How do you know if you have herpes or yeast infection? In this paper I offer an answer to this question and also to other questions regarding the relationship between herpes and fungal infection.
The paper is dedicated to comparing the two diseases by presenting their similarities and differences. The comparison also includes the treatments. I have dedicated a section to each aspect used in the comparison.
Yeast infection vs herpes [↑]
The signs and symptoms of herpes and yeast infection are sometimes confused. For this reason, you may not be able to tell one disease from the other.
Yeast infection vs herpes in female
Yeast infection in the vagina is often confused with female genital herpes, but the signs and symptoms of both diseases have significant differences that I will present below.
What are the differences between the signs and symptoms of genital herpes and yeast infection?
- An outbreak of genital herpes is usually accompanied by flu-like discomfort, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes in the groin, headache, and lower back pain; yeast infection is not accompanied by these symptoms.
- The onset of an outbreak of female genital herpes is characterized by redness of an area mainly on the vulva that is covered with blisters and sores; yeast infection does not usually cause blisters or ulcers.
- The discharge caused by genital herpes comes from the sores and is clear and thin in appearance; the discharge caused by a yeast infection is white, thick, clumpy and odorless.
- The redness of the area of a vaginal herpes outbreak is localized to a specific zone; yeast infection causes redness of the entire vaginal and vulvar area.
How do you know if you have herpes or yeast infection?
If you use the above differences, you will be able to know, although it is best to visit your doctor for a diagnosis.
Why are female genital herpes and yeast infections confused?
The confusion is because these diseases also have the following common symptoms:
- Herpes and yeast infection can cause burning and itching of the vulva and vagina.
- Both conditions can cause burning with urination.
- Vaginal herpes and yeast infection can both cause pain during sexual intercourse.
I have written a very extensive article on herpetic bulbovaginitis. If you would like to learn more about this condition, click on the link.
Oral yeast infection vs herpes
Herpes and yeast infection are diseases that often affect the mouth. That is why it is important to know how to differentiate between them based on their signs and symptoms.
What are the differences between the signs and symptoms of herpes and oral candidiasis?
- Oral herpes starts accompanied by malaise, headache and other symptoms already mentioned; oral candidiasis is not accompanied by such symptoms.
- Outbreaks of oral herpes begin with redness in an area of the mouth such as the tongue, gums or inner cheeks. After about a day, the reddened area is covered with blisters that burst and turn into painful ulcers of the same color as the affected tissue; oral candidiasis is manifested by white lesions on the tongue, inside of the cheeks, gums, roof of the mouth or tonsils.
- Oral candidiasis produces a cottony sensation in the mouth; oral herpes does not.
Causes of fungal infection and herpes causes [↑]
Although there are similarities in the signs and symptoms of herpes and yeast infection, the causes of these diseases are very different.
Viruses differ substantially from fungi. While a virus is a microscopic entity that needs to infect the cells of another organism in order to multiply, fungi are biologically more developed organisms that reproduce autonomously.
Fungal infection and types of herpes
Depending on the cause, there are two types of herpes: herpes simplex and herpes zoster or shingles.
Most people think that herpes is only herpes simplex because they may not know that shingles is also herpes.
The most common herpes that affects the lips, genitals and other areas of the body is caused by a virus called herpes simplex virus.
Herpes zoster or shingles is an infection caused by the reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox, which is called herpes virus type 3 or varicella zoster virus.
Number of herpes and fungal species infecting humans
The species of parasitic fungi that most affect humans belong to the genus Candida or to the group of dermatophytes, formed by the genera Trichophyton, Microsporum and Epidermophyton.
Species of the genus Candida are yeasts, i.e., microscopic unicellular fungi that decompose different organic bodies by fermentation, mainly sugars and carbohydrates.
There is an essential difference between the number of species that cause herpes and the number of species that cause fungal infections. Herpes simplex is caused by only two species of the virus, whereas fungal infections can be caused by several species of fungi.
Role of the causative agent
Another difference between herpes and fungal infections is the role of the causative agents of both diseases in the human organism.
The herpes virus is always harmful to health, but not all fungi that cause fungal infections are always harmful. The yeast Candida albicans, for example, is part of the population of microorganisms that help the female reproductive and digestive systems function properly.
For this reason, it is hypothesized that the herpes virus not only causes outbreaks but also affects our brains causing dementia.
Triggering factors [↑]
Triggering factors are not the true cause of a disease, but conditions for the true cause to act.
There are differences and similarities between herpes and fungal infection, depending on the triggers.
Triggering factors for herpes include stress, improper diet, menstruation period in women, prolonged exposure to sunlight, strenuous physical exercise and wearing tight-fitting clothing.
A weakened immune system is also a trigger for herpes outbreaks in people infected with HIV and those taking immune-suppressing drugs or receiving chemotherapy treatment. For this reason, herpes is an opportunistic disease.
Herpes outbreaks, unlike fungal infection, are not conditioned by humidity or hygiene of the outbreak area.
