Are There Any Risks To The Test
There is no known risk to having a swab test.
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
If you had a lumbar puncture, you may have pain or tenderness in your back where the needle was inserted. You may also get a headache after the procedure.
What Is The Outlook
The main concern with corneal infection is that it can cause scarring of the transparent front part of the eye . With scarring, the normally clear cornea can become like frosted glass. This may sometimes seriously affect vision.
- Epithelial keratitis tends to settle and go away within a few weeks. It has a good outlook and often causes little or no scarring.
- Stromal keratitis is more likely to result in corneal scarring and loss of vision.
- Recurring episodes of active infection can make any existing scarring worse.
- Prompt treatment with antiviral eye ointment or drops helps to minimise damage during each episode of active infection.
Overall, good vision remains in about 9 in 10 eyes affected by herpes simplex infection â that is, vision good enough to drive. However, severe and recurrent herpes simplex eye infections may lead to serious scarring, impaired vision and even severe sight impairment in some cases. If severe sight impairment does develop, a corneal transplant may be the only option to restore vision.
How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
HSV nucleic acid amplification tests are the most sensitive and highly specific tests available for diagnosing herpes. However, in some settings viral culture is the only test available. The sensitivity of viral culture can be low, especially among people who have recurrent or healing lesions. Because viral shedding is intermittent, it is possible for someone to have a genital herpes infection even though it was not detected by NAAT or culture. 11
Type-specific virologic tests can be used for diagnosing genital herpes when a person has recurrent symptoms or lesion without a confirmatory NAAT, culture result, or has a partner with genital herpes. Both virologic tests and type-specific serologic tests should be available in clinical settings serving patients with, or at risk for, sexually transmitted infections. 11
Given performance limitations with commercially available type-specific serologic tests , a confirmatory test with a second method should be performed before test interpretation. If confirmatory tests are unavailable, patients should be counseled about the limitations of available testing before serologic testing. Healthcare providers should also be aware that false-positive results occur. In instances of suspected recent acquisition, serologic testing within 12 weeks after acquisition may be associated with false negative test results. 11
Providers are strongly encouraged to look at CDCs STI Treatment Guidelines for further diagnostic considerations.
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Facts And Statistics About Herpes
- According to the World Health Organization, an estimated two-thirds of the global population under 50 years old are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 .
- Estimates for HSV-1 prevalence in the U.S. among people aged 049 years are 178 million women and 142 million men .
- In total, about 75 percent or more of the American adult population has the HSV-1 virus that usually causes oral herpes , and about 20 percent to 30 percent have HSV-2 that usually causes genital herpes.
- Men and women are affected by HSV-1 about equally. Roughly 6 million women in the U.S. become infected with HSV-1 each year, along with 5 million men.
- Slightly more women than men are affected by genital herpes, whether from HSV-1 or HSV-2. Middle-aged women are most likely to acquire genital herpes.
- Transmission of HSV most often occurs without symptoms, so its estimated that 85 percent of people with genital herpes dont know it. Many dont have any symptoms at all after the initial infection, and only about 15 percent ever receive a HSV-2 infection diagnosis in their lifetimes.
- Most primary oral/facial HSV infections are caused by HSV-1 however, facial infection by HSV-2 is increasingly becoming common.
- Less children are becoming infected with HSV-1 than in the past in high-income countries, mostly due to better hygiene and living conditions.
- After someone comes into contact with an active herpes outbreak on another person, the incubation period takes about one week.
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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How Long Do Herpes Symptoms Take To Show
On average, it takes about 4 days after exposure to start showing the symptoms of herpes. The herpes incubation period ranges between 2 and 12 days. The most common early sign of herpes is sores around the genitals or mouth.
The first time you get the herpes virus, it may cause flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, headache, and body aches. Then, subsequent outbreaks may cause sores and less severe symptoms. Generally, the frequency of outbreaks lessens over time.
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What Happens During An Hsv Test
HSV testing is usually done as a swab test, blood test, or lumbar puncture. The type of test you get will depend on your symptoms and health history.
- For a swab test, a health care provider will use a swab to collect fluid and cells from a herpes sore.
- For a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
- A lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap, is only done if your provider thinks you may have an infection of the brain or spinal cord. During a spinal tap:
- You will lie on your side or sit on an exam table.
