Healthy Living

Is This Genital Herpes or do I have Cold Sores?

Is This Genital Herpes or do I have Cold Sores?

Key Takeaways

  • Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus. 
  • There is no big difference between these two viruses since they are 80 percent similar. 
  • One way of differentiating whether you have genital herpes or cold herpes is to recognize the location of lesions. 

Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). This virus causes both genital herpes and oral herpes (cold sores). However, the strain varies, with the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) causing cold sores while the herpes simplex type 2 (HSV2) causes genital herpes. HSV1 is mostly transmitted through non-sexual contact such as kissing. It can also be transmitted by sharing objects such as toothbrushes and kitchen utensils such as spoons. As the name suggests, Oral herpes is mostly transmitted through kissing and thus younger children can be affected where parents like kissing their children, normally to show affection. In this, infected parents and adults should be cautious not to cause infection. Also, blowing of the same balloons by several people where one of the people blowing it has this virus can cause it to spread to the other uninfected person(s) blowing the same balloons and in wedding venue preparations where a lot of balloons are used for decoration. This happens more with the kids when playing. Also, parents who feed their children with milk and other drinks using feeding bottles should be careful if infected, that they avoid tasting such before feeding their children with them as that may cause the children’s mouths to come into contact with infected saliva. By now may be you have already learnt that transmission of cold herpes occurs when someone comes into contact with a cold sore or an infected fluid.

HSV2 on the other hand is mostly transmitted through sex - anal and vaginal. However, HSV1 can also cause genital herpes when it is transmitted to the genitals through oral sex. There are a few cases where genital herpes is caused by HSV1. There is no big difference between these two viruses since they are 80 percent similar. Genital herpes on the other hand mostly affects people who are sexually active. However, even one-time sex with the infected without proper use of latex condoms can lead to an infection of the same. Despite this, both types of herpes are transmitted through direct contact with sores of a person with herpes. Sometimes, people with genital herpes who are not showing any symptoms can still spread herpes to others due to viral shedding. During viral shedding, the virus is active and is highly contagious. At the same time, shedding may occur without any visible signs and symptoms to indicate so. That is known as ‘Asymptomatic Viral Shedding’.

One way of differentiating whether you have genital herpes or cold herpes is to recognize the location of lesions. Lesions are mostly located on the face, on the lips, chins, in nostrils and near the corner of the mouth in people with cold sores. On rare occasions these sores may appear on the gums and the mouth’s roof. Younger children who have cold sores may also have sores in the mouth. If lesions are present in the mouth, you may experience painful and bleeding gum.

Genital herpes on the other hand causes lesions on lower parts of the body, mostly below the waist. Lesions are predominantly found on the genitals, area around the anus, buttocks and thighs. Men usually have blisters on the scrotum and penis. In women blisters can be found both outside and inside the vagina and cervix. These lesions may cause a smelly discharge to be produced from the vagina. Both men and women may experience a burning sensation when urinating due to the presence of blisters in the urethra. Pregnant women who have genital herpes have a high risk of transmitting it to their child during labor. As such, a cesarean section is recommended for such women. This mostly occurs if symptoms are present in the time before delivery. Neonatal herpes is a serious condition that can cause encephalitis, visual disturbances and in critical conditions, death.

People with oral herpes rarely experience any outbreaks while those who have genital herpes are at an increased risk of having outbreaks. The symptoms of cold sores tend to be less severe in comparison to the symptoms of genital herpes. If you have cold sores you are most likely to have a sore throat, fever, pain around the mouth and the lips and swollen lymph nodes of the neck. The lymph nodes in your groin area may be swollen if you have genital herpes.

The best way to know if you have genital herpes or a cold sore is to visit your doctor. Your doctor will take a swab sample from your sores to perform a lab test. Lab tests such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test can be used to identify whether the sores are as a result of HSV1 or HSV2. Another test that can be used is the antibody test which shows antibodies against the herpes simplex virus. A culture test can be performed. This involves taking a sample from the lesion in order to identify the causative agent of blisters.

Another way to figure out whether you are suffering from oral herpes or genital herpes is to take a mental journey backwards, looking at your past events. Trace back to any time that you might have come into contact with fluids or anyone with cold sores. The above given information given throughout this article can help you know which condition you have of the two by identifying the condition the one transmitted to you has.

In all this, we need not leave out those who have taken several years to study our bodies carefully and understand its anatomy and the way it functions – the doctors. There are several medical officers that can be consulted to figure out the exact infection of the two from which you are suffering. These are Pediatricians, Primary care givers, Gynecologists and Urologists. They have a great deal of knowledge on these and more infections and passing it on to you would require you to contact or visit them. Being there with them personally is very important as determination of the particular virus of the two one is suffering from may require a physical examination by the doctors, and further laboratory tests. The doctors may as well conduct an interview with the patient to study what could be the particular virus one is suffering from. The latter is very important as as it was mentioned earlier, the herpes simplex virus type one (HSV1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2) are eighty percent (80%) similar. A DNA test can also be carried out to determine which herpes simplex virus one is suffering from.

May you treasure the pleasure of leaving harmful activities for healthy living.