Genital Herpes vs pimple: How to Tell the Difference? 

Rishabh Mehta
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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genital herpes vs pimple

At least once in a lifetime, everyone experiences bumps or pimples on the body.

According to NCBI, 9.4 percent of the global population is affected by acne, of which pimples are a common symptom. 

Speaking of such pimple outbreaks, the genital area is no different, and the hair follicles and clogged pores make it more prone to pimples. 

However, what may seem like a pimple can also point to underlying health conditions like Genital Warts, Herpes, and other infections. 

This article compares Genital Herpes vs pimple, which inculcates the differences, causes, symptoms, and treatment to help understand the issue better. 

Difference between Genital Herpes and pimples: An overview

The following table presents a Genital Herpes vs pimple comparison offering a quick understanding of their differences. 

Factors Genital HerpesGenital pimples
CauseGenital Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)The cause of genital pimples could be blocked pores or hair follicles on the skin
ContagiousnessGenital Herpes is an STI and is highly infectiousGenital pimples are not contagious or sexually transmitted
SymptomsGenital sores with pain, itching and flu-like symptoms Redness, swelling, pus discharge, and mild discomfort
DurationGenital Herpes consists of irregular outbreaks that can last up to 2 to 4 weekspimples usually resolve within a very short period
DiagnosisOne may have to consult an expert and seek a physical exam and confirmed lab tests to determine if it is Genital HerpesA visual examination itself can easily identify a genital pimple
TreatmentThere currently exists no cure for Genital Herpes, but the intake of antiviral medication can help manage and shorten the outbreakspimples usually need no certain treatment since they resolve by themselves over time

Genital Herpes vs pimple

Genital Herpes is characterized by an outbreak of painful blisters. 

They are usually clustered and filled with clear liquid. Their color varies from white and yellow to red, and they appear translucent. 

On the other hand, pimples are red, round, and filled with white pus with a white tip. 

They can get darker, discolored, and inflamed over time, causing mild discomfort. 

They are not as painful as Genital Herpes, especially when left untouched. 

Causes of Genital Herpes vs pimple

Sexual contactSource: Signature_images
Sexual contact

The cause of Genital Herpes is Herpes Simplex Virus, also known as HSV. It can either be HSV-1 Or HSV-2. 

It spreads mainly via sexual contact. However, it can pass on from close skin-to-skin contact. 

After infection, the blister breakout takes 2-20 days, but sometimes it can also take years. 

On the other hand, pimples are caused by blocked skin pores or hair follicles and inflamed oil glands. 

Sometimes, excess bacteria causing pimples on the skin can lead to an outbreak or infection. 

Genital pimples can also occur due to wearing tight underwear, shaving, or medical conditions like Dermatitis.

Oral Herpes caused by HSV-1 can spread through oral sex to the genitals. So, Oral Herpes causes some cases of Genital Herpes.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes vs pimple

Person having burning sensation while urinatingSource: Prostock_studio
Painful urination

The symptoms of Genital Herpes are more severe in comparison to pimples. 

Some of them are

  • Itching around the genitals
  • Small bumps around the genitals
  • Scabs on healing ulcers
  • Painful urination
  • Discharge from the vagina in females
  • Painful ulcers after blisters rupture and fluid oozes out
  • Flu-like symptoms like fever, swollen lymph nodes, body aches, and headache

On the other hand, pimples are not as painful and have mild symptoms like:

  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Pus discharge
  • Bleeding
Recommended Article
Read Genital Herpes Medication: Types, Benefits & Considerations to explore all the available options used to treat Genital Herpes.

Treatment of Genital Herpes vs pimple

Genital Herpes has no cure, but the condition can be treated with antiviral pills. 

Some medicines prescribed by medical professionals are: 

  • Acyclovir (Zovirax)
  • Famciclovir
  • Valacyclovir (Valtrex)

The treatment helps sores to heal, reduces the severity and chances of recurrent outbreaks, and prevents transmission. 

In contrast to Genital Herpes, pimples can heal on their own. 

Maintaining good hygiene should help get rid of them in a short time. 

If the pimples stay for prolonged periods, treatment can be given based on the cause. 

  • In case of allergy, antihistamines are used
  • Antibiotics are used to reduce bacteria-related pimples
  • Antiviral medications for other STI or infection-caused pimples
Genital Herpes is a threat during pregnancy as it can cause miscarriage and pose a risk of transmission. Consulting a doctor immediately for its treatment is recommended to avoid uncertainties.


use condomSource: Signature_images
Use condom

Genital Herpes spreads mainly from sexual contact. So, practicing abstinence is the best option to avoid it. 

In case of sexual activity:

  • Always use a condom properly
  • Use dental dams for oral sex
  • Avoid multiple sex partners
  • Avoid sex when the partner has an outbreak

To prevent pimples, one should

  • Maintain good hygiene
  • Avoid tight fitting clothes and wear comfortable clothes
  • Trim pubic hair instead of shaving
  • If shaving, avoid dry shaving


Genital Herpes and pimples are misinterpreted as each other but hold certain differences. 

Genital Herpes is a more serious condition with severe symptoms like painful urination, ulcers, fever, and headache. 

In contrast, pimples have mild symptoms like redness, swelling, and pus discharge. 

Genital Herpes is a more painful condition that requires treatment, whereas pimples mostly go away on their own. 

In case of suspicion, one must consult a medical expert for diagnosis, which will ensure timely treatment, if required, to minimize discomfort and complications. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Genital Herpes look like pimples?

In the beginning, they can look similar to pimples. They can be red sores, which later develop into blisters full of clear liquid. They turn yellow, white, or red and translucent, unlike pimples, which are red or dark in color and not as transparent.

How do I know if it’s Genital Herpes or a pimple? 

It is common to have pimples in the genital area, but sometimes it can be Genital Herpes. Herpes sores are translucent and white, yellow, or red in color. They are also accompanied by other flu-like symptoms like headache and fever. One must ask a medical expert for confirmation.

What does a Genital pimple look like? 

Genital pimples are common and look like red sores or blisters with white pus. They develop a white tip or can also have a dark tip with the overall skin color tone of the ulcer. They appear similar to pimples over any other body part and are not a serious threat.

What STIs cause Genital pimples? 

Several STIs can cause genital bumps, blisters, and pimples. Besides Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), other potential reasons are HPV (Human Papillomavirus)  and Syphilis. Their bumps can be mistaken for normal genital pimples, but they are quite different.

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