Testing For Genital Herpes
If you think you may have genital herpes you should make an appointment with your GP or local sexual health services.
If there are symptoms present such as blisters, sores and ulcers, your doctor or nurse may be able to make a diagnosis straight away.
If you have visible blisters, your doctor or nurse may take a swab for testing, to check if this is herpes and what type. This swab can also test for another STI which causes blisters called syphilis.
The genital herpes swab tests are very reliable, though if the ulcer is too dry then it may be less likely to find a positive result.
When To Talk With A Doctor
Herpes isnt curable, but it can be treated with antiviral medications. These medications can reduce the severity of an outbreak.
If you suspect you have herpes, make an appointment with a doctor. Its also a good idea to talk with your doctor about a herpes screening if:
- your current or previous sexual partner has herpes
- youre planning to have sex with a new partner
- you had a risky sexual encounter
If youve already been diagnosed with herpes and youre currently experiencing an outbreak, the outbreak might go away without causing complications and without treatment.
However, its wise to make an appointment with your doctor if:
- the outbreak is particularly painful or unbearable
- youre experiencing symptoms of other STIs
- youre experiencing frequent, severe outbreaks
If youre sexually active, its a good idea to have regular STI screenings. You can book appointments for STI screenings with your doctors office. You could also try a local clinic, certain pharmacies, or Planned Parenthood.
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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Treating A First Outbreak Of Herpes
A first outbreak of genital herpes can cause a long illness with severe genital sores and can also affect the nervous system. Even if your first episode of herpes is mild, you may have severe or prolonged symptoms later. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone who has a first episode of genital herpes take antiviral drugs.
Almost everyone who has one episode of genital herpes caused by HSV-2 also has later breakouts of sores. Later episodes are less common if your case of genital herpes is due to an HSV-1 infection.
The frequency of genital herpes outbreaks slows down over time in many people.
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How Herpes Is Spread
You are most likely to spread herpes when you have a herpes sore or blister. But many people have time periods when they can still spread the virus even though they don’t have symptoms.
And some people spread the infection because they don’t realize that they have a herpes sore. Or they may have different symptoms, such as painful urination, that they don’t realize are part of an outbreak.
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How Can I Prevent Genital Herpes
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting genital herpes:
- Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who does not have herpes.
- Using condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Be aware that not all herpes sores occur in areas that a condom can cover. Also, the skin can release the virus from areas that do not have a visible herpes sore. For these reasons, condoms may not fully protect you from getting herpes.
If your sex partner has/have genital herpes, you can lower your risk of getting it if:
- Your partner takes an anti-herpes medicine every day. This is something your partner should discuss with his or her healthcare provider.
What Should I Expect During My Appointment
The health care provider will ask you many questions about your sexual activity. They may ask you to undress from the waist down and will give you a drape to cover yourself. They may do some or all of the following:
- Ask for a urine sample.
- Take a blood sample.
- If you’re 21 or older, they may do cervical cancer screening, including a Pap test, to check for changes in the cells of the cervix.
- Do a bimanual exam .
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How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
You can diagnose genital herpes using a swab test at home. This is the same test that sexual health clinics use. A swab test will take a sample of fluid from a herpes sore. You do not need a blood test to diagnose herpes.
You can request a genital herpes test kit from ZAVA and complete it in the comfort of your own home. We can deliver the test kit straight to your door in discreet packaging, or you can collect it from a Post Office.
You will not be able to do a herpes swab test if you do not have any sores.
Can I Get An Sti Without Intercourse If We Are Just Fooling Around
Yes, you can get some STI just by intimate skin-to-skin touching or kissing of an infected area.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re heterosexual, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit or questioning. STI can be transmitted by anyone.
Drugs and/or alcohol can impair judgement and lead to risky behaviour. When you or your partner are impaired and ‘caught up in the moment’, you may be more likely to have sex without a condom and take other risks that can increase your exposure to STI and unplanned pregnancy.
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Most STI have no obvious symptoms , so you may not know if you or your sexual partner has an infection. That’s why practising safer sex and getting tested regularly is so important.
