Cold Sores vs. Genital Herpes

Cold sores and genital herpes have more in common than most think. Both are caused by viruses; these conditions affect not only the appearance of the area affected, but they can also come back again after the initial breakout. Though the case could be made for genital herpes being the more serious of the two, learning the differences as well as the similarities between these herpes conditions can help a patient treat her condition as best she can.


Cold sores and genital herpes can look similar at first glance. A cold sore might look like a small blemish near the mouth, then inflame as the virus multiplies. The head of the sore can be shiny and ooze in some cases. The same description can be applied to genital herpes, though they are located around the pubic area. Genital herpes will flare up at times, but then be absent at other times, making them difficult to detect.

Transmission Method

The appearance of cold sores on the face can occur at any time when the skin is broken and the herpes simplex virus type 1 gets into the body. As the virus multiplies, the cold sore emerges on the face. This sore can be painful and red, causing the patient to feel self conscious. Genital herpes is caused by herpes simplex virus type 2, and is spread only through sexual contact. It's not always clear when the herpes virus is present, since sores may or may not be present, those engaging in sexual contact should know the sexual history of their partner and use protection to ensure they do not pass the virus onto someone else.

Treatments Available

While viruses are difficult to remove completely from the world, they are manageable more today than in the past. Anti-viral drugs are available, though they are limited in their effectiveness. Cold sore treatments are available, though they will only reduce the time the cold sore is present, rather than to cure the sores. Genital herpes can be managed so there are fewer breakouts, but that form of herpes is a lifelong condition.

Prognosis of Cold Sore Treatment

Cold sores tend to flare up when a person is feeling stressed, notably more often in those who have already had cold sores in the past. Within about a week, cold sores will typically resolve on their own. If a person scratches his cold sore or somehow breaks the skin, it can become vulnerable to a secondary infection, which will need to be treated with other medications. Genital herpes are not curable at this time. The afflicted may be able to manage breakouts, when the disease is spread most easily, but a daily regimen of anti-viral drugs will be needed to prevent constant breakouts.

Though cold sores and genital herpes may not be completely treatable, they are manageable. Current scientific research into combating viruses is helping to increase the rate of success in curing viral infections. However, the best treatment today is prevention. Good hygiene and stress management can reduce the rate of cold sores while safe sex practices will prevent genital herpes.

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