Is It Herpes, Or Something Else?
If you’ve been diagnosed with genital herpes, your inclination may be to write off every itchy, burning sensation, every lesion on the genitals as a herpes symptom. And while often times the symptoms do indicate herpes, this isn’t always the case.
Like everyone else, people with herpes can get yeast infections, bacterial infections, molluscum contagiousum, scabies, genital warts, gonorrhea, Chlamydia and urinary tract infections.
Here’s what to look for when determining whether or not your breakouts/ skin irritations are a result of herpes or another infection:
A cheesy, thick white discharge that’s itchy or irritating in a woman may be a yeast infection.
Copious frothy white or greenish vaginal discharge that has a fishy odor may be the STD Trichomonas.
Other vaginal discharge can signal a variety of bacterial infections that need to be diagnosed and treated with the appropriate antibiotic.
Postmenopausal women can have a variety of benign … and sometimes serious conditions that cause vaginal irritation and itching.
An itchy rash on the groin in men or women can be yeast or another fungus, or even scabies or pubic lice and should be treated accordingly.
Heaped up lesions in the groin could signal molluscum contagiousum or genital warts. Your doctor can look at these, take samples, and diagnose them.
I’ve often seen patients come in with skin abcesses in the groin - often related to ingrown hairs - that are caused by bacterial infection and NOT herpes.
Even urinary infections can cause irritation and burning in the groin.
While Valtrex, Acyclovir and Famvir are effective in reducing outbreak frequency and symptoms during an outbreak, they only help with symptoms related to herpes. So, if you are taking your medications and note that the itching or irritation hasn’t stopped, call your doctor for a more thorough evaluation of your symptoms.
For more information on your symptoms, see our Symptoms Checker.
Charlotte Grayson, M.D., is an internist in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. She is a 1995 graduate of Boston University School of Medicine. She completed her internal medicine residency in 1998 at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Previously, Dr. Grayson was Senior Medical Editor for a leading healthcare content company. She frequently speaks to the media about health, appearing on Fox News and CNN and contributing to TIME, Real Simple, Women’s Health, and WebMD magazines.