There are several kinds of sores that can develop on the lips and the genitals. The features and locations of these sores can make them very confusing, as the cold sores of herpes can easily be mistaken for syphilis sores also known as chancres.

Are There Differences Between Cold Sores and Syphilis Sores?

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) and syphilis do have sores as a common symptom, but the nature of these sores differs. We will be highlighting the several features that distinguish one from the other to answer some of the likely puzzling questions springing up in your mind and aid your understanding of each respective sore.

Cold Sores

Cold sores also known as fever blisters are a side effect or symptoms of the herpes virus. These sores typically appear around the lips as well as inside the mouth in a cluster of painful blisters which normally take about a couple of weeks to heal.

Generally, herpes is classified into the following two:

  • HSV-1: this is the iteration HSV directly linked with oral herpes
  • HSV-2: the second type of HSV associated with genital herpes

Nevertheless, both versions of the HSV are highly contagious and can be easily transmitted sexually or casually especially when there are lesions on the skin in the regions such as the mouth and genitals. However, they can also be transmitted when there are no skin lesions.

Syphilis is deadly; get tested today!

Beyond oral, vaginal, and anal sex, herpes can be transmitted through the sharing of common utensils as well as the use of unsterilized needles. A social friendly kiss may expose you to the risk of contracting HSV.

Although the genital and oral sores are caused by the herpes virus; sores caused by genital herpes are not always referred to as cold sores.

Treatment of Cold Sores

The administration of antiviral medication is used to reduce and control the virus, while other forms of medication may be prescribed to relieve the symptoms of herpes such as tingling, itching, and redness.

Syphilis Sores

These are painless skin lesions typically manifesting around the genitals. The first stage of syphilis occur on the penis, anus, lips, mouth, fingers, nipples, breasts, and tongue are as painless sores.

Chancre sores are painless and rarely appear on the facial region. Thus, when they are not in body parts that easily meet the eye, such as the cervix in women, they could go unnoticed. The implication of this is that an infected individual may nurse the disease for years without noticing until an STD test is carried out.

Generally, it takes about a three-week post-infection period for syphilis sores to show up. Unlike the herpes cold sores that occur in clusters, chancre sores typically occur singly as painless lesions with smooth surfaces. The fluids in the lesions contain the causative agent of syphilis, Treponema pallidum.

Chancre sore in the mouth is one of the transmission mediums that has contributed to syphilis becoming endemic significantly through kissing and oral sex. These lesions normally heal without treatment within a period of 2 to 6 weeks and may never appear again.

Treatment of Syphilis Sores

In the early or the first stage of syphilis, the bacteria can be prevailed upon by small dosages of antibiotics such as penicillin. However, in later stages, higher doses are usually required to rid the body of the bacteria, but the likely organ damage resulting from the prolonged infection may be untreatable.

Herpes cold sore vs syphilis chancre sore

What is the difference between cold sores and syphilis? Cold sores and syphilis chancre sores have distinguishing factors varying one from the other, and the ability to rightly distinguish between both is necessary for effective treatment. Some of the distinguishing factors include:

  • Cold sores usually occur on the lips or around the mouth; chancre rarely occur on the facial region
  • Cold sores are blisters; chancre sores are ulcers.
  • Cold sores occur in clusters; chancres occur singly.

Syphilis And Herpes Can Inflame The Meninges And Thus Result In Meningitis

Nevertheless, it is very necessary that you consult your doctor for proper diagnosis, and treatment if any of the sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs): syphilis or herpes simplex virus (HSV) is confirmed as responsible for the symptoms (i.e. cold and chancre sores).


Cold sore or syphilis is highly contagious and sexually transmitted. Generally, the use of condom helps prevent the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases which include herpes and syphilis. Aside from the use of condoms, other health practices such as abstinence, safe oral sex (including kissing), and ensuring that you and your partner are free from STDs are highly recommended.

However, if you have any type of sore that you are not certain of, it is important that you consult your doctor.