What Is The Difference Between Genital Herpes And Genital Warts
Both genital herpes and genital warts are STIs, are spread through skin-to-skin contact, and are caused by a virus. But the viruses that cause genital herpes and genital warts are different:
- Herpes simplex virus is the virus that causes genital herpes.
- Human papillomavirus is the virus that causes genital warts.
There is no cure for either genital herpes or genital warts. But, different medicines can help manage the symptoms of herpes and treat the complications of HPV infections that can cause genital warts.
Herpes And Newborn Infants
Herpes infection in a newborn can cause a range of symptoms, including skin rash, fevers, mouth sores, and eye infections. If left untreated, neonatal herpes is a very serious and even life-threatening condition. Neonatal herpes can spread to the brain and central nervous system, causing encephalitis and meningitis. It also can lead to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and death. Herpes can also spread to internal organs, such as the liver and lungs.
Infants infected with herpes are treated with acyclovir, an antiviral drug. They usually receive several weeks of intravenous acyclovir treatment, often followed by several months of oral acyclovir. It is important to treat babies quickly, before the infection spreads to the brain and other organs.
Risk For Genital Herpes
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , about 1 in 6 Americans ages 14 to 49 years have genital herpes. While HSV-2 remains the main cause of genital herpes, HSV-1 has significantly increased as a cause, most likely because of oral-genital sex. Except for people in monogamous relationships with uninfected partners, everyone who is sexually active is at risk for genital herpes.
Risk factors for genital herpes include:
- History of an STD
- First sexual intercourse at an early age
- High number of sexual partners
- Low socioeconomic status
Women are more susceptible to HSV-2 infection because herpes is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men. About 1 in 5 women, compared to 1 in 9 men, have genital herpes. African-American women are at particularly high risk.
People with compromised immune systems, such as those who have HIV, are at very high risk for genital herpes. These people are also at risk for more severe complications from herpes. Drugs that suppress the immune system, and organ transplantation, can also weaken the immune system and increase the risk for contracting genital herpes.
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How Will My Healthcare Provider Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at any sores that are present. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV antibodies.
Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider about herpes testing and other STDs.
Please note: A herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection. It cannot tell you who gave you the infection or when you got the infection.
Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home
Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?
- Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
- Applying ice to blisters or sores.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as a topical analgesic.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What is the best treatment for me?
- What are the side effects of antiviral medications?
- How can I reduce the risk of future outbreaks?
- Whats the best way to prevent getting another STI?
- How can I protect my partner from getting genital herpes?
- Should I look out for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people are living with the herpes virus that causes genital herpes. Its a common STI. You shouldnt be embarrassed or put off seeking medical care if you develop symptoms. Treatments can ease symptoms, reduce outbreaks and protect sexual partners from infection. Having the virus shouldnt affect your relationships or sexual health. However, you do need to tell your sexual partners that you have the virus. Your healthcare provider can discuss ways to prevent spreading this STI.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/23/2020.
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How Can You Catch Herpes
Like most sexual transmitted infections , herpes is passed on when someone with an active outbreak of the virus has sexual intercourse with a partner. It may also be spread by contact with bodily fluids from an infected person, including blood, saliva, vaginal fluid, semen or any fluid expelled from a weeping herpes blister.
The virus is passed onto the other person through tiny breaks in the mucous membranes or skin. Because viruses are very small, herpes can easily spread even if the breaks are only microscopic. This means you cannot conduct a visual inspection of a partner and guarantee that they will not catch the disease.
It is also worth noting that while the virus is generally passed on during the phase when the blisters are visible on the skin, there is also the possibility of infection spreading even when blisters are not showing.
This is due to something called asymptomatic shedding. This is where the virus continues to shed into bodily fluids even when dormant. This kind of shedding is most common during the first 12 months of herpes infections. However, it may continue throughout the life of the infection and you cannot guarantee that because you have no visible sores that your partner will not be infected.
