Who Might Get Herpes Simplex
People of any age can contract herpes simplex. You are more likely to get the virus if you:
- Were assigned female at birth.
- Have had multiple sex partners.
- Started having sex at a young age.
- Have a history of any sexually transmitted infection .
- Have a weakened immune system.
- Dont use condoms for intercourse and dental dams for oral sex.
Who gets HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes?
Anyone can get HSV-1. Most people contract HSV-1 during childhood. It spreads when an adult who has the virus has close contact with a child, such as when a family member kisses a child.
Who gets HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes?
Genital herpes affects sexually active teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms or dental dams.
People assigned female at birth are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black people who were AFAB are especially vulnerable, with an estimated 1 in 2 people AFAB between the ages of 14 and 49 infected with HSV-2.
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.
The Bottom Line: Tests For Herpes Are More Worry Than They’re Worth
If you do have symptoms, don’t fret: If you know your status, you’re at an advantage in that you can talk with your doctor and find an antiviral drug that works for you. Medication can curtail the severity of your symptoms, as well as the number of outbreaks you get. Additionally, taking an antiviral daily will greatly reduce your chances of transmitting the virus to someone else. In case you missed it, there’s also a very promising new drug for herpes on the horizon, which researchers say could be the most effective one yet.
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Best Home Herpes Tests
Many at-home herpes tests are available to purchase online. The sections below look at four of the best options.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried any of these products. All information presented here is purely research-based.
Best subscription for herpestest
LetsGetCheckeds home kits can test for both HSV-1 and HSV-2.
A person receives a collection kit with all the tools they need to collect their samples at home. These include needles, a prepaid envelope, alcohol swabs, and a tube. The tests come in discreet packaging so that other people will not know what the person has received.
The person also has access to an instruction video on the company website that explains how they should take their test. LetsGetChecked suggests that people take a blood sample before 9 a.m. and return it to the laboratory on the same day.
The company states that it issues the results within 25 days.
Individuals who receive a positive result can contact a nurse through the company, and they may suggest a treatment plan.
LetsGetChecked offers a one-time purchase for about $100, but anyone who requires regular testing can purchase a subscription and pay less per kit.
Once a person has purchased a test, they need to register it on Everlywells website. They then need to post the collected samples with prepaid shipping.
This test costs around $150. However, people can subscribe for twice-yearly tests and save money per kit.
What Are The Complications Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes may cause painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV-infected persons. 5 Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis . 5 Development of extragenital lesions may occur during the course of infection. 5
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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.
When Is Herpes Not Contagious And When Does It Spread Most
So you or your partner have herpes, and you want to have a healthy love and sex life. These days, its very possible as long as you know the risks and the right precautions. When is herpes not contagious? And conversely, when is it most contagious? Its a more complex answer than you might expect, but an encouraging one when you have the right information.
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Taking A Genital Or Oral Herpes Test
Testing for genital and oral herpes may be performed with a blood sample or a sample of fluid swabbed or scraped from a sore. Both types of samples are collected by a health professional when conducted at a doctors offices, clinic, or community organization.
If a patient is experiencing an outbreak, a doctor can collect a sample for testing by swabbing or scraping a sore. Material from the sore can be used for a herpes viral culture, PCR testing,
A Tzanck smear or an antibody test.
If a patient is not currently experiencing an outbreak, a blood test may be used to identify HSV antibodies. If a doctor suspects a brain infection with HSV, a lumbar puncture may be performed to obtain a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for analysis.
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Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner and let him or her know that you do and the risk involved. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. Having sores or other symptoms of herpes can increase your risk of spreading the disease. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners.
You may have concerns about how genital herpes will impact your overall health, sex life, and relationships. It is best for you to talk to a health care provider about those concerns, but it also is important to recognize that while herpes is not curable, it can be managed with medication. Daily suppressive therapy for herpes can also lower your risk of spreading genital herpes to your sex partner. Be sure to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. Since a genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships, it is important to understand how to talk to sexual partners about STDsexternal icon.
