The Difference between Genital Herpes and Oral Herpes

Herpes is a common infection caused by herpes simplex viruses (HSV) that infect human. There are two main types of HSV including HSV-1 and HSV-2. While HSV-1 causes oral herpes or cold sores, HSV-2 could be to blame for genital herpes. And, people often call them herpes characterized by painful blisters. Before skin blisters, tingling and itching can usually be the first signs. If these blisters break open, herpes transmission may occur. Despite sharing the same name, genital herpes and oral herpes have different symptoms. Plus, long-term health issues of oral herpes are different from those of genital herpes. This article will help you understand more about this difference. Then, you can easily diagnose and treat herpes at home.

Oral herpes

Oral herpes is also known as HSV-1, cold sores or fever blisters. It is a recurrent infection that produces sores and blisters on the lips or around the mouth. Anyone has the same chance of contracting oral herpes. Even you’re not sexually active, you can also become infected with it.

After this first infection, the virus goes to sleep and lays dormant in the nerve cells. Sometimes, it wakes up and becomes active again. This can lead to cold sores on the mouth periodically. Common risk factors that can trigger a cold sore outbreak are:

  • A cold or fever
  • Stress
  • Sun exposure
  • Trauma to the lips
  • Illness
  • Dental treatment

Oral herpes on the mouth

Symptoms of oral herpes include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting, nausea
  • Open sores in the mouth
  • A tingling, itching and burning
  • Redness and swelling in or around the mouth

If you’re first infected with oral herpes, symptoms can last for 1-2 weeks. Very often, they crust within four days and heal within less than ten days.

Oral herpes is highly contagious through skin and sexual contact. Kissing a person who has HSV-1 can make you become infected. If you receive oral sex from an infected partner, you can also get genital HSV-1, too.

Most oral herpes are uncomfortable, but can be treated easily with antiviral medications. To relieve symptoms and prevent outbreaks, antiviral topical creams like Prosurx can help.

Related: How to Get Rid Of Oral Herpes Naturally

Genital herpes

As mentioned before, HSV-2 could be to blame for genital herpes. But, if you have HSV-1 and perform oral sex on your partner, their genitals can become infected too. So, HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes through oral sex. Genital herpes is very common and usually affects anyone who has had sexual contact. It’s estimated that 1 out of 6 sexually active people in the U.S is suffering from genital herpes.

Like HSV-1, HSV-2 usually remains inactive in the body without causing symptoms. When being exposed to trigger factors, genital sores will occur. These risk factors are:

  • Stress, fatigue
  • Hormones
  • Weakened immune system
  • Sexual intercourse


Symptoms of genital herpes are different from those of oral herpes. They include:

  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Aching muscles
  • Painful sores around the genital area

For most genital herpes, the first outbreak is the worst. And, the next outbreaks may appear with milder symptoms. Herpes outbreak usually occurs once a year. But in some cases, it happens more often.

Like oral herpes, genital herpes is extremely contagious. To keep symptoms at bay, you should practice safe sex. Besides, avoid touching the sore to prevent herpes from spreading.

Related: Safe Sex with Genital Herpes

What is the difference between genital herpes and oral herpes?

Apart from virus types and symptoms, oral and genital herpes also have different long-term health issues.

Oral herpes might be more risky. Many people think that oral herpes is a mild and un-dangerous infection. This is completely true when HSV-1 occurs in the lips or face. But, when it infects the eye, ocular herpes may occur and progress into blindness. Herpes can also affect the brain, which causes herpes encephalitis and leads to death.

Genital herpes still poses some risks, but it’s not a major health threat. Genital herpes affects the genitals and spreads to a partner via sexual contact. But, it rarely spreads to other parts of the body or develops complications. HSV-2 can infect newborns, causing neonatal herpes. This is a dangerous infection but very uncommon.

Related: Herpes and Pregnancy

herpes can affect newborns

Can oral and genital herpes be treated and prevented?

There is no cure for HSV infections. But, you can lessen symptoms and prevent future outbreaks. You can apply Prosurx cream 2-3 times daily to get herpes relief after 2-5 days. Another topical cream that can be effective to treat herpes may include acyclovir. Besides, you can try some home remedies for quick relief. They include tea tree oil, lemon balm, oregano oil and lavender oil.

To prevent oral and genital herpes, the following tips can be very helpful.

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve the immune system
  • Stay out of the sun and wind
  • Avoid the lip-liner
  • Avoid sharing cups and lipstick with others
  • Practice safe sex
  • Avoid having sex during herpes outbreaks

Related: Top 7 Essential Oils for Cold Sores

use condoms to prevent herpes

There are 3 main differences between genital herpes and oral herpes.

  • Different virus types
  • Different symptoms
  • Different long-term complications

However, oral and genital herpes are extremely painful and contagious. To protect your body against these infections, take care of yourself. If you think that you may have herpes, get it checked immediately.