Herpes vs. Yeast Infections: What’s What?

December 17, 2023

Are you wondering if you have genital herpes or a vaginal yeast infection? Learn the common signs of genital herpes vs. vaginal yeast infections so you know what to discuss with your doctor.

What is Herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by two types of viruses — herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). In addition, there are genital and oral herpes. Unfortunately, both are chronic, lifelong infections with no cure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 12% of people between the ages of 14 and 49 in the U.S have herpes.

So, what does genital herpes look like? According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of genital herpes include pain or itching of the genital area, small red bumps, tiny white blisters, ulcers, scabs, flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, or fever. These symptoms can reoccur for several years but typically become less frequent over time.

Herpes spreads by direct contact with saliva or genital fluid from a partner with a herpes infection. You can still catch even if your sex partner isn’t showing signs or symptoms of an infection.

What is a Yeast Infection?

Yeast infections affect mainly women. It is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge, and intense itchiness of the vagina and vulva, which are the tissues surrounding the vaginal opening. According to The Mayo Clinic, three out of four women develop yeast infections at some point in their lifetimes, with many experiencing at least two.

The severity of yeast infections can range from mild to moderate. Symptoms include itching and irritation of the vaginal area, a burning sensation, especially during sex or urinating, redness and swelling of the vulva, vaginal pain and soreness, and a rash. Yeast infections can also cause a watery vaginal discharge or a thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese.

Disruptions of the natural balance of different types of yeast and bacteria in your vagina cause yeast infections. The imbalance can be caused by antibiotic use, pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, impaired immune system, oral contraceptives, vaginal douching, or even hormone therapy that increases estrogen levels.

What Are the Main Differences?

Let’s understand the differences between herpes vs. yeast infections.

  1. The main difference is that vaginal yeast infection doesn’t usually cause the blisters and ulcers that genital herpes does. However, if you have severe signs and symptoms of a yeast infection, you can sometimes get sores/ulcers from the swelling and itching of irritated areas.
  2. As described above, yeast infections can create thick vaginal discharge, while herpes does not cause vaginal discharge but rather a small amount of clear fluid from the blisters or sores.
  3. If you have a vaginal yeast infection, you will notice redness and irritation that covers the entire vaginal and vulva area. Herpes usually will be in one specific area of the vagina.
  4. You may notice swollen lymph nodes with a herpes infection. Yeast infections rarely cause swollen lymph nodes.
  5. You likely won’t experience flu-like symptoms with a vaginal yeast infection, but fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms are common for herpes.

Getting Tested and Treated

Testing and treatment are different for herpes vs. yeast infections. Your medical provider will take a sample of your vaginal discharge for yeast infections. Herpes is detected through STD testing.

Check with your doctor’s office, a community health clinic, or local health departments to see if they offer herpes testing. Most urgent care clinics will also offer herpes testing. Doctors will look at your visible sores and swab them for a fluid sample to send to the lab for testing. A blood test for antibodies can also help diagnose those who are asymptomatic.

While there is no cure for herpes, medications can reduce the symptoms and the chance of spreading it to others. The CDC says antiviral drugs can help suppress those symptoms, especially for those experiencing their first episode.

There are both oral and vaginal medications that can effectively treat yeast infections. When experiencing four or more within a year, a longer course and a maintenance treatment plan may be needed.

Get Tested at AFC

For easy and discreet STD and yeast infection testing, visit American Family Care. Walk-ins are welcome. Your medical provider will determine the best type of test to diagnose your problem, whether that’s a blood sample, urine sample, or direct swabbing of ulcers.

AFC is open seven days a week with extended hours to work with your schedule. Get on your way to receiving a diagnosis by finding an AFC location near you.

Blog Categories

Recent Blogs

About Our Services:

Call (484) 452-9400 for more information about our Havertown urgent care services.