Doctors Dont Advise Getting A Blood Test For Herpes Without Any Symptoms
Hilda Hutcherson, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, is one of those doctors. I usually dont do tests for herpes someone has a lesion or a sore, something I can see, I will do a swab and take it to a culture or check the DNA on the materials I removed, she says. If theres nothing there and I do a blood test and the blood test comes back positive, lets say its positive for type 1, what does that really mean? Most people are positive for type 1. She adds that someone could be HSV-1-positive and either have or not have genital herpes. The result doesnt mean much, and it makes people go crazy.
Hutchersons motto is pretty simple: Why stress yourself over something if you havent seen anything especially when its something as common as herpes? Lets say they have a blood test come in positive but theyve never had a lesion. Now what? You may never get a lesion, she says. Its for this reason that she recommends people do not get tested for herpes unless they have a visible lesion that can be cultured and sent to a lab. Lets say you get tested anyway and it comes back positive, despite the fact that you have no symptoms. What do you do?
Does My Healthcare Provider Include A Blood Test For Genital Herpes When They Test Me For Everything
Herpes blood tests may or may not be part of the tests your healthcare provider gives you. They may choose tests based on several factors .
They will also evaluate you for signs or symptoms of herpes to choose which tests to use. This is why its important to talk openly and honestly with your provider during your visit. Ask them which infections they are and are not testing you for and why.
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How To Read Your Results
Your HSV test results will likely be reported as negative or positive :
- Negative. The herpes virus was not found. However, you may still have an HSV infection if your results were negative. It may mean the sample didnt have enough virus to be detected. If you still have symptoms of herpes, you may need to order another test.
- Positive. HSV was found in your sample. It may mean you have an active infection or contracted the virus in the past .
If your test results are positive for HSV, talk with a doctor about your next steps.
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All of this tells us that sure, there are some currently available blood tests for herpes that can tell you your status or give you some idea of it but theyre still far from perfect. And when were dealing with a illness thats highly and widely stigmatized the way herpes has become, most people are looking for airtight answers. This is precisely why so many doctors, as well as the CDC, do not recommend getting tested unless you have the common symptoms associated with herpes, such as itching, burning, or a blister.
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Doctors Don’t Advise Getting A Blood Test For Herpes Without Any Symptoms
Hilda Hutcherson, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, is one of those doctors. “I usually dont do tests for herpes someone has a lesion or a sore, something I can see, I will do a swab and take it to a culture or check the DNA on the materials I removed,” she says. “If theres nothing there and I do a blood test and the blood test comes back positive, lets say its positive for type 1, what does that really mean? Most people are positive for type 1.” She adds that someone could be HSV-1-positive and either have or not have genital herpes. The result “doesnt mean much, and it makes people go crazy.”
Hutcherson’s motto is pretty simple: Why stress yourself over something if you haven’t seen anything especially when it’s something as common as herpes? “Let’s say they have a blood test come in positive but theyve never had a lesion. Now what? You may never get a lesion,” she says. It’s for this reason that she recommends people do not get tested for herpes unless they have a visible lesion that can be cultured and sent to a lab. Let’s say you get tested anyway and it comes back positive, despite the fact that you have no symptoms. What do you do?
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Hsv 1/2 Test Results Interpretation
Positive IgG antibodies against Virus herpes 1 means the body is immune to this virus or the immunity still build up, the same for IgG antiherpes antibodies means an old infection that the body has built defense against.Positive IgM anti-herpes antibodies Virus 1 and 2 means the body just started the immunity response against the herpes virus, while beginning of the virus infection may be occurred several weeks ago.In the acute stage of herpes infection skin lesions with characteristic blisters occur by HSV-1 or genitalia sores which associated with STD infections. Severe manifestations, such as an HSV-associated encephalitis or herpes corneae are rare. Herpes simplex virus infects the neurons of the dorsal root ganglia, where it causes lifelong latent infection. The virus is often reactivated, leading to recurrent symptoms.Which Ab. test can detect herpes virus earlier?In the acute stage of infection direct detection of the virus from the vesicles content via PCR is indicated. In addition, detection of IgM antibodies against HSV is important to confirm acute primary infection. However, not all patients produce IgM antibodies in the acute phase of infection besides, IgM antibodies may also be detectable in cases of recurrent or persistent infection.What is the most accurate specific test against herpes virus types other than PCR test?What is against HSV-1 glycoprotein G or HSV-2 glycoprotein G ?Classic ELISA Antibody Blood Test
What Do My Test Results Mean
There are two possible antibodies that your body can make to HSV-1 and HSV-2. These are IgM and IgG.