Fungal infections are opportunistic diseases just like herpes. The opportunity for fungal growth occurs when the immune system is weakened or the population of the microorganisms that control them is reduced; the opportunity for the herpes virus occurs when the immune system is depressed.
A similarity between herpes and fungal infections is the ability of the patient to remain asymptomatic. Many people infected with the herpes virus do not have outbreaks as occurs when there is control of the fungal population inhabiting the body.
Herpes and fungal infections are also related because they can occur simultaneously, although infrequently.
These diseases are also related because cells that have been affected by a herpes outbreak are more easily infected by fungi than healthy cells.
Areas of fungal infection or herpes outbreaks [↑]
Herpes and fungal infection have similarities and differences depending on the area of the body that both diseases affect.
The areas of the body most affected by herpes simplex are the genitals and nearby areas, mouth, lips and eye area. Of all these areas, the genitals and mouth are the most affected.
Herpes simplex does not infect the blood, whereas some species of fungi such as Candida albicans can. The presence of fungi in the blood is called fungemia.
Another difference between herpes and fungal infection is that fungi can infect nails and hair, whereas herpes cannot.
The species of fungi that infect nails and hair belong to the group of dermatophytes. This is why the infection is called dermatophytosis or ringworm. The ringworm of the nails is called onychomycosis.
Duration of fungal infection and herpes [↑]
A significant difference between herpes and yeast infection is the duration of the infection. Fungal infection is temporary, but the herpes virus infects us permanently for a lifetime.
Permanent infection is one of the reasons why herpes is such a dreaded disease. Many people find it difficult to accept that they will have herpes throughout their lives.
The herpes simplex virus infects the host and at certain periods produces a visible infection known as a herpes outbreak that can last 10 to 12 days.
Herpes is a recurrent disease because the virus reactivates causing repeated outbreaks. Recurrences vary from person to person and outbreaks occur in the same area as the initial outbreak.
Onychomycosis is not a permanent disease, but it is not cured by treatments that work against fungal infections in other parts of the body. If proper treatment is not used, it can infect us for life just like herpes.
Fungal infection and herpes transmission [↑]
Herpes and fungal infection have similarities and differences in characteristics related to contagion. Here I compare them according to the origin of the causative agent and the ways of contagion.
Origin of the causative agent of fungal infection and herpes
The causative agent of herpes always comes from the body of another person, although after it infects the host, it can spread from one area of the body to another.
There are also fungal infections that spread from one person to another. An example of this is jock itch, which most often affects men and infects the crease between the groin and the genitals, the buttocks and areas around the anus.
One of the most common fungal infections is candidiasis. This is caused by the yeast Candida albicans, which is involved in the fermentation of sugars in the digestive process.
When the balance between the population of the fungus and the microorganisms that control it is broken, candidiasis of the oral cavity, esophagus or intestine occurs.
Candida albicans also inhabits the vagina. When its population grows disproportionately, it causes vaginal candidiasis.
Another difference between fungal infection and herpes, depending on the origin of the causative agent, is that fungi are transmitted to humans from infected mammalian animals; herpes virus is only transmitted from humans.
Mode of transmission of fungal infection and herpes
The herpes simplex virus is spread by contact with an infected person during an outbreak or when the virus is active, even if the infected person is not suffering from an outbreak.
The most common forms of contact that transmit the herpes simplex virus from one person to another are kissing, penetrative sex without the use of a condom, and oral sex.
Once the virus enters the host’s body, it lodges in the nerve tissues and infects the host for life, possibly causing recurrent herpes outbreaks.
Fungi can also be transmitted from one person to another during sexual intercourse or by sharing towels or clothing.
As with herpes, some fungal infections can be spread from one area of the body to another by hand or by clothing that has had recent contact with the infected area.
|Table 1: Comparison of herpes transmission and fungal infections.|
|Origin of the causative agent||Another person.||Another person, the same person or mammalian animals.|
|Mode of transmission||Contact between two people or from one area of the body to another on the same person.||Contact with an infected person, infected mammalian animals, infected objects or infected surfaces, including soil.|
Treatments for fungal infection and herpes treatments [↑]
The treatments for fungal infections and herpes are very different.
Herpes is caused by a virus and, therefore, the treatments are based on the use of an antiviral agent or natural anti-herpes remedies.
Fungal infections are caused by a fungus and are, therefore, treated with antifungal medications or natural antifungal remedies.
Final notes [↑]
If you have read this paper, you will be able to appreciate the differences and similarities between herpes and fungal infections that I summarize in Table 2. I hope that the information provided has been useful for you to know the answer to the question that heads the title of this paper: How to know if you have herpes or yeast infection?
Summary of similarities and differences between herpes and fungal infection
|Table 2: Comparison between herpes and fungal infections.|
|Triggering factors||It is an opportunistic disease that takes advantage of a weakened immune system.||It is an opportunistic disease that takes advantage of the reduction in the population of microorganisms that control fungi and the weakening of the immune system.|
|Affected areas of the body||
|Duration of infection||Infection occurs during the entire life.||The infection is temporary, but ringworm of the nails can last a lifetime if not properly treated.|
2. ↑ Dermatophytosis. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6192139/