Sores on the privates, while alarming, are not life-threatening. Since the virus that causes genital herpes (herpes simplex virus or HSV) and the virus that causes shingles (herpes zoster) begin with the same word (herpes) one may conclude that the viruses are related. That conclusion isn’t wrong as both viral infections fall under the herpes family. This isn’t the kind of family you want to visit during the holidays or special occasions, but we don’t get the opportunity to choose our relations. And we don’t always get the choice to avoid a herpes breakout.
But there are some key differences we want to lay out in the open for public information.
Can Shingles Affect Genital Area?
This particular virus is not discriminatory on where it puts down roots. Common areas for introductory breakouts are the torso, legs, and arms, but can shingles affect the genital area? Yes, it can and it is commonly confused with HSV when the sores appear on the vagina, penis, or anus.
To clear up expectations, we will walk you down a road towards defining each individual condition.
Genital Shingles Symptoms
According to Dr. Jean Watkins, this virus isn’t adverse to setting up shop in the private areas. In fact, the doc mentions the perineum, the small area between either the scrotum or the vaginal opening and the butt hole, is susceptible to shingles sores.
Genital shingles symptoms include:
- Intense itching and pain in the perineal area.
- Unilateral vesicular rash
- Sores that crust over after a few weeks
- Nerve pain (can continue beyond the healing of blisters in a sensation called Post-herpetic neuralgia)
- Burning or painful urination
There is some definite crossover between the viral relatives that we will cover as this article moves on.
Causes of Herpes Zoster
As a child, you may recall being kept home from school for a few days because of tiny red spots all over your body. They itched like crazy, but you somehow were supposed to resist the urge. You, like ninety-nine percent of the U.S. populous, had the chickenpox.
The varicella-zoster virus is the enemy in this storybook tale. It causes chickenpox and herpes zoster (shingles). After its maiden voyage in your childhood, the virus stays in the body lying dormant until it decides to rear its ugly head again. It strikes when you are most vulnerable with risk factors like:
Advanced age. The elderly, over 50 years old, are at a higher risk for shingles outbreaks. The risk grows with each year as over 50% of cases reported are in people over 60.
Weak immune systems. People with already compromised immune systems because of HIV/AIDS, cancer, autoimmune disorders, or even just the cold or flu are vulnerable to shingles. Aging is a contributing factor to a suppressed system as cells degenerate with passing time.
Diagnosis of Genital Herpes vs Shingles
When a rash pops up in your privates, don’t attempt to diagnose yourself. There are some qualifying characteristics that each member of the herpes family has, but all outbreaks in your pants are going to look the same to an amateur eye. Remembering the description of the genital shingles previously, here are some defining characteristics of genital herpes vs shingles:
Herpes simplex is:
- Sexually transmitted.
- Open sores (rather than crusted blisters)
- Land on vagina lips, cervix, penile shaft, or scrotum.
Diagnosis for both styles of blisters is performed with a swab. A laboratory tests the secretions to match it with the proper viral infection.
Infection Treatment for Vaginal or Penis Blisters
Treatment for the two diseases will differ as well. Confronting infections in reproductive parts is tricky and embarrassing. But please don’t fret, the process is quite docile and easy.
Applications for both:
- Antiviral prescriptions like aciclovir with a course across 7 to 10 days.
- Calamine lotion.
- 5% aluminum acetate in wet dressings.
- Topical analgesics (counterirritants, salicylates, or capsaicin).
Administrations just for HSV:
- Long-term continual antiviral medications for six to twelve months following the outbreak.
- Prophylactic (condoms) to protect sexual partners from the transmission.
Addressing only shingles:
- Lidocaine on the urethra opening to ease painful urination
Caring for your general health can support and speed up the healing process. Utilizing some of the following can ease annoying symptoms of vaginal or penis blisters:
- Cold compress. Ice numbs the nerve endings to reduce pain.
- Vaseline. Provides a moisturizing barrier.
- Loose fitting clothing. Promotes airflow and oxygen.
- Baking soda baths. Diminishes itching. Be careful not to turn the water too hot. When already sick, you could shoot your blood pressure too high or cause dizziness and fainting.
Genital Shingles Pictures
While we still strongly suggest making a doctor’s visit for any rash on your undercarriage, it can be a mental relief to go into the office empowered with a solid sense of what you are facing. Genital shingles pictures will assist you in identifying if you are reliving the sickness of your youth or embarking on a brand new kind of herpes. The following images are not suitable for work, school, or other conservative environments.
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