leave open sores until fully healed.

Genital Herpes Signs and Symptoms

  • During the initial stages of infection, you might feel flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, headache, muscle aches, and fever.
  • Pain, itchiness, and tenderness in the genital area.
  • Small red or white blisters on the genital area: groin, penis, scrotum, vulva, vagina, cervix, and anus.
  • Ulcers might form after the blisters rupture.
  • Scabs where the blisters and ulcers were.

What is HPV?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common viral infection and is most commonly transmitted via sexual intercourse. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection in America, affecting 79 million Americans in their late teens and early twenties.

It is spread by having sexual contact with someone who has this virus. As HPV is extremely common, it is best to use condoms and dental dams during sex.

Related: Can You Get HPV From Kissing?

This virus often causes warts. These can be found on any part of the body, however, if HPV was transmitted sexually, it might cause genital warts. It is also advised by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to get vaccinated for the human papillomavirus.

The risk the CDC is hoping to nullify is the highest risk byproduct of HPV: the occurrence of cervical and penile cancers.

HPV strains

There are more than 100 HPV strains. Some are entirely harmless, cause no symptoms, and will go away on their own. However, there are 40 known HPV strains that can infect the mouth and genital area.

Symptoms of HPV

The most common symptom of HPV is the occurrence of warts.

Genital warts: These can appear as flat like lesions or as small cauliflower-like bumps or protrusions. In women with HPV, these warts might appear on the vulva (external genitals), vagina, cervix, or anus. In men with HPV, warts might appear on the head of the penis, penis shaft, scrotum, or anus.

Common warts: Common warts are rough and bumpy lesions that are most commonly found on the hands or fingers.

Plantar warts: These warts are firm grainy growths that form on the feels or balls of the feet.

Flat warts: These small warts are flat, just barley raised lesions, and look similar to a facial rash.

Genital Warts vs. Herpes

Now let’s compare and contrast these two viruses and their symptoms and course of treatments.

Genital Warts vs. Genital Herpes:

Cause

GW: Human papillomavirus (HPV)

GH: Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2)

How it’s spread

GW: Sexual contact with someone with the virus.

GH: Sexual contact with someone with the virus.

Primary symptom

GW: Genital warts

GH: Genital blisters or lesions

Physical differences

GW: Small raised protrusion

GH: Fluid-filled blister

Behavioral differences

GW: Warts generally do not clear on their own. Removal or spot treatment is needed to remove.

GH: Appear as a series of breakouts that flare up, heal, and possibly reappear. Reoccurrence is known as flare-ups.

Treatment

GW: Wart removal or topical wart treatment.

GH: Medication to shorten outbreaks.

Prognosis

GW: Labeled as a transient infection, the body will often clear the virus within 1 to 2 years.  In some rarer cases, however, the infection can be persistent and long-term. This is a cause for concern as it may lead to cancer.HSV1 and HSV2 infections are lifelong.

GH: There is no known cure for herpes. The outbreaks can be managed with medications.

Treat Genital Herpes Online at Strut

Skip the uncomfortable in-person doctor’s examination and get treated online. Strut offers free online consultations for genital herpes treatment.

We use the prescription treatment of Valacyclovir to decrease the duration and frequency of herpes outbreaks.

If you are dealing with a herpes outbreak, take the next step to a clearer tomorrow, and book a free online visit to learn about your treatment options.

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