Types Of Tests Used To Diagnose Herpes
There are a number of tests used to diagnose herpes, depending on whether lesions are present.
- Symptomatic testing: Samples taken from lesions can be used to detect the virus with a viral culture or nucleic acid amplification test . Of the two, NAAT is more sensitive . A polymerase chain reaction test may be used if herpes is suspected as the cause of a systemic or central nervous system infection, such as encephalitis or meningitis.
- Asymptomatic testing: A blood test may be used to detect HSV antibodies. This is an option for people who had a previous outbreak or had recent exposure. Very recent herpes infections may not be detected. Retesting in a few months may be necessary for accurate results. Some blood tests can also specifically identify an HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection.
Due to the high rates of false-positives, screening for genital herpes in asymptomatic adults and adolescents is not recommended.
What Causes Recurrent Herpes Outbreaks
Once a patient acquires a herpes virus, it stays in the body for life.
The immune system puts viruses into dormancy.
Many people get the herpes simplex virus and never experience an outbreak or symptoms.
Others will have an initial outbreak, but no recurrences.
Some people get more frequent herpes outbreaks.
HSV-1 or oral herpes causes an average of one recurring outbreak after the initial infection for between 20-50% of people who have the virus.
HSV-2 causes an average of four outbreaks in the first year for as many as 90% of people who have the virus.
Outbreaks of herpes simplex typically become less frequent, and less severe, the longer the virus is in the body.
People who have compromised immune systems may experience more frequent, or more severe, outbreaks.
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.
Read Also: Can You Treat Oral Herpes
What Are The Signs Of Herpes In Men
In about two-thirds of cases, men will have no symptoms of herpes. Symptoms of herpes in men may include:
It is unclear if genital herpes affects fertility in men because it affects such a large part of the population. However, a recent study found that herpes may lower the sperm count in men and may have an effect on mens ability to get pregnant with a partner.
Im Pregnant What Do I Need To Know
To get the best care, tell your doctor you have genital herpes, because it could make you more likely to have a miscarriage or give birth too soon.
Its possible to pass along the virus to your baby. For infants, it can be life-threatening. Your doctor can talk to you about how to lower the chances that this will happen.
If you have an outbreak while youre pregnant, your doctor can give you medicine to treat your symptoms and stop them sooner.
Your doctor may give you a drug to prevent an outbreak as your due date gets closer. This is because your baby could get herpes by passing through your birth canal if youre having an outbreak when you go into labor. If thats a possibility, your doctor will most likely want to do a C-section, which is surgery to deliver the baby.
Also Check: Will Herpes Outbreaks Eventually Stop
How Long Does An Oral Herpes Outbreak Last
HSV-1, also known as oral herpes is very common and affects 2 out of 3 people globally. In many cases, the virus remains dormant and you may never even know you have it.
Oral herpes outbreaks come in the form of cold sores.
There are several stages of HSV-1:
Stage 1: Prodrome HSV-1 comes in contact with your skin and lips, causing reddening and a tingling sensation. After 1-2 days, the affected area may feel irritated, itchy and painful.
Stage 2: Swelling and Inflammation The affected area becomes swollen, and inflamed
Stage 3: Formation of Blisters Red, white, or clear, fluid filled blisters and/or cold sores begin to form. They last about 2 days and appear in a cluster as a single sore that is painful or sensitive to the touch.
Stage 4: Ulceration After a day or two, the sores may burst, releasing fluid and becoming more painful. This generally subsides after about a day.
Stage 5: Scabbing or Crusting As the sores begin to heal there may be crust that develops over the burst blister and forms a scab. After 2-3 days, new skin begins to form.
Stage 6: Healing The scab that formed over the blister will start to heal. Do not peel the scab off until the wound is completely healed to avoid getting a scar.
While the stages of an oral herpes outbreak vary in time the process can take several weeks.
Recurrence Course Triggers And Timing
Course of Recurrence
Most cases of herpes simplex recur. The site on the body and the type of virus influence how often it comes back. Recurrences of genital herpes are more likely with HSV-2 infection than with HSV-1 infection.
The virus usually takes the following course:
- Prodrome. The outbreak of infection is often preceded by a prodrome, an early group of symptoms that may include itchy skin, pain, or an abnormal tingling sensation at the site of infection. Headache, enlarged lymph glands, and flu-like symptoms may occur. The prodrome, which may last from 2 hours to 2 days, stops when the blisters develop. About 25% of the time, recurrence does not go beyond the prodrome stage.
- Outbreak. Recurrent outbreaks feature most of the same symptoms at the same sites as the primary attack, but they tend to be milder and briefer. After blisters erupt, they typically heal in 6 to 10 days. Occasionally, the symptoms may not resemble those of the primary episode, but appear as fissures and scrapes in the skin or as general inflammation around the affected area.
