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.
There Are Two Common Blood Tests Used To Identify Herpes And They’re 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 that’s 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 you’ve been exposed to oral herpes , results of the IgM test could lead you to believe you’re positive for genital herpes, when in fact you simply have antibodies against HSV-1.
IgG tests, on the other hand, are more accurate, but aren’t 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 .
What Is The Herpes Simplex Virus
The herpes simplex virus is a type of virus that causes infections in humans. Approximately 3.7 billion people under the age of fifty â or 67% â have been infected with HSV-1 in their lifetimes. There are about 491 million cases of HSV-2 worldwide â or 13% of the global population between the ages of 15 and 49.
HSV is spread through direct contact with the virus. This can happen during sex or while giving birth.
The virus leads to an increased risk of infection with human immunodeficiency virus . It can also cause you to develop more severe conditions if you have a compromised immune system.
HSV can have particularly problematic results if youâre infected with the virus when youâre born. The chance of passing it on while pregnant is low but â if it happens â it can lead to disabilities and death.
Thereâs also a social stigma associated with this virus that can be damaging to your mental health if you ever become infected.
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The Bottom Line: Tests For Herpes Are More Worry Than Theyre Worth
If you do have symptoms, dont fret: If you know your status, youre 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, theres also a very promising new drug for herpes on the horizon, which researchers say could be the most effective one yet.
Take it straight from the pros and dont put yourself through the stress of a herpes blood test if you dont need to. And, whether you have symptoms or not, know that youre not alone if you are herpes-positive.
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When To Talk With A Doctor
Talk with a doctor if you notice any sores on or around your genitals. Other STIs, like syphilis, can look like herpes but need different treatment. Treatment is needed to prevent complications and transmission.
Your doctor will let you know whether you should test for herpes or another STI, and they can help you get treatment if needed.
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Hsv 1 Test Results Range And Interpretation
HSV-Herpes Simplex Virus 1 is one of the most common Sexually Transmitted Disease . HSV-1 is usually transmitted during childhood and it is commonly associated with viral infections of non-genital areas. Although HSV-1 causes oral herpes, its possible also to be present in genitals if the genitals are in contact with the exposed virus.
Commonly, HSV-1 is contracted through body fluids. For example, infected semen, saliva, vaginal fluid, or blister or sore fluid. In most cases, when the virus enters a cell it causes no symptoms, but if it destroys the host cell during replication it forms sores and blisters with fluids.
How Long Does It Take To Get An Std
Each STD has a unique incubation period. For some STDs, the incubation period for testing can be as short as a week or two, and for other STDs, as long as a few months.
If you believe you have been exposed to a specific STD, its important to learn about its incubation period so you know how long you should wait to get tested.
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Genital Herpes Is Common Why Doesnt Cdc Recommend Testing Everyone For This Std
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.
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How To Test For Hsv
A clinical diagnosis of HSV-1 is critical and should be confirmed by laboratory testing, for accurate results, this can be accomplished by using direct tests for detection of HSV DNA uses molecular diagnostic techniques, electron microscopy, viral isolation, Tzanck smears, and detection of antigens among other tests.
The most common blood test for HSV-1 is Immunoglobulin G . IgG also is known as the Western Blot HSV-1 test, is the most common type of antibody to HSV-1. Its usually found in body fluids and protects the cells against bacteria and other viral infections. Blood tests are used especially if a person shows no visible symptoms. Depending on an individual, the test result could take any time between a few weeks to a few months. To obtain the most accurate results, its also recommended to wait for 12-16 weeks since the possible date of exposure to allow enough time for the antibodies to get detectable levels.
Specimens for this test include ulcerated tensions, throat and pharyngeal swabs, cerebrospinal fluids, urine, vaginal swabs, and vesicular fluids among others.
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Why Do I Need To Undergo An Hsv Igm Test
The following conditions are some of the most common reasons for the test. To figure out the exact reason behind the formation of painful blisters or sores around the lips or in the genital area. To check if the sexual partner of a person with genital herpes is also infected by the same. To check for neonatal herpes in new-borns, whose mothers are infected with genital herpes. The doctor will check the physical symptoms of the infection and order for the test. Some of the common symptoms are mentioned below. The occurrence of blistering sores in the mouth or on the genitals Any pain during urination. An itching or burning sensation around the affected area. These symptoms can be accompanied by other general symptoms like fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, tiredness and lack of appetite. In some cases, HSV can also affect the eyes and can cause symptoms like eye pain, discharge, and a gritty feeling in the eye. A few people have an increased risk of infection from the virus as mentioned below. People with recurrent genital sores or atypical symptoms who have negative results on HSV culture. People who have a sex partner who has been diagnosed with genital herpes. People who have been tested positive for other sexually transmitted diseases. Individuals diagnosed with an HIV infection.
Are There Other Types Of Herpes Viruses Besides Hsv
Yes. There are over 25 viruses in the herpes family and at least 8 types that infect humans. These include herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 discussed in this article as well as varicella zoster virus , associated with chickenpox and shingles, Epstein Barr virus , which can cause infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus , human herpes virus 6 and human herpes virus 7 , both associated with roseola in young children, and human herpes virus 8 , which has been found in tumors in people with Kaposiâs sarcoma . KS primarily affects people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS and organ transplant recipients.
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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.
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The Bottom Line On Herpes Tests
Unless you are pregnant or you think youve contracted herpes from your partner, wait until you see actual symptoms to get tested.
A swab is taken from your genitals or wherever the lesion or sore occurs the most accurate way to test for herpes.
If you dont want to go to the doctor, you can order an at-home Herpes test. It offers more privacy and convenience than going to the hospital or clinic.
If you get a positive result from an at-home test, its a good idea to go to the hospital for further testing to make sure it is not a false positive.
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Cost And Health Insurance
Depending on where you live and the lab you use, your HSV IgG blood test can cost between $35 and $80. Public clinics tend to be cheaper.
Genital HSV is considered an STI. But don’t assume that a free STI clinic will have the test or provide it free of charge. Some may only offer free testing for:
- Select STI screening tests
Search for free or low-cost STI clinics in your area by using the GetTested locator offered by the CDC.
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How Is The Test Used
Herpes testing may be used a few different ways:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend screening for herpes in the general population, but it may be helpful in some cases, such as:
- If you have signs and symptoms, such as genital sores that may be related to herpes
- If you have or had a sex partner with genital herpes
- If you would like to have a complete exam for sexually transmitted diseases , especially if you have multiple sex partners if this is the case, you should discuss STD testing with your healthcare practitioner.
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What Can I Do About Genital Herpes
So heres the good news: herpes is rarely a serious health issue. Although there can be a negative stigma associated with those who have an outbreak and the blistering sores may change sexual habits, a majority of those infected have no symptoms at all.
If you do request a herpes blood test, ask if your doctor is going to be performing a type-specific test. These blood tests tend to be more reliable.
Should the blood test come back as positive, how your treatment plan develops will depend on other health conditions that may be affecting you. Suppressive therapies and other medication may be ordered, but in some patients, careful watching and waiting may be the best solution. If suppressive therapies are ordered, this will mean taking a drug every day that youll have to pay for.
Genital herpes can be detected with a herpes blood test. If no symptoms are being experienced, your doctor may wish to hold off on testing to avoid a false positive. And, if youre concerned about your sexual health for any reason, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.
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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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.