- A health care provider will clean your back and inject an anesthetic into your skin, so you won’t feel pain during the procedure. Your provider may put a numbing cream on your back before this injection.
- Once the area on your back is completely numb, your provider will insert a thin, hollow needle between two vertebrae in your lower spine. Vertebrae are the small backbones that make up your spine.
- Your provider will withdraw a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid for testing. This will take about five minutes.
- Your provider may ask you to lie on your back for an hour or two after the procedure. This may prevent you from getting a headache afterward.
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Tips For Managing Herpes Symptoms
The symptoms of herpes can be painful and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are a few things you can easily do at home to help ease these symptoms, including:
- Apply an ice pack or warm compress to the affected area.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen.
- Keep the affected area clean and dry to reduce the risk of infection.
- Avoid tight clothing that may irritate genital sores.
- Dont pop blisters or pick at scabs that form over the sores.
- Ask your healthcare provider to recommend a painkilling cream.
Taking proper care of your skin and overall health while experiencing an outbreak can help to prevent complications like infection and assist in faster healing for your sores. Keep in mind that you are especially contagious during an outbreak, so its best to avoid intimate contact, such as kissing or sex, until the sores heal.
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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Is It Possible To Get A False Positive Result
A false positive is when a test says you have a condition that you actually don’t have. This can happen with the herpes IgM blood test.
In some cases you may not be infected at all. However, you may have a different virus that triggers a positive on this blood test. This may include the Epstein-Barr virus, which is in the herpes virus family, or parvovirus, a contagious virus that can lead to flu-like symptoms.
If you don’t have symptoms, you may want to go back for IgG testing at a later date. If you do have symptoms, your healthcare provider can test the sores for herpes directly with a swab test.
A positive result is more likely to be accurate if you have or have had symptoms of a herpes outbreak.
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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Understanding Herpes With H Hunter Handsfield Md
Herpes expert H. Hunter Handsfield, MD, explains the basics about genital herpes, including the difference between genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 infection, testing options and the importance of knowing virus type, and the three-prong strategy for prevention. See more herpes videos at sexualhealthTV.com.
Have a question about herpes youd like Dr. Handsfield or our other experts to answer? Visit our Ask the Experts page to learn how.
If You Get A Positive Result Don’t Panic It Really Doesn’t 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 you’re 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 aren’t 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 it’s a mystery as to why we’re 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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What Does A Positive Herpes Igm Test Result Mean
The IgM test does not detect herpes directly. Instead, it looks for IgM, a type of antibody. This is a protein produced by the immune system in response to a herpes infection.
This article explains the purpose of the herpes IgM test. It also discusses what the results mean, as well as retesting considerations.
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How Soon Can You Be Tested
The incubation period for herpes is 2 to 12 days, which means that the best time to get tested for the herpes virus if you havent had an initial outbreak is after 12 days. If youre worried that youve been exposed to herpes but have not yet been diagnosed, here are some steps you can take:
- If youre currently sexually active, stop all sexual activity until you can receive a formal diagnosis.
- Reach out to your doctor and schedule an appointment for once the incubation period is up.
- If youre having an outbreak, you dont have to wait to get tested. Its possible to receive a diagnosis based on the lesions.
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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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:
During And After The Test
When you have a urine STI test, it is usually during a regular appointment. You will be asked to pee into a sample collection cup or tube. That tube or cup will be given to one of the medical staff.
Your urine sample will then be sent out to a lab or tested at the clinic. You can leave as soon as you are done giving the sample or when your appointment is finished.
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How Do People Get Genital Herpes
Infections are transmitted through contact with HSV in herpes lesions, mucosal surfaces, genital secretions, or oral secretions. 5 HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be shed from normal-appearing oral or genital mucosa or skin. 7,8 Generally, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during genital contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. However, receiving oral sex from a person with an oral HSV-1 infection can result in getting a genital HSV-1 infection. 4 Transmission commonly occurs from contact with an infected partner who does not have visible lesions and who may not know that he or she is infected. 7 In persons with asymptomatic HSV-2 infections, genital HSV shedding occurs on 10.2% of days, compared to 20.1% of days among those with symptomatic infections. 8