Uh oh... I have noticed something different!
Sometimes we can't help but think the worst, particularly when an unusual "irritation" pops up. Although herpes is a common condition it is not always the culprit. There are many other conditions that can appear similar at a glance and even ordinary nuisances, such as pimples, jock itch and ingrown hairs can be mistaken for herpes.
If any irritation looks suspicious it is recommended that you visit a Doctor, if possible, make the visit while you still have active symptoms. A herpes specific test is often required to find out the real cause of the infection.
Is this Herpes?
OK, so you have what you think could be herpes but are unsure...
To help figure out if your symptoms may be caused by the herpes virus there are some simple questions that you can begin with. Just remember, these points are merely a guide! Herpes is not always typical and can vary from the "norm".
Do the symptoms COME and GO?
The herpes virus is only active on the skin for a short period of time before it retreats back inside the body, at which point the skin typically heals and returns to normal.
Depending on the individual, the symptoms of a genital herpes infection can last as long as six weeks, but
- The typical duration of a genital outbreak is 3 to 14 days
- The typical duration of a cold sore outbreak is 8 to 12 days.
If the infection persists for longer periods of time without relief it is possible that the cause is something other than herpes.
Does a blister or sore appear?
A herpes breakout will sometimes (but not always) develop into a cut, sore, blister or lesion.
Herpes symptoms are not always easy to identify because they can vary so much from person to person and do not always appear as expected. In fact, some people show little to no symptoms at all.
Real herpes symptoms can be overlooked or passed off as being something less significant, such as a pimple, bump, skin rash or ingrown hair. If you have ANY doubt please contact your Doctor for appropriate testing.
Commonly Confused Conditions
It is very easy to confuse other conditions with herpes. Here are a few ailments commonly mistaken as being herpes.
Canker sores (Aphthous ulcers)
Canker sores are not a form of herpes, however, they are often confused and mistaken as herpes.
Canker sores are not considered to be contagious. Cold sores and mouth herpes on the other hand are caused by the herpes simplex virus and can be very contagious.
Canker sores usually occur inside the mouth, are gray in color and have a distinct edge. The sores will usually heal within 10 to 14 days, without treatment.
In comparison, oral herpes sores (such as cold sores or fever blisters) are caused by the Herpes simplex virus and are usually relatively easy to identify.
To view pictures of cold sores and oral herpes visit our Herpes Pictures page.
Canker sores are ulcerations, especially of the lip or oral mucosa and can be caused by acute stress, trauma to the area in your mouth, allergies, or by a reaction to a particular bacteria.
Bacterial or yeast infections
Bacterial infections are sometimes confused with genital herpes, but do not usually produce blistering.
Some symptoms of a bacterial/yeast infection can include:
- Vaginal discharge can be but is not always present
- Burning, irritation and itching in the vaginal area
- Painful urination and/or pain during intercourse
- Thick, grayish-white discharge is common and
- has the appearance of cottage cheese, although it can
- vary from watery to thick in consistency.
If a yeast infection is present in a male, most often there are no symptoms. Some men have, however, reported a transient rash and burning of the penis after intercourse when condoms were not used. These possible symptoms are usually short lived.
More information about Yeast Infections:
Impetigo is a highly infectious bacterial disease, more common among children often producing crusty blisters.
More information about Impetigo Infections:
Syphilis is a type of bacterial infection which causes chancres, sometimes mistaken for blisters caused by genital herpes.
Unlike genital herpes, syphilis does not usually produce a cluster of blisters, and it usually responds well to antibiotics.
Molluscum contagiosum (molluscum)
Molluscum contagiosum, like herpes, is a viral infection of the skin. Unlike herpes, molluscum produces lesions that are raised, with a central dimple.
Genital Warts (HPV)
Genital Warts causes growths of skin-colored, cauliflower-like masses of various sizes and shapes.
Symptoms may occur several weeks and even months after being exposed to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and include:
- Itching or burning around the genitals
- Painless growths in either sex, usually on damp or moist surfaces of the body
- Growths typically begin as tiny, soft pink or red spots
- Spots develop into small, white/yellow/gray bumpy warts on the genitals and/or anus
- Warts can grow quickly into irregularly shaped cauliflower-like masses
Herpes outbreaks can also be mistaken for:
- Ingrown hair follicles
- Insect bites
- Jock itch
- Friction from intercourse
- Razor burn
- Yeast infections
If you are experiencing any unusual irritation, or if you suspect that you have contracted a sexually transmitted infection PLEASE consult your doctor or other health care provider immediately.
Genital herpes should always be diagnosed professionally.
Where to Now?
Ask questions and get support right now in the Herpes Support Forum