There Are Two Common Blood Tests Used To Identify Herpes And Theyre Often Misleading
I had a patient once who underwent this test, which was positive, and was told she has herpes, which to her was devastating and life-altering, Friedman says. She burst into tears when I explained the significance or lack thereof with this test, which is very misleading. There are two common blood tests used to identify herpes: IgG and IgM. The IgM test is still used by some doctors even though it has been denounced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . According to the American Sexual Health Association , IgM tests can lead to deceptive results, as well as false assumptions about how and when a person acquired HSV.
And thats not all: IgM tests fail to accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies, leading them to provide false-positive results for HSV-2. In other words, if youve been exposed to oral herpes , results of the IgM test could lead you to believe youre positive for genital herpes, when in fact you simply have antibodies against HSV-1.
IgG tests, on the other hand, are more accurate, but arent without their own issues. For instance, ASHA says that while an IgG test can distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2, the problem is that the time it takes for IgG antibodies to reach a detectable level varies from person to person. This means that even with accurate results, someone could get a false-negative if they have the test administered too soon after contracting the virus .
Can You Donate Blood With Hsv 2
According to the American Red Cross donor eligibility guidelines, people with HSV are allowed to donate blood , unless they have another prohibitive infection, like HIV or hepatitis. However: People having their first herpes outbreak are discouraged from donating, and are asked to wait about a month.
Does My Healthcare Provider Include A Blood Test For Genital Herpes When They Test Me For Everything
Herpes blood tests may or may not be part of the tests your healthcare provider gives you. They may choose tests based on several factors .
They will also evaluate you for signs or symptoms of herpes to choose which tests to use. This is why its important to talk openly and honestly with your provider during your visit. Ask them which infections they are and are not testing you for and why.
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Now Get Tested For Herpes Without The Wait
How Herpes IgM Testing Works
Getting tested for herpes can be stressful, but it doesnt have to be! There is no shame in getting tested. In fact, its a very positive step to take for both yourself and your partner.
For herpes IgM testing, CLIA-certified labs collect a non-invasive blood sample and search for the presence of HSV-1 or HSV-2 antibodies. This type of testing allows for accurate results as early as 10 days after exposure. Then, results are made available to you within 3-5 business days after collection, through our private online portal.
Why Order Herpes IgM Testing
If you suspect youve been exposed to herpes, its likely that you dont want to wait long to get answers or treatment. But, herpes testing normally requires a waiting period of at least 12 days after exposure.
An untreated herpes infection can lead to complications, so treatment should not be postponed. Not only can the virus cause uncomfortable sores but pregnant women can risk passing the virus during birth.2 Contracting herpes has also been connected to a higher risk of HIV.3
For this reason, early detection herpes testing is a great option for those looking to catch the virus sooner rather than later.
When to Get Tested
For herpes IgM testing, we recommend waiting 10 days before getting tested to ensure the most accurate results. If you are pregnant or start to experience common herpes symptoms such as cold sores, body aches or painful urination, you should get tested as soon as possible.
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 youre 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 arent 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 its a mystery as to why were 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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Symptoms Of Utis And Herpes
In many cases, the symptoms experienced by a patient with genital herpes resemble those of a UTI at first, which can lead to the mistaken conclusion that herpes has caused the UTI. Rather, the initial symptoms that tend to occur one or two days before the sores of an outbreak appear may mimic those of a UTI. These include:
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Painful urination
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate, as well as difficulty urinating
However, as the symptoms progress, patients with genital herpes also experience:
- Numbness nad tingling or even burning in the genital area
- Watery blisters in and around the genitals
- Tenderness and sores near the rectum
These additional sores, once burst, can take up to four weeks to heal. Throughout this time, hygiene is of the utmost importance to assure that bacteria dont settle into these sores or transfer bacteria from them to the urethra.
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Myth #: A Blood Test Is The Best Way To Know If You Have Herpes
Blood tests are not always accurate and testing for herpes can be tricky. It can take two weeks to six months after being exposed to herpes before it is detected in the blood. To make matters more complicated, if you are low risk for herpes and asymptomatic, it increases your risk of a false positive result. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against routine testing for herpes unless you or your partner have symptoms. The most accurate test is when you are able to take a swab sample from a new herpes lesion, but often times the diagnosis is made by a clinician based on your history and report of symptoms.
Because the blood test can be expensive and inaccurate, it is not typically included in a sexually transmitted disease evaluation unless you ask your provider for it specifically.
In short, if you dont have symptoms, you dont necessarily need a blood test. If you do experience an outbreak, a skin swab not a blood test is your best bet for confirmation.
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Can Herpes Simplex Virus Cause Serious Infections
Yes. The most serious, or life-threatening, HSV infections can occur in newborns who are infected during birth and in individuals with weakened immune systems , such as organ transplant recipients and people with HIV/AIDS. Neonatal herpes is a serious condition, but also very rare. While 25-30% of pregnant women have genital herpes, less than 0.1% of babies born in the U.S. each year get neonatal herpes. This means that most women with genital herpes give birth to healthy babies.
HSV lesions tend to be more extensive and persist longer in newborns and immunocompromised people than in individuals who have healthy immune systems.
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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.
Can It Lie Dormant
The herpes virus can lie dormant in the body for years before people experience any symptoms.
After people have the first outbreak of herpes, the virus then lies dormant in the nervous system. Any further outbreaks are due to the virus reactivating, which causes symptoms to appear.