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Sydney Sweeney Chopped Her Hair Into A Lob And Said Goodbye To The Middle Part
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 they’re still far from perfect. And when we’re dealing with a illness that’s 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.
Signs And Symptoms Of Herpes
The symptoms of herpes generally occur in two wavesan initial outbreak, which occurs after the virus incubates in the body, and subsequent outbreaks.
Initial herpes or cold sore outbreaks typically involve an itching and burning around the genitals , or around the mouth . Within a day or so, blisters can form in the affected area and develop into open, fluid-filled sores.
During an initial herpes outbreak, its common to experience headaches, muscle pains, fatigue and other flu-like symptoms. Many people also experience pain while urinating.
Recurring herpes outbreaks are similar, but are usually less severe than the initial outbreak. In people with HSV-2, outbreaks can occur up to five times a year, requiring two to three weeks to pass. People with HSV-1 typically experience one to two outbreaks per year, but that frequently varies drastically person to person.
Our guide to stopping a cold sore in the early stages goes into more detail about the typical symptoms of a herpes outbreak, as well as the triggers that can cause an outbreak to develop.
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What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Herpes
Oral and genital Herpes infections often have no symptoms or mild symptoms that can either go unnoticed or be mistaken for other types of bacterial or fungal infections, in both men and women. Occasionally, the virus may be present with no visible signs and can still be passed on, by a process called ‘asymptomatic viral shedding’.
Did you know?
1 in 3 people with Herpes will have symptoms, whilst 2 in 3 will only have mild symptoms or none at all.
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?
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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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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.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as a topical analgesic.
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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.
Useful Methods Include Testing An Actual Lesion
Keep in mind that thereâs no such thing as âsafeâ sex, only safer sex, which means using protection and being open and honest with your partner. âIt can definitely happen,â Friedman says of the chances of transmitting the virus to a partner without a visible outbreak. âIts called asymptotic shedding there are studies showing that the rates of transmission of HSV-2 are the same for symptomatic and asymptomatic.â He adds that this is why using protection during sexual contact is so important, regardless of what blood tests say. Unfortunately, you can never ensure your risk of transmission will be zero, whether or not you know you have herpes, but using a condom or dental dam will get you closer to it.
Like Hutcherson, Friedman also doesnât recommend blood tests for herpes in the absence of symptoms. âThe tests that are useful involve sampling the actual blister or cold sore,â he says, which can involve smearing scrapes of skin cells from the sore onto a slide, targeting the infected cells. As with some of the blood tests, though, this sampling test still wonât tell you what type of herpes virus is present. A viral culture, on the other hand, will tell you which virus you have, though it takes some time to come back. âDirect fluorescent antibody is by far the best,â Friedman says, âas you can get a result in a matter of hours which can be as useful as a culture.â Not all hospitals have access to this method, however.
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How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms. Mild symptoms may go unnoticed or be mistaken for other skin conditions like a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people do not know they have a herpes infection.
Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. This is known as having an outbreak. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Flu-like symptoms also may occur during the first outbreak.
People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they have HSV-2. However, repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although genital herpes is a lifelong infection, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.
Ask a healthcare provider to examine you if:
- You notice any symptoms or
- Your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD.
STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly genital discharge, burning when peeing, or bleeding between periods .
What Happens During A Herpes Antibody Test
There are different tests for HSV. Doctors will choose a test based on a persons health history and symptoms. Options include the following:
- Swab test: A healthcare professional uses a swab to take a sample of fluid and cells from a herpes sore. They then order a PCR test or viral culture to determine whether HSV is present. This is the most reliable way to test for HSV. Doctors normally do this as standard procedure before ordering any other sort of test.
- Blood test: A healthcare professional uses a needle to take a small amount of blood from a vein in a persons arm.
- Lumbar puncture: Doctors may use this method if they suspect a person has an infection in the brain or spinal cord. It involves numbing the skin of the lower spine and inserting a thin, hollow needle between two vertebrae to collect cerebrospinal fluid.
A doctor will send samples to a laboratory for testing and a person should get their results within a few days.
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