Tuesday, September 27, 2022

How Do Doctors Test For Herpes

Where Can I Get Tested For Herpes

Understanding Herpes Testing

You can get tested for herpes and other STDs at your doctors office, a community health clinic, the health department, or your local Planned Parenthood health center.

STD testing isnt usually part of your regular checkup or gynecologist exam you have to ask for it. Be honest with your nurse or doctor so they can help you figure out which tests are best for you. Dont be embarrassed: Your doctor is here to help you, not to judge you.

Herpes Testing In Men

There are two types of the herpes virus, oral herpes and genital herpes . The tests are typically performed on sores that appear around the mouth or in the genital area to detect if the herpes virus is causing the breakout of sores and, if so, which herpes virus it is. A doctor performs this test by rubbing a cotton swab against a sore to collect cells for examination. Be prepared for mild discomfort or pain during this process.

If sores are not present, a doctor can also test for herpes using a blood sample. The testing method for this is similar to most other blood samples.

It is important to note that a negative test result does not mean a person is not infected. There are a few factors that can affect the accuracy of the herpes tests, and so, a test should be done twice to confirm the results are accurate. The first test should be taken 12 weeks after exposure, and the second test should be taken 90 days after exposure. The reasons for inaccurate test results include:

  • Testing blood before the virus is detectable in your system
  • Testing from an old or crusted sore that has almost healed
  • You have taken antiviral medication that can counteract the test

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.

Read Also: Do You Have To Tell Someone You Have Herpes

The Blood Tests Do Have A Lot Of Value But Here Are The Biggest Issues:

  • About 50% of the population has type 1 herpes. Type 1 can be genital or oral. If you have never had symptoms and obtain an IgG based type-specific blood test , and the test comes back positive for type 1, we have no way of knowing whether you are infected orally, genitally, or both. The only way we can know which location is infected is by symptoms.

  • About 30% of negative results for HSV 1 are false negatives. This means if you test negative, you might still have HSV 1.

  • If you are positive for type 2 and fall within a positive range of 1.1 – 3.5, theres a decent chance this is a false positive. About 50% of positives that fall in this range are in error, with the closer you get to 3.5 the more likely you are positive and the closer to 1.1 the less likely you are positive. There can be false positives above 3.5 as well but theyre less likely. If you do test positive within this low range, the CDC recommends confirmatory testing. The most accurate confirmatory blood test is the Western Blot. The Western Blot is more complicated to obtain and your insurance may not cover it. In addition, many doctors do not know about the high false positive rate within this range so they incorrectly diagnose their patients without getting confirmation. I have worked with a number of patients diagnosed within this range who I encouraged to follow up with the Western Blot and they discovered they were negative.

  • Blood tests given too early after possible exposure can be false negative.

  • Genital Herpes Is Common Why Doesnt Cdc Recommend Testing Everyone For This Std

    What Does a Positive Herpes IgG Blood Test Mean?

    CDC does not recommend herpes testing for people without symptoms. This is because diagnosing genital herpes in someone without symptoms has not shown any change in their sexual behavior nor has it stopped the virus from spreading. Also, false positive test results are possible. Even if you do not have symptoms, you should talk openly and honestly about your sexual history with your doctor to find out if you should be tested for any STDs, including herpes.

    Although CDC does not recommend that everyone get tested for herpes, herpes testing may be useful in some situations. Herpes blood tests might be useful

    • If you have genital symptoms that could be related to herpes,
    • If you have a sex partner with genital herpes, or
    • If you want a complete STD exam, especially if you have multiple sex partners.

    Please note that while a herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection, it will not be able to tell you who gave you the infection.

    Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Herpes Outbreak Fast

    The Accuracy Of Various Herpes Tests

    This table summarizes the overall accuracy of different herpes tests. Please especially pay attention to the most common test, the IgG testâand most importantly to its false positive and false negative rates.

    The table has three columns:

    • Test accuracy: how accurate is the test in detecting the herpes virus
    • False positive: the test detects the presence of herpes, but the person doesnât actually have it
    • False negative: the test doesnât detect the presence of herpes, but the person does have it

    Please note: the numbers in the table are averages and may vary from case to case based on factors such as when the test is performed , the testing technique, and the herpes viral load.

    Test Type
    100% 0% Depends on the time of sample collection: usually 25% but may be up to 70%
    Blood test Commercially available IgG test: 94%Washington University test: > 99% Commercially available IgG test: up to 19%Washington University test*: 0% Commercially available IgG test: up to 38%Washington University test*: 0%

    * The Washington University test is considered the âgold standardâ blood test. The false-negative and false-positive rates for the commercially available IgG test are based on a comparison to the Western blot results of the Washington University test.

    What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic

    The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:

    • ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
    • use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing

    The test cannot:

    • be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
    • tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from

    Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after youre infected with the herpes virus.

    If you have genital herpes, your previous sexual partners should get tested.

    The doctor or nurse at the clinic can discuss this with you and help you tell your partners without letting them know its you who has the virus.

    Recommended Reading: Is Herpes Part Of Std Testing

    Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About An Hsv Test

    The best way to prevent genital herpes or another STD is to not have sex. If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk of infection by

    • Being in a long-term relationship with one partner who has tested negative for STDs
    • Using condoms correctly every time you have sex

    If you’ve been diagnosed with genital herpes, condom use can reduce your risk of spreading the infection to others.