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What Do Genital Herpes Symptoms Look Like
Other symptoms can include:
- tingling or burning around the genitals
- feeling unwell, with aches, pains and flu-like symptoms
- unusual vaginal discharge in women.
Many people with genital herpes wont get any symptoms, or may get symptoms for the first time months or even years after they were infected.
For most people, the blisters go away within one to two weeks. Although the outbreaks clear-up by themselves, the virus stays in the body. This means that people usually get blisters again which is called having a recurrent outbreak. Outbreaks usually become shorter and less severe over time.
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How To Use An Internal Condom
1. Open carefully
Don’t use teeth, scissors or a knife to open the condom. Roughly tearing or handling the condom can damage it. If the person handling the condom has long fingernails, be extra careful as they can nick the condom, making it ineffective, putting you at risk of STI or unplanned pregnancy.
To remove the condom, twist the outer ring gently and pull the condom out. Throw the used condom in the garbage and don’t reuse it.
“Female” condoms usually come pre-lubricated or with a small package of lubricant. If you need additional lubricant, make sure you know what kind of condom you’re using first.
For polyurethane condoms, oil-based lubricant products can be used. For latex condoms, use a lubricant made of water, glycol or silicone. The use of the proper lubricant will help avoid breakage and discomfort.
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Is Genital Herpes Related To Shingles
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella zoster virus , which causes chickenpox earlier in life. The natural history of varicella zoster infection is similar to genital herpes infection in that VZV also becomes latent in the sensory nerve roots. Later in life the virus may exit, causing shingles.
Recurrences in shingles cause blister lesions in a single area of skin called a dermatome. Shingles is not a sexually transmitted infection and is independent from genital herpes.
How Will My Healthcare Provider Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at any sores that are present. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV antibodies.
Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider about herpes testing and other STDs.
Please note: A herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection. It cannot tell you who gave you the infection or when you got the infection.
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Can Genital Herpes Be Prevented
Practising safe sex is the best way to help prevent genital herpes infection.
It is safest to:
- always use condoms and dental dams, even when there are no sores or blisters present
- avoid sex when there are sores or blisters present you are most infectious at this time
- avoid sex with someone who has any blisters, sores or other symptoms of genital herpes
- avoid oral sex when there is any sign of a cold sore
Is It Safe To Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes as long as there isnt an open lesion on your chest or breast. If you have an active outbreak while breastfeeding, its possible to spread the infection to your nipples through touch. Careful hand-washing can prevent this spread. You shouldnt nurse from a breast that has herpes sores. You can pump breast milk until the sores heal. Dont give your baby expressed breast milk if the pump comes into contact with an open sore.
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Can Herpes Be Cured By Antibiotics
No. However, antibiotics may be helpful if you have both an infection caused by bacteria as well an infection with the herpes virus.
In this case, an antibiotic will treat the bacterial infection and may make those symptoms go away, but the herpes virus will remain in your body. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses.
When To Get Tested
Consult a doctor about any of the following symptoms:
- tingling or itching around the genitals
- pain when peeing
- unusual vaginal discharge
The World Health Organization describes the risk of the herpes virus passing to a newborn during childbirth. Although this is rare, people who are pregnant and have herpes should let their doctors know.
Using a condom or another barrier method of protection during sex reduces the risk of the virus transmitting. It is also a good idea to avoid sharing sex toys with someone who has herpes.
Several online companies offer STI testing kits, including:
- EverlyWell: This company sells tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and HIV.
- LetsGetChecked: This company sells tests for several common STIs, and it provides prescriptions at no extra cost if a test result is positive.
- PriortitySTD: This company returns results within 3 days.
Anyone with a positive test result should contact a healthcare professional.
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What You Need To Know
- Herpes simplex virus , also known as genital herpes, is most likely to be spread when an infected person is having an outbreak, but it can also be transmitted without any symptoms being present.
- Medications can help reduce your symptoms, speed up the healing of an outbreak and make you less contagious.
- If you know you have genital herpes before becoming pregnant, your physician will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. If you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery, cesarean section may be recommended.
