Herpes vs. Genital Warts (HPV): How to Tell the Difference

Herpes and genital warts (HPV) are both sexually transmitted diseases that are somewhat similar in nature. They are both caused by viruses that can be spread from person to person through sexual contact. However, the symptoms of each are different and are treated differently. Unfortunately at this time, there is no cure for herpes or HPV, however, symptoms of both can be treated and there is a vaccine for some of the most common types of HPV.

What Is Herpes?

Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus and can affect your mouth (oral herpes) or genitals (genital herpes). Herpes Zoster is another kind of herpes that causes chickenpox and shingles.

Symptoms of Herpes Simplex Virus

The classic symptoms of herpes simplex virus are open sores on the affected area (mouth or genitals). The sores are usually small, can be painful, and usually start out as fluid-filled blisters that break open easily. However, some people do not have any symptoms and don’t know they’re infected. Sores that appear usually go away, but can reappear multiple times.

How Is Herpes Spread?

Herpes is spread easily through sexual contact (including oral and anal sex), from touching your genitals (and then other body parts of your body like your mouth), and from a mother to a baby during birth. Herpes can be spread even when there are no blisters or sores present. You can reduce your chances of contracting herpes by always using a latex condom during sexual contact, not having sex, or being in a monogamous sexual relationship where both partners have been tested for herpes.

How Is Herpes Treated?

There is no cure for herpes, but there are medicines available that treat current symptoms and reduce the chance sores reoccurring.

What Are Genital Warts (HPV)?

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many different types of HPV. Not all strains of HPV cause genital warts, however, some strains can cause cervical or other types of cancer.

Symptoms of HPV

Genital warts can appear as small, flat and flesh-colored or cauliflower-like bumps on your skin. They may appear near the genitals and even inside the vagina or cervix. Rarely, warts can also appear in the throat. For women, a Pap test can help detect changes on the cervix caused by HPV. Since these changes can lead to cancer, a Pap test should be done annually or more frequently if you do have HPV. Many people with HPV do not have symptoms and don’t know they’re infected.

How Is HPV Spread?

HPV is spread similarly to herpes through sexual contact including oral and anal sex. As with herpes, the spread of HPV can be reduced by using a latex condom. However, HPV is highly contagious and can sometimes still be spread while using a condom since affected areas are not always covered by the condom.

How Is HPV Treated?

There is currently no cure for HPV. However, a healthy immune system can sometimes clear (get rid of) the virus within a few years. Genital warts can be treated or removed by a doctor, but may return. There are also vaccines available that help prevent some of the most common types of HPV.

All Article Categories

Before & After Photos

Need Help?
Get answers from experienced doctors
Ask Now

Suggested Doctors

Sorry, there are no matching doctors in your area
Please choose a different location



See more Suggested Doctors

Recently Asked Questions