In a monogamous relationship, a female partner carries a substantially higher risk of contracting herpes from an infected male partner than vice-versa.
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What Do Genital Herpes Symptoms Look Like
Other symptoms can include:
- tingling or burning around the genitals
- feeling unwell, with aches, pains and flu-like symptoms
- unusual vaginal discharge in women.
Many people with genital herpes wont get any symptoms, or may get symptoms for the first time months or even years after they were infected.
For most people, the blisters go away within one to two weeks. Although the outbreaks clear-up by themselves, the virus stays in the body. This means that people usually get blisters again which is called having a recurrent outbreak. Outbreaks usually become shorter and less severe over time.
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What Is Herpes And What Causes It
Herpes is a very common STD caused by the herpes simplex virus, or HSV. There are two different types of herpes:
- HSV-1 is a typical cause of cold sores or fever blisters that appear on the lips. This form of herpes spreads through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person and sometimes affects the genitals.
- HSV-2 is the most common cause of genital herpes, which can lead to symptoms like small blisters on the genitals, painful urination, swollen lymph nodes around the groin, and more. You can contract this virus through sexual contact with someone who has it. This HSV infection is highly contagious, and it can spread to you regardless of whether your partner has an open sore. If you are infected but donât have symptoms, you have asymptomatic herpes.
After an initial infection, the herpes virus doesnât go away. Instead, it lies dormant in the body before it can cause symptoms to reappear. Some people may experience a symptomatic recurrence multiple times a year, while others may go years between flare-ups. In the case of asymptomatic herpes, however, you may not have any noticeable symptoms at any point during the infection.
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Myth #: If Someone Has Herpes Theyre Probably Promiscuous
One of my favorite myths is that only promiscuous or slutty people get herpesI just want to shout from the rooftops that this is absolutely not the case, says Hawkins. Herpes is something thats super easily transmitted. This is especially true of type 1 oral herpes, as you may have contracted it from, say, your grandmother as a kid. If this is the case, 15 years later you could perform oral sex on your partner and accidentally transmit your type 1 to his or her genitalsits that easy.
For this and all the reasons outlined abovethe fact that its difficult to test for, most people dont know they have it, it can be contracted non-sexually, etcyou can catch genital herpes from your first love, your long-term partner, someone who has been STD tested and shows you a clean bill of health, etc. Your number of sexual partners and your sexual proclivities are irrelevant.
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Herpes Encephalitis And Meningitis
Herpes simplex encephalitis is inflammation of the brain caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2. It is a rare but extremely serious brain disease. Untreated, herpes encephalitis is fatal most of the time. Respiratory arrest can occur within the first 24 to 72 hours. Fortunately, rapid diagnostic tests and treatment with acyclovir have significantly improved survival rates and reduced complication rates. Nearly all who recover have some impairment, ranging from very mild neurological changes to paralysis.
Herpes simplex meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that line the brain and spinal cord. It is mainly caused by HSV-2. Like encephalitis, meningitis symptoms include headache, fever, stiff neck, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. Fortunately, herpes meningitis usually resolves after about a week without complications, although symptoms can recur.
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How To Prevent A Cold Sore From Spreading
This article was co-authored by Andrea Rudominer, MD, MPH. Dr. Andrea Rudominer is a board certified Pediatrician and Integrative Medicine Doctor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dr. Rudominer has over 15 years of medical care experience and specializes in preventive health care, obesity, adolescent care, ADHD, and culturally competent care. Dr. Rudominer received her MD from the University of California, Davis, and completed a residency at the Lucile Packard Childrenâs Hospital at Stanford University. Dr. Rudominer also has an MPH in Maternal Child Health from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a Member of the American Board of Pediatrics, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Member and Delegate of the California Medical Association, and a Member of the Santa Clara County Medical Association.There are 16 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 152,290 times.
