Genital herpes and the human papillomavirus (HPV) are both sexually transmitted and both can cause genital lesions. They both have similar treatment protocols, which can sometimes make people wonder which they have.

HPV, which can cause genital warts, is caused by the strains of the human papillomavirus. Classified as a Sexually Transmitted Infection, HPV is common in sexually active men and women.

Genital herpes is caused by two virus strains: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is responsible for cold sores, and HSV-2 is responsible for genital herpes. These viruses enter the human body through bodily fluids of mucous membranes and are usually present in saliva, vaginal fluids, and semen.

HPVGenital Herpes

Most common STI in the United States. There are about 79 million cases and 14 million new cases per year (source).Second most common STI in the United States. There are 50 million cases and 776,000 new cases of HSV-2 per year (source).
CauseCaused by human papillomavirus (HPV).Caused by strains of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 &  HSV-2
Symptoms include

Warts are a  common symptomOozing sores & blisters can be the main symptom
TestingDiagnosing techniques include pap test, pelvic examination & colposcopyDiagnosing techniques physical examination & swap lab tests

What causes HPV and Herpes?

Both these STIs can be transmitted via vaginal, oral, and anal sex. A key difference between the two is that herpes can be passed from person to person through saliva. You can contract herpes while kissing or even sharing a drink with an infected person.  

Both of these STIs are also passed on from a pregnant mother to a newly born child. Because of this, while pregnant it is crucial to communicate about any genital infection or lesions you may have or have had in the past with your health care provider during any visits.

Babies born with herpes can experience complications, including blindness, brain damage, and even death. Some of the milder symptoms observed in such babies include ulcers or lesions on genitals and other body parts.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes and HPVs

Major symptoms of HPVs include:

In women: Warts on inside or outside vagina, thighs, inside or outside anus and cervix

In men: Warts on the penis, scrotum, thighs, inside or outside the anus

Other accompanying symptoms include abnormal discharge, bleeding, burning and itching

Major symptoms of Herpes include:

In both men and women:

  • Oozing blisters on the mouth, face, and lips
  • Itching or tingling pre-blister-formation
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Fatigue, headache, and fever

Treatment options

Unfortunately, both herpes and HPV cannot be cured completely. However, the symptoms can be managed via constant care and administration of antiviral medications and topical drugs.

Your health care provider can recommend imiquimod (Aldara), podophyllin, and podofilox (Condylox) for treating HPV. Warts are also removed on some occasions via excision, laser treatments, or cryosurgery.

Antiviral drugs are administered to manage blisters and oozing sores caused by herpes.  

Frequently asked questions about Herpes & HPVs:

How long does herpes last on genitals?

Genital lesions can start appearing from 12-24 hours from the time of infection. Mild infections pass in a few days, while the complicated ones can last 2 to 3 weeks.

Will I get herpes from my partner?

Not practicing safe sex with your infected partner makes you highly vulnerable to herpes.

What could be mistaken for genital warts?

Genital skin tags and HPV genital warts are often mistaken for each other. Genital warts have a “cauliflower” look and are bumpy or rough to touch, whereas, Skin tags are flat and slightly raised.