Symptoms are usually less severe during repeat outbreaks. Sores also clear up more quickly, often within 37 days. This is due to the antibodies the body produces to fight the first outbreak of herpes. The body can then use these antibodies to respond more quickly to future outbreaks.
There is currently no cure for herpes. Even if a person stops experiencing symptoms, the virus will remain inside their body.
It is also important to point out that herpes is transmissible even when no sores or other symptoms are present. For this reason, early prevention is advisable.
Condoms and dental dams do not offer complete protection against the herpes virus, as herpes can live on areas around the genitals. However, these methods do reduce the likelihood of contracting the infection or passing it on.
A person who has herpes can also take other steps to reduce the chance of passing it on to a sexual partner. Such steps include telling their sexual partner that they have herpes before having sex.
Both people can then take additional steps to reduce the likelihood of transmission. These steps may include:
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Herpes Tests & Diagnosis
Depending on where you are in the stage of exposure or infection, your medical provider may perform an examination or run tests to provide an accurate diagnosis.
- Physical examination: If you have active sores, your doctor may examine them to determine if they appear like HSV-1 or HSV-2 sores.
- Fluid sample: If you have active sores, your medical provider may swab a sore and send the fluid to the laboratory for testing, which can confirm that it is caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2.
- Blood tests: If you do not have any active sores or other specific physical signs of herpes simplex, your doctor can order blood tests to identify viral antibodies to confirm a diagnosis.
If you are diagnosed with HSV-1 or HSV-2, your doctor may be able to prescribe antiviral medication to shorten an active outbreak or help alleviate symptoms.
They may also recommend over-the-counter antiviral creams or other products to provide pain relief.
Some medications, when taken orally or applied topically, can prevent outbreaks if used at the first sign of a sore, such as the initial feelings of tingling that precede the formation of a sore.
What Affects The Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
- If a culture sample is taken from a crusted, older sore.
- If a blood sample is taken before antibodies against HSV have formed. This period is called the window period or seroconversion period.
- If you are taking antiviral medicines, such as acyclovir, famciclovir, ganciclovir, or valacyclovir.
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Herpes False Positive Test Results
There are many tests that can diagnose herpes, but some are more accurate than others. It is in fact possible to get a herpes false positive.
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Which test is best? First lets take a closer look at some of the tests and the overall effectiveness of each.
The Western Blot Test for Genital Herpes
This test is considered to be one of the most effective ways of diagnosing genital herpes, and it is thought that the test has great accuracy results. However, cost, time and availability are a major issue and this may make people turn to other types of herpes screening programs. Never the less, many physicians are willing to refer patients for a Western Blot test if they suspect an outbreak of genital herpes.
The HerpeSelect Test
This test comprises of two parts. Patients undergo the herpes immunoblot test and the genital herpes Elisa IgG test. The blood samples are analyzed at a laboratory, hence, the patient may have to wait for the test results. Both tests offer highly accurate results and as a rule, they will detect both variations of the herpes simplex virus . Recent studies show that herpes false positive results are unlikely when this type of test is used.
The SureVue HSV-2 Test
The Tzanck Smear
How Long Can Herpes Go Undetected
Once youve contracted HSV, there will be an incubation period the time it takes from contracting the virus until the first symptom appears.
The incubation period for HSV-1 and HSV-2 is the same: 2 to 12 days. For most people, the symptoms begin to show up in about 3 to 6 days.
However, according to the
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If You Have Zero Symptoms Getting Tested Wont Help You
The problem is that blood tests for herpes when no lesions or symptoms are present are often bullshit. I realize thats a pretty strong word, but after speaking with doctors who have administered these tests, its become more and more apparent to me how misunderstood and in some cases, just plain wrong the results they give are.
Part of the reason theyre flawed has to do with the fact that most people have been exposed to HSV-1 or oral herpes. For HSV-1, close to 100 percent of people in the U.S. are antibody-positive because they have been exposed at some point in their lives, though only a percentage of these individuals will actually get cold sores, says Adam Friedman, the residency program director at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. He adds that blood tests can be misleading because they usually dont detect the herpes virus itself and instead look at the level of antibodies against the virus, which is merely a sign of immune response to it.
When Is The Right Time To Test For Genital Herpes
Now is the best time to get the genital herpes test. Know your sexual health status today.
Genital herpes often displays mild symptoms that may go unnoticed or be confused for another skin condition. For themost accurate results, it is recommended to wait 4-6 weeks after exposure to test for genital herpes. A follow-up testafter 3 months post-exposure is advisable to confirm earlier test results. Although rare, serious complications ofgenital herpes include blindness, inflammation of the brain, and aseptic meningitis. If you have had a recentencounter with someone whose STD status you do not know, get tested today.
Also if you have not been tested for other STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV-1, HIV-2, hepatitis A, B andC, or herpes-1 in the last year, our clinicians recommend taking the all-inclusiveSTD 10-test Panel to ensure that you are completely STD free.
We also offer a chlamydia-gonorrhea test panel. Chlamydia andgonorrhea are known as co-existing infections, meaning that having one infection may put you at risk of having theother.
For answers to your questions about testing for genital herpes, call our Care Advisors at
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How To Diagnose Herpes
Genital herpes is typically diagnosed through examination by a medical professional and a blood test. If you suspect you have genital herpes , you can take an antibody test.
To test for 6 other common STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis, try the Everlywell home STD Test for women or the STD Test for men. After you collect your sample at home, it is received and analyzed at the lab, and the test results are sent to you quickly and discreetly via our secure, online platform.