What Do I Need To Know About The Testing Process
No matter your sex assigned at birth, gender identity, expression or sexual orientation, if you feel more comfortable with someone else in the room during your examination, tell your health care provider. Everything you discuss with your health care provider is confidential.
They can’t discuss things with anyone unless they:
- have your permission
- are making a referral that you’ve agreed to
- are concerned you may not understand medical advice given or the consequences of your decisions
- suspect child abuse, which they’re required to report to a child protection agency
Positive test results for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV are reported to your local public health department. However, your personal information isn’t given out to the health department or anyone else, and no one will know you have the infection except you, your health care provider and public health nurse. A nurse may contact you to offer to help with telling your current and past partners that they need to be tested.
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Support And Advice For Genital Herpes
If you have just found out you have genital herpes, you may feel shocked and may have a lot of questions. It may help you to gather as much information as you can about herpes. This can help you to make fully informed decisions about your treatment, safe sex and preventing further recurrences. Talking to a counsellor about your concerns may also help.
You Can Choose Not To Have Sex
You might not be ready to have sex if:
- you aren’t sure about it
- you feel pressured, scared or uncomfortable
- you need to get drunk or high to do it.
- your partner is not ready
- you can’t talk to your partner about safer sex, birth control or STI
- you or your partner could get pregnant but don’t want a baby and don’t use birth control
- you don’t have condoms or dental dams to protect yourself and your partner
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STI rates are the highest among Canadians 25 years or younger. If you choose to have sex, remember to always use condoms and/or dental dams.
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Take Care During Pregnancy
A woman who gets genital herpes while she is pregnant could pass the infection to her baby during delivery. Herpes can make newborns seriously ill.
If you are pregnant, follow these steps:
- Tell your doctor if you have been exposed to genital herpes or have had an outbreak in the past.
- Let your doctor know if you are currently having an outbreak, especially if you are in the last part of your pregnancy.
- Avoid unsafe sex. Herpes is often transmitted by people who don’t know they are infected and don’t have symptoms. Use condoms.
- Avoid receiving oral sex from partners who have cold sores. Herpes in newborns can be caused by HSV-1, the virus that most commonly causes cold sores. Most experts advise pregnant women not to receive oral sex in the last 3 months of their pregnancy. It increases their risk of genital infection with HSV-1.
Antiviral medicine can be used safely in pregnancy to reduce the risk of an outbreak at the time of delivery. This lower risk, in turn, makes it less likely that delivery by caesarean section will be needed.
Treatment For Oral Herpes
The antiviral medications available in pill form have been specifically developed for the treatment of genital herpes. However, it is not uncommon for healthcare providers to prescribe the antiviral drugs to those who have frequent or severe outbreaks of oral herpes.
A recent study found valacyclovir to be effective for treating oral herpes in a one-day treatment of 2 grams taken at the first sign of a cold sore, and then again about 12 hours later.
There are two topical antiviral medications prescribed for the treatment of oral HSV symptoms: acyclovir ointment and penciclovir cream. Both work to speed up the healing process and reduce the viral activity. These topical drugs are put directly on the lesions themselves, but can also be used at the onset of prodrome.
Other topical treatments for oral herpes are available over-the-counter , but are not antiviral compounds like acyclovir and penciclovir. Some also contain ingredients that numb the area and induce temporary relief from the discomfort of an outbreak. Unfortunately, some OTC treatments may actually delay the healing time of symptoms because they can further irritate the area with repeated applications. There is only one OTC FDA-approved cream, called Abreva®, which has been clinically proven to help speed the healing process.
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How Do You Get Herpes
The virus can be passed on by:
having any skin-to-skin contact with the infected area
transferring the infection on fingers from someone else to your genitals
sharing sex toys that aren’t washed or covered with a new condom each time they are used.
The virus is most infectious when you have blisters, but it can be passed on when someone has no symptoms. This is normally immediately before or after an outbreak.
If you have genital herpes while pregnant you can pass the virus on to your unborn baby. Itâs important to speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
For more details on herpes in pregnancy read our âin detailâ tab.