Genital pimples or herpes? Here's how to tell the difference

They may have similar characteristics, but knowing the difference between genital pimples and genital herpes is key to finding a solution.

Pimples do not always pop up on your face. In fact, they can be found in various parts of your body including the neck, chest, back, butt, and in rare cases even the genital area. Having genital pimples can cause concern because these small pus-filled bumps also resemble another more worrisome sexually transmitted infection, herpes.

Genital pimples or herpes?

The most significant difference between pimples and genital herpes is that while the latter typically trigger the appearance of lesions in affected areas, pimples occur mostly on the face, neck and back, according to Luminance Red.

Pimples are typically small, red bumps that can be painful and may occur in red clusters. Sometimes the pus on the surface of pimples, or when they burst, appears whitish or milky in color. Herpes lesions, on the other hand, appear like tiny blisters and are slightly yellow on the surface with clear, water-like pus inside
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Medical News Today explains that it's easy to confuse the two because they:

  • both may appear as a cluster of red bumps
  • both may itch
  • both may contain pus

Whereas having genital pimples may not require any medical attention, genital herpes is a non-curable STI, with the World Health Organization estimating that some 417 million people have the virus that causes it.

How to tell the difference

Despite the similarity in characteristics, there are ways to tell them apart.

Pimples tend to be hard to the touch while genital herpes are soft and filled with clear pus. Another difference is that pimples tend to occur in clusters or individually in areas of sweat and friction while herpes are more common around the genitals, buttocks or mouth.

When the lesion caused by herpes bursts, it is often painful and could last for several weeks. It also presents with symptoms like headache, genital discharge, achiness and fever, MedicalNews Today states:

Genital pimples may itch, but unlike herpes lesions, they do not tend to be painful unless a person applies pressure to them. Pimples may also appear following intense exercise, heat, or humidity.

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