Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home
Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?
- Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
- Applying ice to blisters or sores.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
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Types Of Herpes Tests
There are several types of tests for herpes:
- Viral culture: A healthcare worker will take fluid from a sore using a swab. Laboratory personnel will add it to a medium that can grow HSV. If no virus develops, the culture is negative. If the virus multiplies, the test is positive. The test may fail to find the virus under certain conditions, however, which is a false negative.
- Antigen detection test: A laboratory professional looks at cells taken from a sore under a microscope, looking for herpes antigens, which are molecules that can stimulate the body to produce an immune response.
- Antibody tests: Often referred to as a serologic herpes test, it is a blood test that looks for antibodies, which the body produces in response to antigens. These tests may not be as accurate as a viral culture. Antibodies can take time to develop so if your infection is recent, the test may not find them. Antibody tests can distinguish HSV-1 from HSV-2 infection, but there is a high rate of false positives. If you test positive for HSV-2 antibodies and you have a history of genital symptoms, you likely have the virus. However, if you dont have symptoms, an HSV-2-positive result is not a diagnosis of genital herpes because of the high false-positive rate.
If You Get A Positive Result Dont Panic It Really Doesnt Mean Much
All of this is to say that unless you have symptoms consistent with the herpes virus, why put yourself through the emotional turmoil of getting a blood test that may or may not give you legit results? As Hutcherson notes, if you do get a blood test and it comes back positive but youâre asymptomatic, what does that mean for you if you have nothing to treat? For many, due to the high rate of stigma still surrounding herpes, it can mean feelings of self-contempt, humiliation, and distress, all of which could be avoided if you arenât experiencing any symptoms.
To recap, while there are some tests for herpes that can prove correct, none are 100 percent perfect, and blood tests are particularly problematic since they can produce false positives and negatives. We also know that the majority of the population has some form of herpes, so IMO itâs a mystery as to why weâre still making a big deal out of it. No one likes blisters or sores, but neither does anyone love having acne, a widespread condition without the same level of attached shame.
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Why Doesnt Everyone Receive A Herpes Blood Test
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 may be common infections today, but a majority of people who actually have this infection will not experience any symptoms. Disease control agencies, such as the CDC do not recommend herpes testing for anyone without symptoms. There is evidence that diagnosing someone without symptoms does not change their sexual behavior.
When discussing your sexual habits with your doctor, it is more effective to determine if you should be tested for any or all STDs instead. This would include a herpes blood test at this point.
If there are bothersome signs and symptoms of a herpes outbreak, then the herpes blood test may be able to provide useful information. Youll want to consider requesting this blood test if any one of these three sexual health issues would describe your current situation.
- You are currently experiencing genital symptoms that you believe could be related to herpes.
- You are currently having sex or have had a sexual partner in the past who you know had genital herpes.
- You have had multiple sexual partners in the recent past and you want to have a complete STD exam.
Understanding The Hsv2 Blood Test Results
HSV2 blood tests involve a screening for genital herpes, which is a sexually transmitted disease that is common. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2, which is how the blood test gets its name. Most people who have become infected with HSV2 will not have any symptoms. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend testing everyone for this sexually transmitted disease.
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Are There Any Risks To The Test
There is no known risk to having a swab test.
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
If you had a lumbar puncture, you may have pain or tenderness in your back where the needle was inserted. You may also get a headache after the procedure.
Should I Get Tested Again
You may want to go for a repeat test after six months if you do not undergo regular sexually transmitted infection screening. In doing so, you’re more likely to identify an infection without missing the window in which the tests are accurate.
Speak with your healthcare provider about when it’s best for you to get tested, and if there are other tests you should consider.
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Why Is Testing Only Recommended When Symptoms Are Present
Testing is recommended for herpes where there are genital symptoms only because this blood test can help to confirm the infection. When the symptoms of genital herpes are present, this is generally referred to as a flare up or having an outbreak. They can appear as blisters that are on the rectum, genitals, or even the mouth.
Eventually the blisters can break and may leave painful sores. These sores may take several weeks to heal. The results of the HSV2 blood test can help you know what to expect for future health needs, what medications may be available to help you manage your symptoms, and ways that you can lower future risks of either obtaining the infection in the future or spreading the infection to future partners.
Women who are pregnant and have a sexual partner who has been diagnosed should be tested immediately. The fetus can also obtain the herpes virus and herpes infections in babies can be life-threatening.
What Should You Do After Receiving A Positive Herpes Test
A positive herpes test is nothing to stress about. Around half Americans under the age of 20 have HSV-1, so youre not alone. A positive diagnosis doesnt mean youll start having outbreaks. In fact, many people with positive herpes tests never have an outbreak. If you do, these can be easily managed.
Although there is no cure for herpes, symptoms can be managed by taking antiviral medications, like valacyclovir. These meds can reduce your outbreak frequency and length along with your risk of passing the virus on to your sexual partners. If youve been previously diagnosed with herpes, Nurx can prescribe oral or genital herpes treatment online and deliver the medication to your door with free shipping. To request herpes treatment from Nurx, get started here.
Nurx offers prescription cold sore and genital herpes treatment for as little as $0 with insurance or $15 per month without insurance.
Condoms can also help reduce the risk of transmitting herpes to your partner. While transmission rates are much lower when youre not experiencing symptoms, you can still pass on the virus.
While theres no guaranteed way to prevent outbreaks, living a healthy life can reduce their incidence. Try to maintain good physical and mental health to manage your herpes.
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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.
Testing With No Symptoms
Blood tests can be used when a person has no visible symptoms but has concerns about having herpes. Blood tests do not actually detect the virus instead, they look for antibodies in the blood.