How Are Genital Herpes Diagnosed
Other STIs, like syphilis, cause similar symptoms. In addition to a physical exam, your healthcare provider will take a fluid sample from the blisters to test for the herpes virus. If your blisters are healed or you dont have blisters, a blood test can check for HSV-2 antibody, a marker that shows you have been exposed to the virus.
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Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Herpes simplex and the varicella-zoster virus are related, but they arent the same. VZV causes chickenpox and shingles.
Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
What Happens If I Dont Get Treated
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or the fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another part of your body, such as your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, immediately wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading your infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your developing fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? above for information about this.
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You Can Get Herpes From Oral Sex
When someone has a cold sore on their mouth or simply an oral infection with no sores present, and is the giver of oral sex to someone else, the virus can be spread from the mouth to the genitals. The receiver of the oral sex might then get genital herpes type 1. The virus type doesn’t change ,but the cold sore virus will simply live, and possibly recur, in the area of the genitals.
Is My Family At Risk
The upper respiratory infection that is caused by feline viral rhinotracheitis is only infectious to other cats. However, upper respiratory infections in cats can be caused by or complicated by bacterial infections, some of which might be contagious to humans. If you follow good hygiene practices including proper hand washing after handling any cat, you will minimize the chance that you can get an illness from this or any other infectious disease. Consult your family physician if anyone in your family develops signs of a respiratory infection if your cat is ill.
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How Effective Is Medication At Preventing Infection
If you have genital herpes, you will probably be somewhat less likely to infect your partner if you use antiviral medication for prevention. The medications used for this purpose include aciclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir. They must be taken every day over a long period of time, though. One study showed that over a period of eight months,
- 4 out of 100 people became infected when the partner with the virus took a placebo, and
- 2 out of 100 people became infected when the partner with the virus took antiviral medication every day.
These couples were also advised to use condoms as well but many didn’t use them consistently. So its not clear whether taking antiviral medication can lower the risk of infection even further if you always use condoms anyway, or whether using condoms is just as effective on its own.
Whether or not you would like to use preventive medication is ultimately an individual decision. Many factors can play a role, such as how long you or your partner have had the infection, how frequent and severe the outbreaks are, whether you are male or female, the frequency of sexual contact and whether you use condoms.
Preventing Herpes During Pregnancy
If you are an adult, the symptoms of herpes are usually manageable and rarely cause complications. However, herpes is transmitted to a baby before, during, or after childbirth, it can be dangerous.
Even with aggressive treatment, newborns who get herpes often die because they don’t have the immune defenses to fight off the infection, allowing it to spread to the liver, lungs, brain, and other parts of the body.
Neonatal herpes mainly occurs during childbirth as the baby comes into contact with lesions in the birth canal. Less commonly, the virus is passed while the baby is still in the womb or after birth when the newborn comes into contact with a herpes sore.
Since 85% of these infections occur during childbirth, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women with active recurrent genital herpes be given suppressive therapy starting at 36 weeks of pregnancy. Doing so can greatly reduce, but not entirely eliminate, the risk of infection.
After childbirth, mothers may need to limit contact with a newborn if an outbreak occurs. They also need to take extra care to wash their hands and any touched objects thoroughly and frequently.
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Is One Type Of Herpes More Easily Spread Than Another
No, not really. Both HSV1 and HSV2 can be easily transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. HSV1 tends to prefer locations above the waist, such as the mouth, and HSV2 tends to prefer locations below the waist, such as the genitals, but both can also be easily spread to other parts of the body.
Both types are most contagious during active outbreaks when visual symptoms are present but they are also commonly spread when there are no recognizable symptoms through asymptomatic shedding.
Recurrent Episodes Of Genital Herpes
Recurrences are usually less painful and shorter in duration than the first episode of genital herpes. Over time, episodes usually become less frequent and may eventually stop altogether. Infections caused by HSV1 are less likely to recur in the genital area than infections caused by HSV2.
Recurrences may be triggered by:
- no apparent reason noted.
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