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Genital Herpes OR Genital Warts? Diagnosis and Treatment
This article will be a look at the differences and the similarities between the herpes and warts, looking at the viruses that cause the two and how to tell herpes and warts apart.
Although herpes and warts are two fairly different diseases, they do have certain things in common, and it is possible to get them confused, so this article is to help avoid that confusion!
This article will have an emphasis on herpes and the different ways it can express itself in the body.
There are several other articles on this website that will give you more information on genital warts, so it isn’t covered in quite the same detail here.
However, if you find out you do have herpes, then H-Away and H-Prevention appear to work very well at quickly disposing of herpes blisters, and in preventing further outbreaks of herpes.
Understanding the Symptoms and Signs of the Herpes and Warts Viruses
Warts are caused by a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV for short.
There are many different strains of this virus, which is sort of like saying there are many different kinds of dogs - they are all dogs, they all have a lot in common, but they look and behave differently.
So there are lots of different types of HPV, and what they have in common is that they all cause warts, but they cause them in different places and with different sizes and shapes of wart.
Some, in particular, cause warts to develop on the genitals.
Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus, or HSV.
There are only two major kinds in humans, HSV-1 and HSV-2.
HSV-1 tends to infect the face, causing the blisters known as cold sores, although it can affect any part of the skin. It is the more common of the two types of cold sore.
The other one, HSV-2, is more usually responsible for causing blistering round the genitals.
Both strains of the virus can attack any part of the skin or any mucous membrane in the body, though, they aren’t limited to just one area, and HSV-1 can infect the genitals from contact with a cold sore during oral sex, for example.
What both the herpes and warts viruses have in common is the way they attack the body.
A virus cannot reproduce by itself, it must enter the cell of another living creature and hijack the cellular mechanisms in there to make copies of itself.
Viruses inject their own genetic material into a cell, and that then activates, making the cell behave differently to the way it usually does.
For warts and herpes, the virus targets skin cells, making them divide much more rapidly than usual as well as churning out new copies of the virus.
The way that both the herpes and warts viruses then get these new copies out where they can go on to infect other people (and keep making more new copies) is to get the infected cells out to the surface of the skin.
With the warts viruses, this is done by growing a sort of tower of cells, the wart, which protrudes out from the surface of the rest of the normal skin and makes it more likely to get knocked or rubbed on other surfaces, spreading the virus by physical contact. The top of that warty tower is where the new copies are released.
In herpes, a blister forms of leaky, infected skill cells, which are dying and bursting, spreading the new copies of the virus as they do so. These blisters are on the surface of the skin, and once they’ve burst, the ulcer that results has the same effect - shedding new viruses into the outside world. Again, because it is on the surface of the skin, it is much easier for the copies to go forth and multiply, or get transferred to other people.
One of the chief differences between the herpes and warts viruses is the timescale that they both achieve their goal in.
HPV, the warts virus, is a fairly slow-growing approach, and it is more sustainable.
HSV, the herpes viruses, set the cells they infect into a kind of self-destruct, so the lesion formed tends to be a shorter lived infection compared to a wart.
The main similarity between genital warts and herpes, is that both viruses, once the initial infection has been dealt with by your body, stay there.
Most of the time, this isn’t a big problem, as the main reason the herpes or warts virus is ‘hiding’ in this way is because you have developed immunity to it, and the virus is unable to become active again as your immune system will quickly destroy it before it can cause a problem.
But if your immune system is compromised, either because it is busy fighting another infection, or if you are run down, or if another illness or medication is suppressing its action, the warts or herpes viruses can come back.
What if the genital warts or herpes come back?
Another virus that shows a similar behaviour is the one that causes chicken pox - you never get chicken pox again, but it can come back later as shingles if you are tired or run down. This is quite a typical bit of behaviour for viruses, unfortunately.
Do I Have Warts or Herpes?
Although the genital warts and herpes conditions manifest themselves in very different ways, that doesn’t help you if you’ve never had either of them and don’t know what to expect.
Of the two infections, herpes tends to be the more serious and painful and can have long-term effects on your health more often than warts can.
This means it is more likely for people to be worried that the strange lump on their genitals that they’ve found might mean they have herpes, but it is equally possible to think the early blisters are the start of a wart. So how can you tell warts and herpes apart?
Well, genital herpes is very similar to a cold sore:
There is an initial period where the skin may become a little red and inflamed.
At this time, there is often a tingling, burning or itchy feel to the skin, like tiny needles pressing against it.
This quickly develops into a blister full of watery liquid over a couple of days, and this blister will then burst, leaving a painful ulcer that will gradually heal over the next couple of weeks without leaving a scar.
In comparison, warts are not tingly or painful as they develop, although they can be uncomfortable if they grow on a patch of skin that is pressed on or rubs against another area of skin.
If you had a herpes blister on the same patch of skin, though, it would be much more painful, especially once the ulcer forms!
