Many people are under the assumption that HPV and herpes are the same thing. While they do share some striking similarities in terms of transmission and certain symptoms, they are actually distinct conditions. It’s important to understand the differences between the two, because dealing with them requires radically different approaches. Here’s a quick look at some of the major difference between HPV and herpes, as well as some information about what these diseases share in common.
While both HPV and herpes create “bumps” in or around the genital area, these bumps are distinctly different. HPV produces genital warts, which are typically painless. These warts can easily be burned or frozen off by a doctor, or they sometimes disappear completely on their own.
The “bumps” associated with herpes, on the other hand, are actually blisters. Unlike genital warts, these blisters are typically painful and itchy. They respond well to anti-viral medications, but can also go away on their own. However, this process is normally much slower and painful than with genital warts caused by HPV.
While there is still some debate among researchers, it’s believed that HPV is eventually eliminated from the body or suppressed by the immune system to the point where it’s no longer detectable. This is in stark contrast to the herpes virus, which remains in the body indefinitely and whose symptoms can reappear at any time.
The symptoms associated with herpes are quite limited—oral or genital blisters. This is unlike HPV, which can cause a wider and potentially more dangerous range of symptoms. The most common of these is genital warts; however, certain types can also cause cervical cancer in women or penile cancer in men. However, many cases of HPV are asymptomatic—meaning that patients show no outward signs of the disease. This is not the case with herpes.
Both HPV and herpes are viral infections, meaning that there is no definitive cure for either. Treatment focuses around suppressing these conditions instead of outright eliminating them. HPV and herpes are both primarily spread through sexual contact, although some nonsexual activities like kissing can also spread these diseases.
There are also multiple strains of both HPV and herpes. However, while there are at least 100 variations of HPV, there are only two herpes varieties—HSV-1 (oral herpes) and HSV-2 (genital herpes).
Condoms can provide some protection against both of these diseases, but their effectiveness is limited, because some areas of affected skin are not completely covered by condoms. The only way to prevent these conditions with any certainty is abstinence. However, if abstinence isn’t an option, treatment options for both HPV and herpes have become much easier and effective.