Triggers of Recurrence
Herpes outbreaks can be triggered by different factors. They include sunlight, wind, fever, physical injury, surgery, menstruation, suppression of the immune system, and emotional stress. Oral herpes can be triggered within about 3 days of intense dental work, particularly root canal or tooth extraction.
Timing of Recurrences
Read Also: Over The Counter Meds For Herpes Outbreak
How Long Does A Genital Herpes Outbreak Last
Since you clicked on an article with “herpes” in the title rather than “cold sore,” you’re probably looking for information on genital herpes. We’ll cover that information first!
The length of time a genital herpes outbreak lasts depends on many factors, but in general, the overall timeline is from one to four weeks.
Can You Have Herpes And Not Know It
Yes, it is possible to have herpes and not know it.
Some people may have an asymptomatic infection, which means they do not experience any symptoms. Others have symptoms that are mild, go unnoticed, or mistaken for another skin issue. Because of this, they’re less likely to seek out a diagnosis to confirm herpes.
You May Like: What Is Herpes Virus 1
What Happens If You Dont Get Herpes Treatment
The good news about herpes is that its not deadly or even very dangerous. It might be annoying, but herpes doesnt get worse over time or cause serious health problems like other STDs can.
If you dont get treated for herpes, you might keep having regular outbreaks, or they could only happen rarely. Some people naturally stop getting outbreaks after a while.
There are a few reasons people may decide not to get treatment. They might not have that many outbreaks, or their outbreaks dont really bother them. Or maybe theyre not having sex, so theyre not that worried about having herpes right now. Whatever your situation is, getting treatment for herpes is your choice.
You May Like: Can You Tell How Long You Ve Had Herpes
If You Have Genital Herpes Already Can It Be Spread To Other Parts Of The Body Such As The Arms Or Legs
No. Genital herpes cannot be transmitted to another part of your body such as your arm, leg or hand after the first infection occurs. If you have genital HSV II, you will not get HSV II at another site in your body. The immune system produces antibodies that protect other parts of your body from infection. However, there are cases where a person has multiple site infections from the same virus. This is usually acquired at the time of the first infection. For example, if someone has never had herpes but then has oral and genital sex with an infected partner, they can acquire the infection at both sites.
You May Like: What Triggers Herpes Outbreak Genital
Where Do Symptoms Appear
When a person has genital herpes, the virus lies dormant in the bundle of nerves at the base of the spine. When the virus reactivates , it travels nerve paths to the surface of the skin, sometimes causing an outbreak.
Genital herpes, regardless of whether it is HSV-1 or HSV-2, does not cause symptoms on the mouth or face. For more on oral-facial herpes, see the oral herpes page.
Recommended Reading: How Many People In The World Have Herpes
Should You Get The Shingles Vaccine
The shingles vaccine is safe and easy, and it may keep you from getting shingles and PHN. Healthy adults age 50 and older should get vaccinated with a shingles vaccine called Shingrix, which is given in two doses. Zostavax, a previous shingles vaccine, is no longer available in the United States.
You should try to get the second dose of Shingrix between two and six months after you get the first dose. If your doctor or pharmacist is out of Shingrix, you can use the Vaccine Finder to help find other providers who have Shingrix. You can also contact pharmacies in your area and ask to be put on a waiting list for Shingrix. If itâs been more than six months since you got the first dose, you should get the second dose as soon as possible. You donât need to get a first dose again.
You should get Shingrix even if you have already had shingles, received Zostavax, or dont remember having had chickenpox. However, you should not get a vaccine if you have a fever or illness, have a weakened immune system, or have had an allergic reaction to Shingrix. Check with your doctor if you are not sure what to do.
You can get the shingles vaccine at your doctors office and at some pharmacies. Medicare Part D and private health insurance plans may cover some or all of the cost. Check with Medicare or your health plan to find out if it is covered.
Also Check: How Effective Is Herpes Medication
What Causes Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is caused by a different strain of the virus, Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 , and infects the genital area. However, HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes if the virus is transmitted from sores around the mouth of one person to the genital area of another during oral sex. Treatment is available for both types of herpes.
Donât Miss: How Quickly Does Herpes Show Up
What Are The Different Types Of Herpes
There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV I and HSV II. HSV I commonly causes oral herpes, or cold sores. This virus can show up as an upper respiratory tract infection during early childhood. HSV II is the cause of most cases of genital herpes. However, it is possible for HSV I to cause genital herpes and HSV II to cause oral herpes.
