Disorders that involve the genitals can be very embarrassing. Almost no one is comfortable going to his or her doctor and revealing that they a problem “down there”. Two of the more common conditions that can appear on the genitals are warts and herpes. These two condition may often seem similar, but they are quite different. Let’s look at some of the differences between genital warts and herpes.
Genital warts are a sexually transmitted disease. It is a condition that is caused by an infection by a family of viruses known as human papillomavirus, sometimes referred to by the acronym HPV. Interestingly, HPV has also been implicated as the major risk factor for the development of cervical cancer in women. It should be noted that the development of genital warts does not mean a person is at increased risk for cancer.
HPV is a highly contagious virus. It can be transmitted from person to person by a variety of sexual activities. Despite being a very common infection, only a small percentage of people who are infected with HPV will go on to develop a medical condition such as genital warts. Those people who do not develop warts, but are infected, can go on to infect other people, often without ever knowing they are a carrier.
The appearance of the warts themselves can vary tremendously. The tend to be found in clusters, but the clusters can be very small, or quite large groupings. The warts can often cause some degree of itching, but not everyone will experience this. The can be large enough to have “stalks”, often resembling small patches of broccoli (yet they remain flesh colored, not green).
Genital warts are a medical condition that is quite serious and needs proper treatment. There are medications and surgical procedures which your doctor can talk to you about if the need arises.
Genital herpes is a condition that is also caused by a viral infection. In this case, the virus is called the herpes simplex virus, or HSV. There are two major sub-types of this virus. Although traditionally only type 2 was considered the genital form of the infection, this is now know to not be the case. Either type can cause a genital infection.
Herpes lesions have a very different appearance compared to genital warts. The sores caused by HSV are small papules, often being inflamed and red. They are exquisitely painful and tender to the touch. The sores can break open and weep fluid. Herpes sores can cause sex to become impossible due to the pain and discomfort.
HSV, like HPV, is very contagious. The viruses are both spread by sexual contact. Herpes sores generally resolve within a few days to a couple of weeks. The treatment for genital herpes involves the use of anti-viral medications. The treatments for these two conditions are certainly not the same.
If you have more questions about the differences between genital warts and genital herpes, make an appointment to talk to your doctor. These can be embarrassing conditions to talk about, but your doctor will understand be and able to help you no matter what the cause of the problem may be.