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 .
Is It A New Or Recurrent Infection
The common wisdom suggests that a herpes IgM blood test means that someone has been recently infected with herpes. However, this is not the whole story. 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, that is not the only time when IgM may be detected.
Individuals who were recently infected with herpes do tend to have positive HSV IgM tests. So do many people with recurrent herpes infections. Between 30% and 70% of people with recurrent herpes are positive on HSV IgM tests, depending on the test and the study.
In other words, an IgM test, without any other data, does not prove that infection a herpes infection is recent. Thats particularly true if it is accompanied by a positive herpes IgG test.
People will not become positive on an HSV IgG test until theyve been infected for at least several months. However, IgG levels are expected to remain high throughout the course of an infection, while IgM levels are more variable.
Therefore, if someone has positive results on both IgG and IgM tests, they may be having a recurrence. It is almost certainly not a new infection. A positive IgM test alone is more likely to be a new infection.
How Accurate Is The At Home Herpes Test Kit
When you use a reputable at home testing service, then your blood sample will be sent to an accredited laboratory, just as it would if you were getting a blood test ordered by your doctor. This means that the laboratory meets the standards of the US Department of Health & Human Services for accuracy on medical tests. Whether you take the sample at home or it gets taken in a doctors office, it gets sent to the same laboratory.
If you get a positive result on a herpes blood test, this likely indicates that youve been exposed to the virus. Because the herpes virus enters nerve cells and can stay dormant there for a persons whole life, if youve been exposed to herpes, then youre considered to have herpes.
However, there are also false positives on this test. A false positive means that the test shows that you have herpes, when you really dont. In fact, false positive results on the herpes test are more common than for other types of STD tests. This is why doctors dont routinely screen everybody for herpes some people may feel distressed about getting a positive result, when it was actually only a false positive.
If you do get a positive result on your home herpes test, then its important to talk with a healthcare provider to decide what to do. You may want to get another test to confirm your result. Home testing services will generally connect you with a healthcare provider so you can discuss your 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
- The ideal testing time
|Test type||Ideal time|
|Swab||The swab test may be performed as soon as the first blisters appear .Technique: A doctor scrapes the fresh lesion, collecting skin and fluid. To get accurate test results, this should be done within 48 hours of the appearance of the lesion .Note that technique and timing are important. This test is not commonly done for that reason,|
|Blood test for IgG||
||12 weeks after the initial exposure, over 92% of infected people are positive|
Get treated and/or tested for herpes
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Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
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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:
Herpes Blood Test Results Explained
A herpes blood test is not considered to be a general screening test because false positive results are a possibility. Genital herpes is a fairly common sexually transmitted disease, so if youre concerned about an infection of the HSV-1 or HSV2 virus, it is important to discuss your sexual history with your doctor to determine if this blood test is right for you.
There are a lot of questions about the herpes blood test, so this guide is intended to help everyone understand why the recommendations for testing are designed as they are today.
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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.
When Do You Need A Herpes Antibodies Test
Herpes antibodies tests are not recommended when your doctor wants to diagnose an active infection. The best tests, in this case, are to collect a sample from you and attempt to culture the virus or test for the presence of its genome using a technique called polymerase chain reaction .
Should an active infection be detected with a PCR test, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to help prevent outbreaks or shorten their severity. When outbreaks occur when you are on these medications, theyâre typically shorter and create fewer lesions than when you arenât taking them.
Common antiviral medications include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir.
Your doctor may recommend an antibody test in addition to these other tests for an active infection. But it is more likely that they will recommend this test for another reason, including if:
- You have recurring symptoms but active test results are negative.
- You believe you were recently exposed but donât yet have symptoms.
- Youâre pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
- You have HIV or have a high risk of encountering HIV.
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What Is The Hsv Igm Test
The herpes simplex virus, termed as HSV causes an infection called herpes. The virus is categorized into two types, the herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 . While HSV-1 is caused by physical contact and causes cold sores in the mouth area, the HSV-2 type is transmitted sexually and leads to genital herpes. The virus is highly contagious and causes painful blisters and ulcers at the site of infection. There is no cure for herpes and it can only be controlled by medications and certain home remedies. The HSV IgM test is a blood test that is used to detect the presence of the virus in the system. While the test does not identify the actual virus, it points out certain proteins that are produced by the body in response to the virus.
Best Convenient Herpes Test: Mylab Box
People can order at-home herpes tests from MyLAB Box. These kits contain instructions, a specimen bag, and a prepaid return envelope. Users may find this test convenient because of its quick turnaround for results and the option to book a free consultation and get treatment.
|doctor may prescribe treatment if test results are positive|
|Con||only tests for HSV-2|
Once a person receives their collection kit, they can collect their sample using the instructions. They can then use the prepaid envelope to send it to the laboratory.
People should receive their results within 25 days. If the test is positive, they can book a free consultation with a doctor to discuss their results and treatment options. The doctor may then prescribe treatment.
This at-home test only works for people who wish to test for genital herpes. The company does not offer test kits for oral herpes.
The kit costs $89 as a stand-alone test, but the company also markets other kits that test for different infections. For example, if a person also wishes to test for other STIs, they can purchase the Total Box 14 Panel option or the Uber Box 8 Panel option.
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What Is An Initial Herpes Outbreak
The symptoms of the initial outbreak of the HSV-1 virus are a lot more severe than the symptoms in the recurring outbreaks. When the virus is first contracted, typical symptoms may include fever, nausea, headaches, muscle aches, and a general feeling of unwell, accompanied by fluid-filled lesions or cold sores. An Initial outbreak may occur days, weeks, or even years after first being exposed to the virus.
Best Affordable Herpes Test: Healthlabs
HealthLabs offers laboratory-based herpes tests. These may be the best option for people who do not have health insurance and those working with small budgets.
|does not require appointments and accepts walk-ins|
|Con||requires a visit to a laboratory for a healthcare professional to collect the sample|
After placing an order, the person receives a laboratory requisition form, which they need to print out and present at a laboratory. The company claims it has 4,500 laboratory locations, and individuals should receive their test results within 23 business days.
HealthLabs has three herpes tests available for purchase:
- a test for HSV-1, which costs $45
- a test for HSV-2, which costs $45
- a test for HSV-1 and HSV-2, which costs $79
People may also order at-home tests for other STIs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.
|offers tests for early detection of herpes|
|Con||requires a visit to a laboratory|
To order either herpes test, a person must access the company website and enter their ZIP code to find their nearest testing center.
The company claims it has over 4,000 private test centers across the United States.
After ordering the herpes test, a person can walk into their local center to receive the testing. An appointment is not necessary.
The test procedure involves a simple blood test and urine sample, which typically takes a matter of minutes. A person can expect to receive their online test results within 13 days.
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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Can Genital Herpes Cause Recurrent Utis
Whats worse than a painful, burning urinary tract infection? Theres no doubt that suffering from recurring urinary tract infections is one thing!
Not only can the symptoms of a urinary tract infection interfere with your daily life, they can also create a stigma and cause ongoing anxiety that makes it difficult to function. In fact, some people with severe chronic UTIs dont even feel comfortable leaving the house.
One question that arises, though, is what causes recurring UTIs? Can they be related to sexually transmitted infections, such as genital herpes? Or is this a completely separate issue?
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