What's the Difference between Herpes and HPV?

Published on Apr 18, 2024 | 2:30 PM

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Both common in the United States, herpes and HPV can often be confused with each other due to what develops on the skin after either infects a person. Herpes, which causes sores that are often called fever blisters, is a viral STD that, when left untreated, makes it easier to get infected with other STDs like HIV. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is often called genital warts and results in warts. The differences between the two conditions may not be clear at first glance but become clear as each develops and exhibits symptoms. 

Herpes, what does it look like?

Herpes infections typically present as clusters of small, painful blisters or sores on or around the genitals, anus, or mouth. The blisters are often filled with clear fluid that may later become cloudy. These blisters can break open, releasing the fluid and forming ulcers or raw areas that can be quite painful. In genital herpes, the sores commonly appear on the external genitals, buttocks, or thighs, while oral herpes (cold sores) usually manifests as blisters in and around the mouth or on the lips. The affected area may also be accompanied by symptoms such as itching, burning, or tingling sensations before the blisters appear. It's important to note that herpes symptoms can vary widely between individuals, and some people may have mild or no symptoms at all, making diagnosis based on visual appearance alone challenging. Learn more about herpes from the Call-On-Doc Guide to Herpes

HPV, what does it look like?

HPV infections can manifest in different ways depending on the type of HPV involved. One of the most common visible signs of HPV infection is the development of genital warts. These warts can appear as small, flesh-colored bumps or clusters of bumps on the genitals, anal area, or surrounding skin. They may have a cauliflower-like appearance and can vary in size and shape. However, it's important to note that not all HPV infections cause visible warts. Some high-risk HPV types can lead to changes in the cells of the cervix, anus, oropharynx, or other areas, which may not be visible without medical testing. Regular screenings, such as pap smears and HPV tests, are essential for detecting HPV-related changes early and preventing potential complications like cervical cancer. Learn more about HPV through the Call-On-Doc Guide to Genital Warts

Herpes vs genital warts

The development timeline for herpes typically involves symptoms appearing within 2 to 12 days after exposure, with the initial outbreak being the most severe and subsequent outbreaks being milder and shorter in duration. On the other hand, HPV infections may not show symptoms immediately after exposure. Genital warts, if present, may appear weeks to months after infection, while HPV-related cancers can take 10 to 20 years to develop symptoms, such as cervical cancer.

In terms of symptoms, herpes manifests as painful blisters or sores in the affected area (mouth for HSV-1, genitals for HSV-2) during the initial outbreak. Other symptoms may include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and general malaise, with recurrent outbreaks occurring periodically. In contrast, HPV infections are often asymptomatic and may resolve without noticeable symptoms. However, some HPV strains can cause genital warts or lead to various cancers, although symptoms of these cancers may not appear until they have progressed significantly. 

Can HPV turn into herpes?

No, HPV cannot turn into herpes. The two are different based on the viruses that cause them, with HPV infections being the result of the human papillomavirus and herpes infections being caused by herpes simplex viruses. Whereas HPV causes warts based on the specific subcategory of the virus, herpes results in visible and uncomfortable lesions in or around the mouth or around the genitals. While both HPV and herpes infections can be sexually transmitted and affect the genital area, they are caused by different viruses and do not transform into each other.

Herpes and HPV can appear similar, with each being a condition that causes growths on the skin, but the two have more differences based on symptoms and development upon closer inspection. Fortunately, Call-On-Doc can help manage either, with options for herpes prescriptions, including acyclovir and valacyclovir, while options for HPV prescriptions include imiquimod and Condylox. Each is available through a quick consultation for those having HPV or herpes. 

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Wayne Hahne,

English graduate and Call-On-Doc’s medical resource guide, Wayne C. Hahne is an experienced and passionate medical education content expert. Through diligent research, provider interviews and utilizing the industry's leading resources for wellness information, it is Mr. Hahne’s personal mission to educate the general public on medical conditions with in-depth and easy-to-understand written guides.

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