What Does Herpes Look Like

It’s quite common to notice small bumps in the genital area. Sometimes, they might even be filled with pus—just like pimples that can appear on your face. Lumps and bumps in the genital area can happen for various reasons.

The virus that causes genital herpes never leaves your body. After the first outbreak, the virus moves to nearby nerves where it sleeps. You may never have another outbreak. It’s also possible that the virus will wake up, causing outbreaks from time to time.

If you want something store-bought, Abreva® is the only FDA-approved topical option for genital herpes. This over-the-counter cream contains non-prescription ingredients shown to accelerate the healing process. It’s most effective when used at the first sign of an outbreak and can be applied up to five times a day.

Genital Herpes or Pimples? How To Tell the Difference

Signs And Symptoms Of Genital Herpes In Men And Women

Many ailments and conditions are similar in appearance to a herpes rash. While determining the difference between herpes, pimples, ingrown hairs, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be difficult, there are some subtle distinctions that can aid in detection.

An oral herpes outbreak is commonly associated with the emergence of blisters on the lips or mouth. Lesions may also surface inside the mouth. Like other moist areas, sores inside the mouth typically take longer to crust over and heal. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can infect the mouth and lips. Blisters last between seven to ten days, beginning as a cluster of fluid-filled blisters that rupture within a few days of emergence. Oral herpes may often manifest on the corner of the lips in a honeycomb-like cluster, or as a single large cold sore. The outbreak may remain isolated to one spot on the upper or lower lip, or inside the mouth, or may spread across multiple skin surfaces. During the blister stage, the bumps are a reddish colour, and will take a yellowish tinge once the lesions have burst in the ulcer stage. The healing process is indicated by the crust-like appearance that eventually overtakes the open sores.

The bumps caused by genital herpes are more blister-like (filled with fluid) than pimple-like. When they break open, they turn into sores that seep fluid. Eventually, the active infection will scab over and heal. And a flare-up is likely to occur again in the future.

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Pimples on your genital area are a lot like pimples you get on your face or other places. Symptoms include:

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Outbreak treatment is used at the start of an outbreak during the prodrome phase. It can help to heal sores faster, and reduce pain associated with an outbreak.

While the sores associated with a genital herpes outbreak are similar between men and women, the areas affected differ. Men who experience a genital herpes outbreak may suffer a rash of blisters on the penis shaft, head, scrotum and testicles. The tip of the penis and shaft are very sensitive areas of the body, and men suffering from an outbreak here will find touching the penis to be painful during this time. The scrotum is another sensitive area that can be affected by a genital herpes outbreak. Herpes on the scrotum affects not only the skin of the sheath of the scrotum, but the entirety of the seven layers that envelop them. Since the herpes simplex virus travels on the body’s nerve paths to the surface of the skin, each layer from the superficial fascia down to the peritoneum of the scrotum may be affected. Many men worry that a genital herpes outbreak on the testicles will affect their fertility. The National Library of Medicine (NIH) has reported a study linking genital herpes to a reduction in sperm count, although no concrete evidence of a direct correlation to HSV-2 making men sterile exists.

Signs And Symptoms Of Genital Herpes In Men And Women

Genital Herpes

Pimples can occur in the genital area, just like other places on the body. A pimple is a blocked pore associated with a hair follicle. If bacteria grow in a pimple, it may become raised and inflamed. It can form a cyst, a walled-off area of infection under the skin that can be painful and filled with pus. If they’re very painful and inflamed, you may have an infection that requires treatment.

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Aciclovir dose: One 400mg tablet taken three times a day for five days

A genital herpes outbreak that has reached the blisters stage results in the emergence of blisters or sores. Genital herpes sores look like small red spots, which appear in clusters, and eventually progress to fill with a clear to whitish fluid. These bumps are extremely sensitive and may cause pain or discomfort for infected individuals. Individual blisters within a cluster may vary in size, with some no larger than a pinhead, while others may grow to the size of a pea. The skin surrounding the lesions will often become raised, red, and sensitive. Similar to the appearance of razor burn, jock itch or pimples, herpes at the sores stage can be difficult to accurately distinguish, although the cluster formation usually provides the key differentiation that can aid in diagnosing. Although the fever associated with the prodrome stage could persist in this phase of infection, it is typically only noted during an initial herpes breakout. Once the blisters burst and begin to drain, the infection has progressed to the ulcer stage. These open sores develop in the location where the blister was. Ulcers are marked by their pinkish to reddish tone, from which ooze or fluid or blood will emerge. This stage is often more uncomfortable than when the blisters are forming, and the pain associated with the ulcers is exacerbated by contact with uncomfortable clothing or other irritants.

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Treatment can shorten how long you have an outbreak and reduce symptoms.

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This lack of other symptoms alone can help you determine whether your condition is related to herpes or not.

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Genital Herpes or Pimples? How To Tell the Difference

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Pimples can be painful, swollen, and itchy, but they don’t typically have any accompanying symptoms.

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Antiviral prescriptions are available to control the herpes virus and prevent new outbreaks. Two of the most common antivirals include acyclovir and valacyclovir.

The herpes virus doesn’t always trigger outbreaks and symptoms, so testing is an important way to monitor your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends testing if you are experiencing symptoms that could be related to herpes or if you recently had sex with a new partner who has genital herpes.

As pimples are not attributed to a particular virus or bacteria, there is no test to determine their emergence. Herpes can be tested by swabbing fluid from an opened sore. As a result, infected individuals must wait until the blister or ulcer stage of the virus to accurately diagnose the emergence of the STD.
Despite the need for pronounced blisters to determine infection, if you suspect that you may be experiencing the early symptoms of a herpes outbreak you should contact a healthcare provider.

What Does Herpes Look Like

Genital Herpes Symptoms, Risk Factors & Treatments

While they’re nothing to worry about most of the time, it’s important to know the difference between genital pimples, warts, and herpes sores. Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), while herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Hormonal fluctuations, clogged pores, and other common causes of pimples can drive pimples in the genital area. Each has a different treatment.

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Anyone can have repeat outbreaks, but you’re more likely to have them if you:

Pimples and herpes are both identified by raised, raw blister-like sores that begin to fill with a pus-like substance. Both are also sensitive to the touch and feel itchy and irritated. As with genital herpes, pimples can emerge on the buttocks, thighs, and sex organs. Despite several similarities, there are some distinguishing characteristics between pimples and herpes lesions.

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