Is It Common For Herpes To Be Misdiagnosed
Although the signs and symptoms of herpes may sometimes seem indistinguishable, there are a number of other conditions that can potentially be mistaken for the virus which makes proper testing essential for identifying and diagnosing herpes. Unfortunately, a visual examination without correct testing can result in misdiagnosis, and even if the diagnosis is correct – the type of herpes simply cant be confirmed through a visual exam alone.
While HSV-2 typically causes most genital herpes, HSV-1 can also be the cause of genital herpes, with cases caused by HSV-1 typically experiencing fewer outbreaks and those caused by HSV-2 experiencing recurring or frequent outbreaks . Knowing this, and knowing the herpes virus type makes it easier to understand what to expect as well as determine the best treatment options.
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Genital Herpes is very common and is incurable. Herpes infection of the genitals can be caused by either Herpes Simplex Type 1 or Herpes Simplex Type 2 .
Previously, Herpes was mostly diagnosed via physical examination of typical symptoms and confirmed by testing swab samples taken from the blisters. However, since up to 80% of people with Herpes do not show any symptoms, this method misses out the vast majority of people who carry the Herpes virus.
Previously, blood tests for Herpes were extremely inaccurate and almost impossible to interpret. Now however, newer blood tests have greatly increased in accuracy thus giving us the option to screen for asymptomatic Herpes infections.
However, before you run to your doctors and request for a blood test for Herpes, there are certain things you should know about.
So Should I Test For Herpes If I Have No Symptoms
This is the golden question. Everyone can deal with a clear result. So if you test and the test shows you have no Herpes infection, all is well and good.
The question to ask yourself is can you deal with a positive result? Getting a positive Herpes test can be emotionally overwhelming. So you need to ask yourself what will you do if you are tested positive. If you are doing the test for a specific reason like you intend to take suppressive treatment to protect your spouse if you are positive etc then I think that is a very good reason to test. In other words, the test results will make a difference in clinical decision making. If you are testing because you just want to know, then please be emotionally and psychologically prepared to deal with a positive result.
Also, you have to bear in mind that the blood test can only tell you if you are infected with Herpes or not. It does not tell you where the infection is. If you test positive for HSV 2, then most likely you have genital herpes. This is because HSV 2 mostly infects the ano-genital region. However, HSV 2 has been found in the head and neck area too. HSV 1 is much more complicated as it can infect both areas just as frequently. If there are no symptoms, it will be impossible to determine where the Herpes infection is.
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Read Also: How Does Herpes Flare Up
Life Doesn’t End At Herpes
The abysmal public standing on Herpes testing leaves people like me, who DID get tested and DO know they have it, bearing the grunt of that shaming and stigmatizing the CDC is so concerned about. As a responsible adult, I choose to reveal to my partners that I have herpes while 81% of people with my condition dont — in part because doctors wont test for it without symptoms, even though the virus is asymptomatic the majority of our lives.
When I was diagnosed, I thought my life was over. My sentiments were confirmed a few months later, I met a man I wanted in my life for the long term. My diagnosis scared him away. And at the end of this scary year, when I was diagnosed AGAIN, I had to go through all that pain all over again — or so I thought.
The reality is, herpes is more of a nuisance than a life-ending problem. If you manage it, are open with your partners, you quickly discover that living and dating with herpes is virtually the same as without it. I still have sex, I still date, I still eat cereal in my bed with no pants on. Im still fantastic. The biggest problem with herpes? The medical community’s conflicting methods of testing, and advice for those of us with it, has convinced everyone to think its the biggest problem.
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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 .
Read Also: What Are Early Signs Of Herpes
What Can Be Mistaken For Herpes
Noticing a sign of Herpes can be worrying, but dont panic. It is easy to mistake Herpes for something else. Here, we explain the other potential causes for Herpes-like symptoms and how to find out if it is Herpes, or not.
The Herpes Simplex Virus, also known as Herpes, is often misunderstood yet an extremely common infection. The symptoms of Herpes usually form as sores and blisters in the oral and/or genital area, depending on which type of Herpes it is. However, it is not always easy to differentiate the symptoms from other health or skin conditions.
In The Absence Of Answers
Herpes tests arent the only ones with a risk of false positive results. False positives can occur for any test that diagnoses viral infection based on antibodies, i.e., your bodys immune reaction, rather than direct detection of the virus. For similar diagnostics like HIV and hepatitis C testing, protocols automatically call for a second test that directly detects the virus whenever an antibody test comes back positive, said Paul Swenson, laboratory director in the department of public health of King County, Washington. Herpes, however, is a particularly challenging infection to directly test for, because the virus spends most of its time hiding in nerves. Swab tests can sometimes detect the virus during outbreaks, but this isnt an option for people without symptoms. Thus even the Western blot relies on antibodies, and may give indeterminate results to a small number of people.
But two steps of antibody testing are still more reliable than one step todays diagnostics for Lyme disease and syphilis are a two-step antibody testing approach, said Dr. Edward Hook, a medical epidemiologist specializing in STI screening and prevention at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who questioned why such a standardized two-step approach hasnt taken firm hold for herpes.
Also Check: How To Treat Herpes Genital
Can Something Look Like Herpes But Not Be Herpes
Genital herpes is characterized by a cluster of itchy, small red bumps or tiny white blisters which usually appear a few weeks after the infection. As the outbreak comes to an end, the skin will form scabs as the ulcers heal.