Clinicians cannot tell the difference between the two types by physical examination alone, but there are differences between the two viruses. For example, genital herpes caused by HSV II is much more likely to recur. This diagnosis can be helpful in establishing a health care plan.
Dont Miss: How Does Someone Get Herpes
You May Like: How Do You Know You Got Herpes
How To Prevent Transmission
You cant catch shingles, and you cant give shingles to someone else. But you can give others chickenpox.
After you have chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus stays dormant in your body. If this virus reactivates, shingles occurs. Its possible to transmit this virus to others who arent immune while the shingles rash is still active. You are contagious to others until all areas of the rash are dried up and crusted over.
To catch the varicella-zoster virus from you, a person has to have direct contact with your rash blisters.
You can help prevent your transmission of the varicella-zoster virus by:
- keeping the rash loosely covered
- practicing frequent handwashing
- avoiding contact with people who may not have had chickenpox or who havent been vaccinated against chickenpox
Last medically reviewed on August 24, 2017
- Cohen KR, et al. . Presentation and management of herpes zoster in the geriatric population.
Where Does The Herpes Virus Live In The Body
The herpes simplex viruses are latent, meaning they can live in the body without causing symptoms. After the initial infection, the virus gets into the nerve roots and spreads to the sensory nerve ganglia, the junctions where nerves from different parts of the body come together. For the genital area, the ganglia are adjacent to the spinal cord in the lower back. For orofacial herpes , the ganglia are located behind the cheek bone.
Don’t Miss: How Do Doctors Check For Herpes
Recognizing The Signs: The Prodrome
Early in the phase of reactivation , many people experience an itching, tingling, or painful feeling in the area where their recurrent lesions will develop. This sort of warning symptomcalled a prodromeoften comes a day or two before lesions appear. To be on the safe side, its best to assume virus is active during these times.
Frequently Asked Questionsexpand All
People with HSV-2 infection have an increased risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus if they have sex with an HIV-infected partner. Taking suppressive therapy does not decrease this risk.
If a woman is pregnant and infected with HSV, it can be passed to the fetus during birth while passing through the womans infected birth canal. This is most likely to occur if a woman first becomes infected with HSV during pregnancy and in a woman who has her first outbreak late in pregnancy. But it also can occur during a recurrent outbreak in a woman who was infected before pregnancy, although the risk is much lower.
If you have sores or warning signs of an outbreak at the time of delivery, you may need to have a cesarean delivery to reduce chance of infection. The decision depends on many factors, including where the sores are on your body and whether the fetus would come into contact with them during delivery.
Yes, in most cases. The herpes virus cannot be passed to a baby through breast milk. However, the baby could get infected by touching a sore on your body. Make sure any sores that the baby could come into contact with are covered when you hold your baby or while breastfeeding. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after feeding your baby. If you have sores on your breast, you should not breastfeed your baby from that breast.
Article continues below
Don’t Miss: What Is The Best Herpes Medicine
Is Genital Herpes Worse In A Person With Hiv Infection Or Aids
Genital herpes, like other genital diseases that produce lesions, increases a persons risk of getting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Also, prior to better treatments for AIDS, persons infected with HIV had severe herpes outbreaks, which may have helped them pass both genital herpes and HIV infection to others.
Genital Herpes Is Spread By Skin
The virus can be spread when someone with HSV has an episode or an outbreak characterised by having a sore, blister, ulcer or skin split . It can also be spread between episodes, when there is no sore, blister, ulcer or skin split present called asymptomatic viral shedding.
During viral shedding the virus is on the skin surface and can be spread through genital skin-to-skin contact, or from the mouth or face to genital skin during contact.
Don’t Miss: What To Do If I Have Herpes 1
Subsequent Genital Herpes Outbreaks
Subsequent HSV-2 outbreaks typically last about a week from onset of symptoms to complete healing of sores. People sometimes experience symptoms that warn of an impending outbreak. These include an itching, burning or tingling sensation in the genital area where the sores form.
Over time, many people say they experience fewer and less severe genital herpes outbreaks than they did after first contracting the virus, though they are still infected.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
If you’ve been diagnosed with herpes, there are some circumstances where you may benefit from medical care. These may include having:
- An outbreak that isn’t helped by treatment and self-care strategies
Self-care strategies during outbreaks can help with pain and discomfort, including:
- Keeping the affected area clean and dry
- Using over-the-counter pain relievers
- Place cold compresses over affected areas
For at-home care for cold sores specifically:
- Apply non-prescription antiviral ointment
- Avoid eating spicy, acidic, or salty foods
- Use petroleum jelly to keep surrounding skin moisturized
Also Check: Best Medicine To Prevent Herpes Outbreak