IgM is the antibody that is made first and typically represents a current or acute infection, although this may not always be the case.
IgG is made after the IgM antibody and typically will be present in the bloodstream for the rest of your life.
A negative test result is considered normal. This generally means that youve never contracted an HSV infection.
However, its possible for your results to come back negative even if youve contracted the infection within the past few months. This is referred to as a false negative.
Your body will typically take several weeks to develop IgG antibodies to HSV.
If youre tested earlier in your infection, its possible to have a false negative result. Your doctor may recommend that you return in 2 to 3 weeks to be retested.
A positive test result for HSV-1 or HSV-2 indicates that youve contracted either virus at some point.
The results also allow your doctor to differentiate between HSV-1 and HSV-2, which isnt always possible by visually examining the sores.
Depending on your results, you and your doctor can discuss ways to treat and prevent the transmission of your HSV infection.
When a serum antibody test is recommended for HSV, IgG detection is preferred. In fact, some laboratories are discontinuing their IgM tests in the future.
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Cost And Health Insurance
Depending on where you live and the lab you use, your HSV IgG blood test can cost between $35 and $80. Public clinics tend to be cheaper.
Genital HSV is considered an STI. But don’t assume that a free STI clinic will have the test or provide it free of charge. Some may only offer free testing for:
- Select STI screening tests
Search for free or low-cost STI clinics in your area by using the GetTested locator offered by the CDC.
What Abnormal Results Mean
A positive test means you have been infected with HSV recently or at some point in the past.
Tests can be done to help determine if you have a recent infection.
About 70% of adults have been infected by HSV-1 and have antibodies against the virus. About 20% to 50% of adults will have antibodies against the HSV-2 virus, which causes genital herpes.
HSV stays in your system once you have been infected. It may be “asleep” , and cause no symptoms, or it may flare up and cause symptoms. This test cannot tell whether you are having a flare-up.
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There Are Two Common Blood Tests Used To Identify Herpes And They’re Often Misleading
“I had a patient once who underwent this test, which was positive, and was told she has herpes, which to her was devastating and life-altering,” Friedman says. “She burst into tears when I explained the significance or lack thereof with this test, which is very misleading.” There are two common blood tests used to identify herpes: IgG and IgM. The IgM test is still used by some doctors even though it has been denounced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . According to the American Sexual Health Association , IgM tests can lead to deceptive results, as well as false assumptions about how and when a person acquired HSV.
And that’s not all: IgM tests fail to accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies, leading them to provide false-positive results for HSV-2. In other words, if you’ve been exposed to oral herpes , results of the IgM test could lead you to believe you’re positive for genital herpes, when in fact you simply have antibodies against HSV-1.
IgG tests, on the other hand, are more accurate, but aren’t without their own issues. For instance, ASHA says that while an IgG test can distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2, the problem is that the time it takes for IgG antibodies to reach a detectable level varies from person to person. This means that even with accurate results, someone could get a false-negative if they have the test administered too soon after contracting the virus .
Which Herpes Test Should You Get
Each method of testing for herpes has advantages and disadvantages, from time and cost, to an increased possibility of false results. Often, people concerned about the virus use a range of herpes testing to get a more accurate, proven picture of whether or not theyre infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Since herpes is a lifelong infection that cant be cured, its important to discuss testing options with your healthcare provider and make sure you receive an accurate result. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you more about the best options for herpes testing based on your symptoms and situation.
Typically, your healthcare provider will carry out a physical exam before choosing the best testing method for you. As herpes symptoms tend to be worst during the initial outbreak of the virus, its best to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you start experiencing symptoms.
In the event that you do have herpes, theres no need to panic. Both oral and genital herpes are extremely common, and a variety of effective treatments are available for both.
Our Valacyclovir 101 guide goes into more detail about one of the most common, effective drugs for treating both symptomatic and asymptomatic herpes. You can also learn more about the risk of catching herpes in our guide to how herpes is transmitted between people.
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When tests fall between 1.1 and 3.5, more testing is necessary, said Johnston. This recommendation is also noted in the 2015 CDC Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines. But some patients will never be referred for a second test.