These uncomfortable bumps associated with herpes can sometimes be mistaken for other non-sexually transmitted infections such as ingrown hair, shaving or razor bumps, jock itch , or genital eczema.
Unsure whether your bumps are a sign of herpes or not? Some other common signs of genital herpes infection to look out for include:
- Pain or itching in the genital area
If you are concerned about your symptoms and want to know more, its important to reach out to your doctor.
See also:Can Herpes go Away on Its Own?
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|
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Recommended Reading: Can You Contract Herpes Without Having Intercourse
How Common Herpes Really Is
Enough people have herpes to make it a totally commonplace infection, even though we may not treat it as one.
Nearly 48 percent of people aged 14 to 49 in the United States were estimated to have HSV-1 between 2015 and 2016, according to the most recent data from the CDC. This high prevalence makes sense because many people actually get the virus from nonsexual contact as children, the CDC explains. This can happen when a parent greets a child with a kiss on the mouth or while a kid is playing with other little ones, since children arent exactly known for their respect of personal space. Remember: HSV-1 often presents as cold sores, but its possible that some people with HSV-1 actually have genital herpes.
So, about genital herpes. You may have heard that one in six people has this infection. Thats a little bit of an outdated figure, Christine Johnston, M.D., an associate professor and herpes researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine, tells SELF. That number is related to national survey data released by the CDC in 2010 and based on the years 2005 through 2008. This nationally representative research, published in the CDCs 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey , tested peoples blood samples for antibodies of HSV-1 and HSV-2, estimating that 16.2 percent of Americans aged 14 to 49 had HSV-2 between the years 2005 and 2008. Thats around one in six.
How Test Accuracy Is Measure
The accuracy of all medical tests, including herpes tests, is measured based on two values: sensitivity and specificity.
Sensitivityis how often a test correctly identifies someone with a disease. A test that is 90% sensitive will correctly identify 90 people out of 100 who have the disease. Ten people will have a false-negative result.
Specificity, on the other hand, refers to a test’s ability to correctly identify someone who doesn’t have the disease. If a test is 90% specific, that means that 90 people out of 100 will be correctly diagnosed as not having a disease and that 10 people will have a false-positive result.
The higher the sensitivity and specificity, the lower the chances of a false result.
Read Also: How To Prevent Herpes Transmission
What You Need To Know About Herpes And How Its Transmitted
Two versions of the herpes simplex virus can cause this infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention : herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 .
You might be thinking, Oooh, wait, HSV-1 causes oral herpes, and HSV-2 causes genital herpes, right? Technically, yes. But thats not the full picture. Both viruses can infect either your mouth or your genitals through skin-to-skin contact, the CDC explains.
HSV-1 has a predilection for the oral mucosa, but cases affecting the genitals are rising, Susan Bard, M.D., a New York City board-certified dermatologist and adjunct clinical instructor at the Mount Sinai Hospital, tells SELF. This can happen if, say, a person with HSV-1 in their mouth passes the infection to someones genitals while performing oral sex. And although HSV-2 is still behind most cases of genital herpes, it can cause oral herpes when someone with this infection on their genitals passes it to another persons mouth during oral sex.
You might think these signs would make it really obvious that something is up with your health if you have herpes. But its also entirely possible to have herpes without exhibiting any symptoms at all. The virus can lie dormant in the body without ever making itself known. Thats why so many people have herpes without realizing it, the CDC explains.
Misdiagnosis Of Herpes Symptoms In Women
Did you know that herpes symptoms in women can be confused with many common conditions? 85% of people with herpes dont know they have it! Common symptoms include blisters, sores, itchy areas, tingling, burning, painful urination, skin fissures and cracks, skin ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, depression, pain down the leg, flu like symptoms, body aches and watery vaginal discharge but how do you know if it is herpes? I have worked with women who were misdiagnosed with several other ailments before they were ever PROPERLY diagnosed with herpes.
Why does this happen?
Herpes is truly the Great Masquerader. Doctors and patients alike misdiagnose herpes all the time. Here is a chart of what women with herpes think they have and what men with herpes think they have.
|What Women With Herpes Think They Have||What Men With Herpes Think They Have|
|Irritation from bike seat, shaving, douching||Irritation from bike seat, tight jeans, sexual intercourse|
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Read Also: How To Treat Feline Herpes
What If I Dont Want To Get Tested
If you do not want to get tested for herpes, you need to be confident that you do not have the disease. If you choose to ignore your disease, you will not only be putting yourself but also your partners at risk. If you are a woman planning to get pregnant by any chance, then testing becomes even more necessary as you might pass herpes on to your newborn child.
Consultation with the doctors and proper testing can ensure that you and your loved ones remain safe from this unnecessary and incurable infection.
How Accurate Are Blood Tests For Herpes
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, nearly every person in the United States about 85% of the population will be infected with herpes by the time they reach their sixties. If youve ever had one of those annoying cold sores on your tongue, youve already experienced an HSV outbreak. For most people, the herpes simplex virus will never present any lasting or major symptoms but for people who become infected with genital herpes, a common STI which causes painful sores and flu-like symptoms, the virus is a serious medical issue which needs to be managed with antiviral medication. Of course, in order for herpes to be managed effectively, it needs to be diagnosed first but just how accurate are our current testing methods? In this article, our Baltimore clinical malpractice attorneys will explain how herpes is diagnosed, which tests are most accurate, and what to do if you or your partner was the victim of a herpes misdiagnosis.
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