Hemorrhoids vs. Herpes: Which Do You Have?

Difference between herpes and hemorrhoids

Are you suffering from sores and pain on your genitals or anus? You could be suffering from herpes or hemorrhoids. We will explain the difference between herpes and hemorrhoids to clear things up. Although your symptoms could signal other diseases as well, we will target the topic, herpes vs. hemorrhoids.


Herpes results from an incurable infection of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV family has two viruses: HSV-1, a type of oral herpes targeting the mouth and surrounding skin, and HSV-2, a sexually transmitted infection affecting the genital region.

Although there is no cure for herpes, treatment can manage and reduce its symptoms. According to the World Health Organization, HSV-1 is more prevalent and affects approximately 67% of people globally, whereas HSV-2 affects 11%.

HSV-2 infection is more common among women. According to the CDC, the percentage of affected individuals during 2015-2016 included 15.9% of women and 8.2% of men.


Causes can vary depending on the type of infection but commonly include stress, skin-to-skin contact, immunosuppression, and unprotected intercourse. The virus in its active form can cause sores and blisters on the body and affect areas like the eyes, neck, genitals, mouth, and surrounding skin.

Herpes is commonly transmitted through unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse, sharing sex toys, kissing, or having any oral or genital contact with a person who has herpes.

It is most contagious when blisters break open to become open sores. It can also be spread when there are no sores present, which is known as asymptomatic shedding; unfortunately, there is no way to detect such type of shedding.

Pregnant women with HSV-2 can also transmit the virus to babies (neonatal herpes), which is more common if the mother was recently infected.


Many infected people do not develop symptoms, but those who do may experience sores or watery blisters on the skin of the mouth, lips, nose, or genitals. Other symptoms of herpes include fever, fatigue, pain, itching of the genitals and anus, and swelling of the lymph nodes.

Symptoms tend to get better with time, but they are also recurring. In case of the recurrence of genital herpes, a person can transmit the disease in the initial 2-5 days and experience fewer ulcers than the initial phase. Frequent reoccurrences may lead to a doctor suggesting antivirals for 6-12 months, which may reduce the chances of inter-contamination.

Other types of herpes are not associated with such symptoms, like chicken-pox, which is a result of herpes zoster, and infectious mononucleosis caused by Epstein Barr, a herpes virus. Common causes of recurring symptoms can be emotional stress, elongated periods of anxiety, hormonal changes due to menstruation, fatigue, extreme environments (hot and cold), ultraviolet light exposure, and physical stress. A general feeling of fatigue usually accompanies a herpes infection.

Difference Between Herpes and Hemorrhoids

Unlike herpes, hemorrhoids are not infections caused by a virus. They are swollen or inflamed veins of the anus or rectal region. This is why sometimes symptoms of genital herpes may resemble symptoms of hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids are the most common type of benign anorectal disease and can cause much discomfort to an affected person. Treatment is not always needed in the case of hemorrhoids. Pain can be managed by simple home remedies and over-the-counter drugs, including topical ointments. Invasive surgeries are only advised when considered necessary.

Hemorrhoids are caused when trauma-induced pressure is exerted on the anus and walls of the rectum. Known causes for exerting pressure on the anus include prolonged sitting and strenuous or forced bowel movements. Chronic constipation, diarrhea, and physical strain also increase the risk of developing hemorrhoids. Some rare causes also include anal intercourse, old age, and pregnancy.

Hemorrhoids can be divided into three distinct categories depending on the location of the swollen veins. These types are as follows:

Internal Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids located inside the anal region are called internal hemorrhoids. They tend to be painless and go away on their own. Internal hemorrhoids can also rupture from strained bowel movements and can cause pain.

When left untreated, they can progress to much painful Class II, III, or IV types of hemorrhoids. The ruptures do not repair over time, and the pain also becomes severe. Class II and III types are prone to prolapse, but doctors are able to push them back inside the anus. Class IV internal hemorrhoids are severely painful and cannot be pushed back in upon prolapse.

External Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids present on the outside of the anus are classified as external hemorrhoids. There are numerous pain receptors on the outside of the rectal region. Therefore, these hemorrhoids can cause much pain and discomfort. The swollen lumps can also rupture or give rise to boil-like skin tags that are prone to contract bacterial infections.

Thrombosed Hemorrhoids

Chronic hemorrhoids can become thrombosed over time. When the swollen veins develop blood clots, the hemorrhoid becomes thrombosed. These hemorrhoids are at risk of rupturing since blood clots increase blood pressure in the blocked veins. Although the clots are usually benign, thrombosed hemorrhoids are extremely painful and require surgical treatment.

Symptoms of hemorrhoids

Symptoms of hemorrhoids can be more severe than symptoms of herpes. A common hemorrhoid identifier is rectal bleeding. Since rectal bleeding can also indicate other diseases, an anorectal exam can help rule out severe diseases like rectal cancer.

Other symptoms of hemorrhoids include:

  • Pain while sitting down
  • Pain during and after bowel movements
  • Presence of pus-filled abscesses and skin tags
  • Swollen rubber-like lumps that can be red and warm or colorless.
  • Itching and irritation on the anus and rectal cavity.

We hope this article helped you understand the difference between herpes and hemorrhoids. The best chance for an accurate diagnosis is through a proper medical exam, so do reach out to your doctor if you experience any of the abovementioned symptoms.