I think most clinicians are unaware and perhaps labs dont have this available and/or it is not straightforward to order, Johnston said of second-step tests.
But while her facilitys Western blot is considered highly accurate, it is expensive and cumbersome to perform. Each test costs over $200 and the University of Washington is the only lab that provides it.
Other confirmatory tests also exist, for instance Biokits HSV-2 Rapid Test and Quests own HSV-2 IgG Inhibition assay. The latter, which adds only $4 to the price of the HerpeSelect test, performed well in a study conducted over a decade ago. Rick Pesano, the medical director for infectious disease at Quest, believes that with more awareness, the test could stand in for the Western blot. But the test was not mentioned in the USPSTF guidelines because it still has not been evaluated in asymptomatic individuals, according to Cindy Feltner, associate director of the RTI-UNC Evidence-based Practice Center, who helped prepare the science review for USPSTF.
We need better diagnostic testing. That is where we are stuck at this point, said Johnston. We dont have a good test thats inexpensive, high throughput, and reliable.
When Should You Get Tested
The best time to get tested for herpes varies, depending on what’s happening.
If you’re exhibiting symptoms of an initial outbreak which include pain, itching and redness of the affected location fatigue, fever and chills and, ultimately, painful sores or ulcers it’s best to see a healthcare professional about getting tested.
However, if you think you’ve been exposed to the virus and aren’t yet exhibiting symptoms, HSV may take some time before being able to show results on a test. While the exact time frame is unknown and varies from person to person, two weeks is usually enough time to yield accurate test results.
Most people become concerned about being infected with the herpes virus after contact with a potentially infected person. Often, simple things like kissing someone with a visible cold sore or facial acne around the lips can cause concern about HSV-1.
For genital herpes, most people become concerned about potentially being infected after sexual contact with a person that shows symptoms of herpes. This can include oral sex with someone that has cold sores, which can potentially spread to the genitals.
Since herpes is asymptomatic in many people, you could be infected with the virus even if you dont have any symptoms.
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Study Questions Reliability Of Diagnostic Tests For Herpes
Up to half of those screened for genital herpes may be incorrectly told they are infected
Tests commonly used to diagnose oral and genital herpes are often unreliable, missing some cases of infection and, in others, identifying an infection that does not exist, say researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
In nearly half of patients with commercial test results indicating that they were infected with the most common cause of recurrent genital herpes, herpes simplex virus 2 , a subsequent test showed that the initial diagnosis was incorrect, the researchers report in a paper published today in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
The high rate of false-positive HSV-2 tests was particularly troubling, said Dr. Anna Wald, who led the research.
These tests arent as good as they ought to be, given that they are used to diagnose someone with a chronic, lifelong sexually transmitted disease. Wald directs UWs Virology Research Clinic and is a professor of medicine, epidemiology, and laboratory medicine.
The investigators examined results from FDA-approved tests used to diagnose HSV-2 and herpes simplex virus type 1 , the most common cause of cold sores.
These tests, called enzyme-linked immunoassays, detect the presence of antibodies to the herpes simplex viruses in a persons blood. When the antibodies are detected, the test is positive, meaning that the person is infected by the virus. No detected antibodies indicates no infection.
How Do The Tests Work
HSV tests detect IgG and immunoglobulin M antibodies. IgG antibodies are present soon after infection with HSV and remain in the blood for life. A test result showing IGg antibodies will tell a person that they have experienced an infection in the past and that they have antibodies against the virus.
IgM antibodies appear before IgG antibodies but may disappear when the infection is inactive. Testing for IgM antibodies is not a useful way to distinguish between primary and recurrent episodes of HSV infection. Therefore, doctors do not recommend IgM testing.
A positive herpes antibody test cannot tell people where they have HSV infection or when they contracted the infection. It cannot tell if a person was capable of passing on the infection at the time of the test, nor can it tell if specific symptoms are due to herpes.
Once a sample comes back from laboratory analysis, a person will receive one of the following results:
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When Are Herpes Tests Accurate
In the table below, we summarize information about the timing of herpes testing.
One of the most important factors in any infectious disease testing is doing it at the right time. This means two things in the case of herpes:
- For the blood test to be accurate, the right amount of time needs to have passed
- The swab test should be done while symptoms are âfreshâ
For each available herpes test, we will mention:
- The earliest testing time
||12 weeks after the initial exposure, over 92% of infected people are positive|
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