If anything, warts have a slightly reduced amount of sensation across them, and feel slightly numb or disconnected. Warts typically have a lumpy, rough surface to them, whereas the head of a herpes blister is smooth and an ulcer is crusted with dried out secretions.
Warts do not leak fluids, whereas herpetic lesions (the blisters or the herpes ulcers) do.
A genital herpes infection, especially if it is your first one, is sometimes accompanied by a general feeling of illness, maybe with some fever, headaches or fatigue, which does not occur with a warts infection.
Subsequent herpes infections are likely to be much less obvious.
Depending on where on your genitals an infection might be, it can also cause quite severe pain when passing urine, which again is very unlikely with warts.
Treatment of Herpes
If, after reading through the descriptions above, you suspect you have got a genital herpes infection, what should you do?
First, you should go to your local GU clinic, or sexual health drop-in clinic.
Most GPs can (and will) treat genital herpes, but they don’t see as many cases, mostly because patients are often too embarrassed to see a family doctor for such afflictions.
A GU clinic is there specifically for such things, and is better equipped to diagnose and treat them.
Whoever you see will probably take swabs from the blisters or ulcers to check that it is an HSV infection and to make sure there aren’t bacterial infections making the ulcers worse, as can happen.
You will probably be prescribed an antiviral medication, either as a cream to put on the ulcers or as pills to take for them, and a common one is a drug called acyclovir, which you may know as Zovirax as a typical brand name. This will shorten the length of the attack, so you’ll get rid of it faster. In most cases, this kind of treatment is strongly advisable.
Home Remedy that takes just 72 hours - 3 days - to cure a herpes outbreak
As an affiliate for Barton Publishing for several years, I was surprised to see that they had gained copyright of a 72 hour cure for herpes outbreaks. The ebook is called the Herpes Relief Guide 72 Hour Cure , and you can buy the ingredients for as little as $20 in the grocery store. Barton Publishing are so confident that it will work for you, that they are offering a full 1 year guarantee - 365 days - no questions asked money back.
The consequences of having a herpes infection
It is important to treat herpes quickly for two main reasons - first is to reduce your own discomfort, but second is to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Herpes is very infectious, it is easy to spread it through physical contact.
With herpes, that doesn’t just mean giving it to other people (and while you have active blisters or ulcers anywhere on the body, it would be very advisable to refrain from physical contact with other people. Barrier protection like condoms are good at stopping the spread of HSV, but not perfect, and won’t protect your mouth or skin in other areas, for example), but you can also spread it across your own body.
Picking or itching the herpes blisters is an easy way to do this, and although the herpes viruses are happier in specific places, they can infect any kind of skin.
Herpes have been known to infect the hands (in which case the blisters and ulcers were classically referred to as a ‘whitlow’), the rectum, the eyes and the scalp, amongst other areas.
[In relation to the eyes, I know of a young girl who got the herpes virus in her eye, and whenever it returned it caused much discomfort, and has remained all her life. Carfeul attention is reuired in herpes in eyes, as blindness may result in te infected eye]
Mothers can spread the virus to a newborn baby, which can be a very serious infection.
Herpes isn’t, to be fair, either as common or as dangerous as this might make it sound.
Most cases clear up within three weeks without further problems, even if there is always a chance of a secondary recurrence.
But as an illness, it is currently becoming more common, as many sexually transmitted diseases are, and there is recent research which shows that previous infection with the disease can be a risk factor for developing two serious diseases late in life, specifically Alzheimer’s Disease (for which there is quite good evidence of a link) and a paralysis of the face called a Bell’s Palsy (for which the evidence is not quite so convincing yet).
These are risk factors, not foregone conclusions, so getting herpes does not mean you will get one of these difficult diseases later on, but it could make it more likely.
As with most illnesses, then, herpes prevention is better than cure. Practice safe sex and be careful about who you sleep with, both for your own sake and for theirs.
Treatment of Genital Warts
The treatment of genital warts is not dealt with here in any great detail, although it isn’t too far different. Again, you should go and seek advice from a doctor who will help make a diagnosis one way or another and give you specific treatment to deal with your infection. Have a look at wart treatments for more details on the treatments available for warts in general.
Herpes and Warts Summary
Warts and Herpes do have several factors in common - they are both viral infections that can infect the genitals, causing embarrassing, painful and awkward lesions there.
Both are fairly easy to treat, though, and with early medication from your doctor there is nothing to worry about.
Like any sexually transmitted disease (STD), though, practising safe sex is the most important way to avoid getting them in the first place.
Main write by Dr. James D. Hogg, (BSc Oxon, MBBS & BA Hons), medical doctor, and minor editing by D S Urquhart, psychologist.www.wartsandgenitalwarts.com is an educational web site. It is NOT designed to diagnose nor treat but to offer understanding, ideas and options for you to discuss with your doctor first.
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