Herpes and eczema are common skin conditions among humans. They can cause blistering rash and inflammation of the skin. Knowing the differences between the two can help you treat them better. Here’s what you need to know.
Herpes and eczema: What are they?
Herpes is a contagious, long-term condition. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and can appear in various parts of the body. But, the condition mainly occurs on the mouth and genitals. There is no cure for herpes. Once you have contracted the virus, you will have herpes for life. Treatment can help get rid of sores and reduce the number of outbreaks.
Eczema is a non-contagious skin condition. It causes the skin to become dry, itchy, red and inflamed. The exact cause of eczema is still unknown. But some kinds of allergic reactions can contribute to the condition.
Herpes sometimes can be mistaken for eczema. Both conditions can have similar symptoms. These are tiny blisters, or sore, red and itchy skin around the affected area. So if you are experiencing these symptoms, see a doctor to get diagnosis.
What’s the difference between herpes and eczema?
Despite having some similarities, herpes and eczema still have some differences. These are:
Eczema affects 3% of adults and 20% of children worldwide. In the US, about 31.6 million people are diagnosed with the condition. Among these, 17.8 million people are having severe cases of eczema. Eczema prevalence can range from 10% to 21% of the U.S. population. The certain number depends on the state.
The virus that causes herpes is super common among humans. It has two main strains, including HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is more common than HSV-2. Globally, it affects two-thirds of the population under age 50. In the US, 1 in 2 people are having HSV-1 while 1 in 8 people are having HSV-2. HSV-2 is more dangerous and can lead to genital herpes. This is considered one of the most common STIs in the US.
Read more: 6 Diseases That Can Be Mistaken for Herpes
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of eczema include:
- Intense itching
- Skin redness
- Dry and sensitive skin
- Scaly patches
- Rashes that bubble up and ooze fluid
Eczema most often appears on the face, cheeks, neck, scalp, arms and legs.
Herpes does not always present symptoms. For some people, the virus may lay dormant for months or years without causing any symptoms. For other people, symptoms may occur 2 to 20 days after HSV infection.
Common symptoms of herpes include:
- Blistering sores
- Itching, tingling or burning sensation
- Pain during urination
- Flu-like symptoms, like fever, headache, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes
Herpes usually appears on the genitals and mouth. When the virus affects the eyes, it causes a gritty feeling, pain and discharge in the eyes.
Read more: Eczema and Skin Conditions: Facts to Know
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of eczema. But, they think that a combination of the following factors can trigger the condition. These include:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental factors (pollen and mold)
- Weakened immune systems
- Stress and anger
- Bad habits (tobacco smoke and long showers)
- Allergic reactions to chemicals, perfumes or foods
As mentioned before, HSV can be responsible for herpes infections. You may get the virus by some ways, such as:
- Having close skin contact with someone who has the virus. For example: kissing, sharing lip balm, or eating from the same utensils.
- Having unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person.
Common triggers for herpes include:
- Colds and sunlight
- Weak immune systems
- Hormonal changes
- Sexual intercourse
Read more: 8 Factors That Can Trigger Herpes Outbreaks
Transmission: Are herpes and eczema contagious?
Herpes is highly contagious, especially during an outbreak. But even if you don’t have visible sores, the virus can be spread to others. This occurs when you have genital, oral, or skin-to-skin contact with HSV. Common ways in which herpes is contagious:
- Genital touching
- Vaginal, oral, or anal sex
- Breastfeeding with an open sore
- Childbirth from a mother to her baby
Eczema, on the other hand, is not contagious. So, it cannot transfer from a person to another. However, eczema can spread to other parts of the body and make the symptoms worse. Scratching the skin can be the main culprit.
Read more: Is Breastfeeding Safe if You Have Herpes?
Long-term health problems
When eczema is left untreated, several complications can occur. For example:
- Chronic skin infections
- Sleep problems
- Behavioral problems
- Eye problems
Neurodermatitis and eye complications can lead to permanent damage to the body.
Although herpes can heal on its own, not treating it can lead to several complications, such as:
- Further skin infections
- Neurological problems
- Blindness ( when herpes spread to the eyes)
- Brain damage and death (in the newborn baby)
Diagnosis and treatment
It’s quite easy to recognize eczema and treat it. By looking at the symptoms and reviewing a patient’s medical history, a doctor can identify it. To confirm the diagnosis, they can perform some testing.
Treatment for eczema include:
- Prescription topical medications (Corticosteroid creams)
- Over-the-counter products (OTC hydrocortisone)
- Phototherapy (PUVA therapy and UV light therapy)
If you have eczema, you also need to:
- Reduce stress
- Know your triggers
- Avoid extreme temperatures
- Avoid skin irritants like wool or perfumes
- Bathe in warm water and keep your skin moist
Herpes can be recognized by a physical exam. Your doctor can look at the sores and review your medical history to diagnose the condition. To make sure, they can prescribe a blood test or other tests.
Treatment for herpes include:
- Prescription antiviral medications. These include famciclovir, valacyclovir, or acyclovir.
- Over-the-counter antiviral medications. Prosurx is one of the best natural, antiviral creams for herpes. It helps ease herpes symptoms and prevents future outbreaks. Many people use this cream at the first sign of herpes and stop their outbreak before it starts. Also, Prosurx can speed up the healing, so you can get rid of herpes within a few days of use. Normally, other treatments take one to two weeks.
- Home remedies (honey, aloe vera and petroleum jelly)
To prevent herpes, it’s important that you take the few tips below:
- Manage stress effectively
- Know your triggers
- Avoid kissing someone with an open sore
- Do not have many sexual partners
- Practice safer sex
- Use condoms during sex
Read more: 7 Super Foods to Shorten Herpes Outbreaks