Differences Between Genital Warts and Genital Herpes

Reviewed by: Daniel Williams, MD

Genital lesions can take many forms. Warts and small, fluid-filled bumps (like pimples) known as vesicles are very different in appearance.

Genital warts tend to be slow-growing, irregular in shape and are often as wide as they are tall. Most of the time they are painless, but irritation can arise from physical contact such as clothing abrasions. The vast majority of genital warts are due to Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is typically sexually transmitted. Some types of HPV can lead to skin cancer, even in men, and all types are contagious through physical contact. Otherwise, the warts themselves don’t cause trouble unless they grow to annoying sizes.

Genital herpes is also from a virus known as Herpes Virus. While there are different types of herpes viruses, the most common is Herpes Simplex II. Often, patients know when they contract this sexually transmitted disease because they will have a flu-like syndrome within 24 hours of sexual activity and can have genital lesions that are painful. The herpes lesion typically hurts and forms many raised, pinpoint, fluid-filled bumps (vesicles). The individual vesicles can last for days or weeks and can be brought on by stress or illness. These lesions are full of the virus and the affected area needs to be kept clean and dry as much as possible.

There are numerous other causes of genital lesions, such as syphilis, cancer, contact dermatitis, “heat rash”, impetigo, fungal infections, or a host of other dermatological diseases. It is important that a physician correctly diagnose your genital lesions for an accurate diagnosis.

If you already have a known diagnosis of genital herpes or HPV warts you want to reduce the number of lesions and breakouts for either type of infection. Anti-viral medications such as Valtrex and Acyclovir can help reduce the number of herpes outbreaks and their severity. They can be ordered online through securely and through their U.S.-licensed physicians. Just be prepared to fill out a medical questionnaire.

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