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Can oral cold sores cause genital sores?


There are two types of herpes (HSV), HSV1 and HSV2. They are different viruses, but they are closely related. In general, HSV1 tends to infect the mouth, sometimes the nose, and occasionally the eye, while HSV2 tends to infect the genitals, anus, or skin in the “boxer shorts’ area. Although these trends are generally true, either virus can infect the other virus’ “territory”, often as a result of oral-genital sexual contact (i.e. oral sex).

So yes, cold sores can cause genital sores.

The clinical signs and symptoms (mainly painful genital or oral lesions) are virtually identical regardless of which virus type caused the infection. Even an experienced clinician cannot tell the difference between genital HSV1 and genital HSV2 infection, only a laboratory test from a lesion can distinguish them. The only difference is that genital HSV1 is much less likely to cause future recurrences than genital HSV2.