IgM vs. IgG
When an individual contracts herpes, the immune system responds by developing antibodies to fight the virus: IgG and IgM. Blood tests can look for and detect these antibodiesnot the virus itself. IgG appears soon after infection and stays in the blood for life. IgM is actually the first antibody that appears after infection, but it may disappear thereafter.
IgM tests are not recommended because of three serious problems:
The accurate herpes blood tests detect IgG antibodies. Unlike IgM, IgG antibodies can be accurately broken down to either HSV-1 or HSV-2. The challenge here is that the time it takes for IgG antibodies to reach detectable levels can vary from person to person. For one person, it could take just a few weeks, while it could take a few months for another. So even with the accurate tests, a person could receive a false negative if the test is taken too soon after contracting the virus.
For the most accurate test result, it is recommended to wait 12 16 weeks from the last possible date of exposure before getting an accurate, type-specific blood test in order to allow enough time for antibodies to reach detectable levels.
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Is It A New Or Recurrent Infection
Herpes IgM levels tend to go up early in an infection, and levels often go down with time. This means a positive herpes IgM result is most often associated with a new infection. However, individuals with recurrent herpes infections may also have positive herpes IgM blood results.
Individuals may not have a positive immunoglobulin G test, an antibody test that detects IgG, until they’ve been infected for at least several months. However, IgG levels tend to remain high throughout the course of an infection, while IgM levels are more variable.
This means that if an individual has positive results on both IgG and IgM tests, they may be having a recurrent herpes episode, instead of a new infection. A positive IgM test alone is more likely to be a new infection.
Herpes Testing: Types Accuracy Timing And Necessity
In this section, weâll give you information about herpes testing.
Testing is what ultimately establishes or rule out a diagnosis of herpes. All the other weâve talked aboutâwhat you feel, what you see, and your odds of getting itâhelp us with the diagnosis, but theyâve canât establish it or confirm it.
This section will summarize the different types of herpes tests, their accuracy, how theyâre interpreted, and when theyâre necessary. Tables with important statistics will be followed by FAQ answered by âDr. F,â an STD expert.
So, if you want to know all about herpes testing, this chapter is for you!
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Do I Have To Specifically Ask For A Herpes Blood Test
You may need to speak with your medical provider if you want the herpes blood test. Even if you ask for all of the recommended testing for STDs, the blood test for herpes may not be included. This is because the local risk factors for infection and behavioral habits will determine if a doctor feels this test is necessary.
STD testing is generally performed on infections which have a serious outcome to the individual involved if the infection is not addressed. Since genital herpes does not cause serious consequences or outcomes for non-pregnant individuals, the testing may not even be ordered. If you are worried about this infection, however, you should speak to your doctor about your risks, your symptoms, and whatever treatment may be necessary.
Herpes is not considered a notifiable disease in the United States either, which means there is no specific data collected about this STD.
Genital Herpes Is Common Shouldnt Cdc Recommend Testing For Everyone
CDC recommends herpes testing for people who have genital symptoms to confirm if they have it. Testing allows a healthcare provider to talk with patients about what to expect in the future. This includes talking about medications that help with symptoms. Providers can also tell patients how to lower the risk of transmitting herpes to sex partner.
CDC does not recommend herpes testing for people without symptoms in most situations. This is because of the limits of a herpes blood test and the possibility of a wrong test result. The chances of wrong test results are higher for people who are at low risk of infection.
Blood tests might be useful if:
- You have genital symptoms that could be related to herpes, or
- You have a sex partner with genital herpes, or
- Your provider found signs of herpes, but you still need a test to confirm it.
If you are sexually active, talk openly and honestly with your healthcare provider about what tests are right for you. These tips can help.
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Can I Take The Test At Home
At-home tests are available to test for evidence of an HSV infection. At-home herpes testing typically detects HSV antibodies in a self-collected sample of blood and may require additional follow-up if preliminary results are positive. At-home herpes tests can be obtained online or at a local pharmacy.
If A Pregnant Woman Gets Genital Herpes Is There A Chance Her Baby Can Get Infected
Yes. Even though adults with genital herpes may not have any symptoms, herpes infections in babies can be life-threatening. Women who get genital herpes during late pregnancy have a very high risk for having a baby with herpes infection, and these women may not even know they are infected. Women who get herpes during early pregnancy, or who are infected before they get pregnant can also spread herpes to their babies. Most babies with herpes get infected as they come into contact with the herpes virus while passing through the birth canal, but infection can also occur before birth or in the weeks after birth.
If you are pregnant and think that you or your partner may have genital herpes, tell your doctor. Your doctor can order testing and can talk to you about ways to lower your babys risk for infection.
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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?
Myth #: There Are Two Types: Genital And Oral Herpes
Buckle up, because this is where things get really confusing. There are two types of herpes, HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is typically oral, meaning it causes cold sores on the mouth. More than half the population has been exposed to this virus, and often from childhood. HSV-2 is typically genital, and most usually is transmitted through sexual contact.
With that said, Dr. Dweck says that herpes type 1 can be spread to the genitals via oral contact . So you might have type 1 that only presents orally, or you might have type 1 that only presents genitally. Herpes type 2 can also be spread in the reverse fashion, from the genitals of one individual to the mouth of the other .
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Are There Other Types Of Herpes Viruses Besides Hsv
Yes. There are over 25 viruses in the herpes family and at least 8 types that infect humans. These include herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 discussed in this article as well as varicella zoster virus , associated with chickenpox and shingles, Epstein Barr virus , which can cause infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus , human herpes virus 6 and human herpes virus 7 , both associated with roseola in young children, and human herpes virus 8 , which has been found in tumors in people with Kaposi’s sarcoma . KS primarily affects people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS and organ transplant recipients.