Itchy, irritable, and an inconvenience for those who suffer from them, cold sores and genital herpes are among the most common infections on the planet. But while you may have some knowledge, or even experience, of them, what’s the difference between the two? Below we explain all.
Both cold sores and genital herpes are both members of the Herpesviridae family of DNA viruses, a group that shares the characteristic of producing recurring infections in their host.
Cold sores and genital herpes are strands of the herpes simplex virus (HSV), with cold sores being classed as herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and genital herpes being caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
Genital herpes are different from genital warts, to find out how to identify the differences read our advice on genital warts symptoms.
Genital herpes appears as small blisters which burst and then become painful ulcers. They are found primarily on your genitals, thighs, anus, or buttocks.
You can find out more information about genital herpes on the NHS’s page about genital herpes.
Cold sores are sores that are characterised by the cold burning sensation that they give infected with them. You will find them most often on and around your lip.
While both cold sores and genital herpes are part of the same family of viruses, there are some differences beyond where they typically appear:
The major similarity between cold sores and genital herpes is that both are incurable; once you have been infected with either HSV-1 or HSV-2, the infection will then stay with you for the rest of your life.
However, that’s not the only similarity. The two also:
While neither cold sores or genital herpes can be cured, there are a number of treatments to help those who are suffering from them:
While there are both similarities and differences between cold sores and genital herpes, the important thing is that treatment is available to treat them.
If you think that you may have either cold sores or genital herpes, seek advice on the best course of action to take by speaking to a registered healthcare professional.
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