    Why Have False Positive Tests Been Used As An Argument Against Routine Testing For Genital Herpes But Not For Other Stds Which Can Also Have False Positives

    Herpes False Positive Test Result by lab, No Symptom , Arani, M.D. United States

    False positive test results are test results that say a person has a disease or condition when they do not actually have it. False positive results can occur with many diagnostic tests, including STD tests. The chances of false positive results increase as the likelihood of the infection decreases in the person being tested. False positive HSV-2 results can happen, especially in people who are at low risk for a herpes infection. Also, we do not know if people who test positive for herpes will change their sexual behavior as a result of a positive test. This tells us that the harm of a possible false positive test may be a greater concern than the benefits of an actual diagnosis. Unlike curable STDs, such as chlamydia, herpes infections are life-long, so it is especially important to avoid a false positive test.

    Don’t Miss: How Do You Contract Herpes Std

    Get The Facts About Men And Stds

    At any given time there are about 50 million men living with an STD in the United States, many of who are unaware of their condition due to the absence of signs and symptoms. This makes the STD testing process particularly tricky for men, as they often do not know they are infected and need to be treated. If a male does show signs and symptoms of an STD, then the type of test needed to cure the STD is dependent on the type of infection being tested for. The main three testing methods are urine sample, body fluid sample, and/or blood sample. The turn around time for results depends on the infection being tested for.

    Some of the most severe STDs do not show any signs or symptoms, yet put a person at risk of severe illness and spreading their infection. Whether you are experiencing symptoms or not, if you are a sexually active male with multiple sex partners or if you are unsure about your sexual health, it is always a good idea to get routine STD screenings every 3 to 6 months.

    How Accurate Is The Herpes Test

    Taking a swab of a lesion is the most accurate way to test for herpes. If you receive a positive result from a sore, you can be certain that you have herpes. A swab can also tell you whether you have HSV-1 or HSV-2. Unfortunately, a swab can also give you a false negative. Youre especially likely to get a false negative if the lesion has been present for more than 48 hours, as it will begin to heal after that time. False negatives from viral cultures are more likely with each subsequent outbreak.

    A PCR test is more accurate than a swab test and is a good option both for those who do have current sores and those who do not.

    Blood tests do not look for an active herpes outbreak. Rather, they check the blood for antibodies. There are two types of antibodies that may be present: IgM and IgG. IgG antibodies appear shortly after you become infected with herpes and stay in the body for life. IgG testing is more accurate than IgM testing.

    IgM tests can yield a false negative if youve recently become infected with herpes, as you might not have these antibodies yet. Over time, IgM antibodies will go away, so you can get a false negative between outbreaks as well. Some IgM tests also cross-react with similar viruses that cause chickenpox or mono, so you may also get a false positive.

    Read Also: Does Herpes Medicine Stop Outbreaks

    Read Also: How Do I Tell My Boyfriend I Have Herpes

    How Long Does A Herpes Blood Test Take

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    How To Get Tested For Herpes

    Is this herpes?

    Even though herpes is common, testing is not a regular part of checkups with your doctor or gynecologist. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a genital herpes test only if you have herpes symptoms or a sexual partner who has genital herpes. However, quick and easy tests are readily available through your doctor or health facility, so dont hesitate to ask if you are concerned or notice symptoms. You can also order a home test kit, which will have instructions on how to do a finger prick to obtain a blood sample and send it to a lab for evaluation.

    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.

    If you have symptoms, you will likely have a viral culture or PCR test. Blood antibody tests are generally done on people who may not have had symptoms or if the sore has already healed. Home kits for herpes testing are generally antibody tests.

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    How Do Men Get Tested For Gonorrhea And Chlamydia

    Gonorrhea and chlamydia are two of the STDs mentioned earlier that do not always cause signs of infection. Symptoms or not, a simple urine or body fluid sample should do the trick. With some caveats, that is. This test is meant to seek out the DNA of specific STDs, and is very accurate in doing so if the DNA is present in your system. If a person is tested within what is called the window period, the DNA may not yet be present, and a test may come back negative when the person is indeed infected. One way to avoid this inaccuracy is by getting tested twice. The first test can be taken 12 weeks after exposure and the second 90 days after possible exposure.

    In order to prepare for a gonorrhea or chlamydia test, you should not urinate 2 hours prior to giving a urine sample. If your doctor needs to gather the specimen from a specific orifice, he or she will use a cotton swab to gather fluids from the urethra, rectum or eye, depending on the area of transmission. The urine or body fluid will then be sent to a lab for testing.

    What To Think About

    • Normal test results do not mean you do not have a herpes infection.
    • Herpes is often diagnosed by symptoms and by knowing whether the person has had contact with an infected person. Sometimes a test is not needed. A person who has genital herpes needs to learn how to avoid spreading the disease, because the disease is more likely to be spread when he or she has sores. If you have recurrent outbreaks, especially during times of stress or illness, you can also spread the disease.
    • You may want to know whether a herpes infection is due to HSV-1 or HSV-2 so you can take steps to prevent or treat outbreaks.
    • A genital herpes infection can be spread from a mother to her baby during vaginal delivery. In a newborn, herpes can cause organ failure, brain infection, and death. If active herpes is present near the time of delivery, a caesarean delivery may be done to prevent infecting the baby.

    Recommended Reading: Does This Look Like Herpes

    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.

    Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic

    HERPES Blood Tests Show Many FALSE Positives (Tips on What to do for More Accuracy)

    You can see a GP, but they’ll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital herpes.

    Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.

    Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.

    They’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.

    Read Also: Can You Have Sex If You Have Herpes

    Polymerase Chain Reaction Test

    As with the viral culture, your doctor swabs or scrapes a sample from one of your sores. A lab gets the sample and looks for genes from the herpes virus. PCR test results usually come back to you within 24 hours.

    Youre more likely to get this test if you have symptoms but its been longer than 48 hours since they showed up. In this case, you can rely on the results from this test more than the viral culture.

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