Difference Between Genital Herpes And HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)


Herpes & HPV are common viral infections transmitted through sexual contact. Both these infections have similarities; they can cause lesions without portraying any significant symptoms. Sexually active people with one or more partners can contract one or both the viral infections at some point of time. Practising safe & healthy sex can aid in preventing these STDs.

Here's all you need to know about the diseases and the differences between them:

Herpes is an infection transmitted by HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus) that affects the genitals, mucosal surfaces, anal region, skin, and other parts of the body. Although Herpes can appear in any part of the body, the most common sites are the mouth or genitals. 

HSV 1 (oral herpes) – May lead to cold sores and fever blisters around the mouth and on the face.

HSV 2 – This is usually responsible for genital herpes outbreaks.

Herpes can be passed on from one person to another. But you cannot become infected by just touching an object used by the infected person. Causes of herpes may be due to the following reasons:

• Having unprotected oral or vaginal sex with an infected person

• A mother with genital herpes may pass on the infection to the baby

• Having sex at a younger age

• Having multiple sex partners

• Eating from the same utensils

• Kissing

• Sharing cosmetics like lip balm

• Weakened immunity

Symptoms of herpes often go unnoticed for months or years after getting infected. Some initial symptoms may be -

• Vaginal discharge

• Pain and itching

• Pain when urinating

• Blisters in the vagina or cervix

• Tender, enlarged lymph nodes

• General malaise

• Cold sores around the mouth

• Red blisters on the skin

• High temperature

The virus is usually diagnosed by a physical exam. Your doctor may check for sores, and request for HSV testing. This testing requires collecting a swab from the sore and sending it for testing in the lab. Blood tests are also sometimes done to check for antibodies to HSV1 and HSV2.

Complications may include contracting other STIs, urinary tract infections, bladder problems, meningitis, and rectal inflammation. In the case of newborns, if they are exposed to the virus during pregnancy, complications include blindness, brain damage or death.

There is no permanent cure to this virus. So the treatment process involves limiting outbreaks. Your sores may also disappear without treatment in the course of time.

However, some antiviral medications are prescribed by the doctors to limit the spread of the virus and lower the frequency of outbreaks. Topical creams are also recommended. In case of a severe outbreak, an injection may be necessary.

Aside from the said, sunbathing and stress are major factors for the trigger. So avoiding such triggers is essential.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a sexually transmitted viral infection, which gets passed on from person to person through skin-to-skin contact. The HPV infection is also the most common sexually transmitted infection and those who are sexually active may get some variety of the virus at some point in time or the other.

Most HPV infections go away on their own without any symptoms. But, the virus remains in the body in a dormant state and may be passed on to sexual partners.

Genital warts and warts in the throat are the most common symptoms. They occur as a single growth or cluster of growth and may have a cauliflower-like appearance.

At times, HPV may lead to cancers of the cervices, genitals, head, neck or throat. However, cancers do not show symptoms until later stages of growth. Therefore, regular screenings can help in the diagnosis.

Direct sexual contact such as oral sex is the main cause for HPV. Being a skin-to-skin infection, the infection can be contracted even without intercourse. Rarely, a mother who is HPV positive may infect her baby during delivery.

The infection can be diagnosed through regular pap tests and HPV tests. The tests may be followed up with a colposcopy in case your doctor wants a closer examination in case he suspects any abnormalities. For men, there are no tests to detect HPV, unless the appearance of genital warts.

In the majority of cases, HPV infection goes away on its own, as there is no treatment for the infection, by itself. Warts, however, may be removed, or drugs may be prescribed to reduce it. However, you may have to undergo a repeat test every six months to check if the infection persists.

• Both Herpes and HPV infection are sexually transmitted diseases. However, there are differences in symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

• To differentiate between the two, wart is a common symptom of HPV infection, while Herpes is marked by oozing sores, itching or pain following an infection.

• Herpes is characterised by sores around the mouth and on the genitals, but, HPV infection often has no symptoms and warts may be the only sign. Among the two, HPV is more dangerous, as it may lead to cancer.

• Both Herpes and HPV infection are transmitted through sex, but, HPV may be shared just by skin-to-skin contact.

• Pap test is usually recommended to diagnose HPV, apart from a visual examination of warts, while in the case of Herpes a sample of lesions are taken with a swab for diagnosis.

• In both cases, the virus cannot be cured, but warts caused by HPV may be controlled by drugs. While in the case of Herpes, antiviral drugs may help treat outbreak and symptoms.

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