Preparing For The Genital Herpes Test And Consultation
If you see your GP or visit a GUM clinic, they will ask a number of questions about your condition before providing a diagnosis. Your doctor will most likely ask you about your symptoms, recent sexual encounters, your STI history, whether you use condoms and whether you are taking any medication. You should use your consultation to ask any questions you may have with regards to your condition, your risk of STIs and how to avoid infecting future partners.
When Should I Get A Genital Or Oral Herpes Test
Testing for the viruses that cause genital and oral herpes may be ordered when a patient develops signs and symptoms of a herpes infection. Although many people who contract HSV never notice symptoms, signs of an initial infection appear 2 to 20 days after infection and depend on the type of HSV causing the infection.
When signs and symptoms of an initial infection occur, they may include:
- Small sores on the skin
- Tingling, itching, or burning on the skin
- Fever, headache, or body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
After the initial infection, HSV remains dormant inside of the body. HSV can reactivate throughout a patients life, causing symptoms of genital or oral herpes to reappear. While the trigger for an HSV outbreak is often unknown, potential triggers include a fever, stress, physical trauma, and a suppressed immune system.
Generally, expert organizations do not recommend herpes testing for patients without symptoms. An exception may be made for certain patients, including:
- Patients who have a partner with genital herpes
- Patients seeking a more complete STD test panel, including people with multiple sexual partners
- Babies born to a mother who has HSV
Type Of Tests Used To Diagnose Herpes
There are four main types of diagnostic tests that can be used to diagnose herpes. Your doctor will determine which type of test to use based on whether an outbreak is present or not.
If youre experiencing what you believe to be a herpes outbreak, your doctor can use a viral culture test or virus antigen detection test. If youre not experiencing symptoms, you can have an antibody test.
- Viral culture test.This test is used to determine if a sore contains the herpes virus. This test can sometimes produce a false-negative, meaning that it may not detect the virus even though its present.
- Virus antigen detection test. This test is used to determine if antigens to the herpes virus are present in a sore or lesion.
- Antibody test. If youre not experiencing an outbreak yet but still believe you may have been exposed, you can opt to have an antibody test performed. This test will only show a positive result if the antibodies to the virus have been developed. Therefore, this test isnt necessarily recommended for recent exposure.
- Polymerase chain reaction test. With this test, a healthcare provider can screen a sample of your blood or tissue from a sore. They can use this to determine if HSV is present and which type you have.
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What To Think About
- Normal test results do not mean you do not have a herpes infection.
- Herpes is often diagnosed by symptoms and by knowing whether the person has had contact with an infected person. Sometimes a test is not needed. A person who has genital herpes needs to learn how to avoid spreading the disease, because the disease is more likely to be spread when he or she has sores. If you have recurrent outbreaks, especially during times of stress or illness, you can also spread the disease.
- You may want to know whether a herpes infection is due to HSV-1 or HSV-2 so you can take steps to prevent or treat outbreaks.
- A genital herpes infection can be spread from a mother to her baby during vaginal delivery. In a newborn, herpes can cause organ failure, brain infection, and death. If active herpes is present near the time of delivery, a caesarean delivery may be done to prevent infecting the baby.
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Best For Quick Results: Stdcheck
STDcheck offers tests for both HSV-1 and HSV-2. A person can order an HSV-2 test for $45, or they can order a test for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 for $79. There is also an option to order a test package that tests for 10 different STIs.
This option is best for people who need their results quickly.
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Never Just Assume That Your Doctor Already Tested You For Herpes
Most doctors NEVER test their patients for herpes, even when they are testing you for other STDs. Thats right. A herpes blood test is NOT INCLUDED in the Standard STD Panels. Most doctors will NOT test you for herpes UNLESS YOU ASK SPECIFICALLY FOR A HERPES BLOOD TEST. If you arent sure whether or not your doctor tested you for herpes last time, ASK them for a copy of all of your last STD test results. If you dont see a blood test result for both HSV-1 and HSV-2, then you were not tested. The majority of people have NEVER been tested for herpes and dont know they have it.
The best way to diagnose herpes when you are not having symptoms is to request a herpes blood test. Or if you are having an active outbreak then immediately go to the doctor to get a herpes lab culture AND a herpes blood test. You must SPECIFICALLY REQUEST that your doctor give you a herpes blood test and a herpes lab culture or else your doctor might just do a visual inspection and may easily misdiagnose herpes as something else such as jock itch, a yeast infection, or rough sex. When your symptoms go away usually within a few days to a few weeks, you may not even realize that you just experienced a herpes outbreak.
Herpes Blood Tests Very Accurate Can Be Done Even When Symptoms Are Not Present
Many out-of-date doctors will tell you that there are no reliable blood tests for herpes that can accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2. These doctors *used to* be right. And some of the old, inaccurate blood tests are still out there. But medicine has made great strides, and since 1999, there are several NEW IgG blood tests now available that DO very accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 and are 97-100% ACCURATE, if taken no earlier than 12-16 weeks after your possible exposure to the virus. Please note that despite the relatively high accuracy of these blood tests, false positives and false negatives do occur. If you have conflicting results on 2 different herpes blood tests, you should probably order the Western Blot herpes blood test see below.
Since some doctors and clinics are still using the older, inaccurate blood tests. Always make sure to find out the name of the company and test that your doctor or lab is ordering for herpes blood tests, and make sure it is one of the tests on the good list and not one of the tests on the bad list.
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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.
Herpes Lab Cultures Only Accurate Some Of The Time
Many doctors and health care professionals are not up-to-date about herpes diagnosis and will tell you that the only way to accurately diagnose whether or not you have the genital herpes virus is by taking a swab from an active herpes sore or lesion and sending it to the lab for a culture test. However, this only works if the patients sore is fairly new or else the virus may no longer be active on the skin. If you get a Herpes Lab Culture and it comes out negative, you may still have genital herpes. Because most herpes outbreaks are short and mild, and because most people have few, mild or even NO outbreaks, we highly recommend taking a herpes blood test when no active sores or lesions are present, and in ADDITION to a Herpes Lab Culture when there is a sore present.
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Why Sti Testing Is So Important
Overall, nearly half of all sexually active people will get an STI at some point in their lives. Many STIs are curable and all are treatable. Testing positive is nothing to be ashamed about and having an STI doesnt make someone dirty or nasty. You can get STI testing by making an appointment at Planned Parenthood. All of our locations offer STI testing, and if you are symptomatic, you can be tested for herpes or trichomonas .
We offer free STI testing for those who are eligible, as some restrictions may apply. If youre interested in free STI testing, please make an appointment by calling us at 314-531-7526 or 417-883-3800 for more information.
Valerie Johnson is a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.
Herpes Pcr Tests Very Accurate
A PCR test can be done on cells or fluid from an active sore and is more sensitive than typical lab culture tests. PCR finds the genetic material of the HSV virus and can tell the difference between HSV-1 and HSV-2. Although this test may be more expensive than lab cultures, it is definitely more accurate and less likely to result in a false negative or false positive. However, you still need to get tested while you are having an active outbreak, or else the HSV cells may no longer be present on the surface of your skin.
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Doctors Don’t Advise Getting A Blood Test For Herpes Without Any Symptoms
Hilda Hutcherson, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, is one of those doctors. “I usually dont do tests for herpes someone has a lesion or a sore, something I can see, I will do a swab and take it to a culture or check the DNA on the materials I removed,” she says. “If theres nothing there and I do a blood test and the blood test comes back positive, lets say its positive for type 1, what does that really mean? Most people are positive for type 1.” She adds that someone could be HSV-1-positive and either have or not have genital herpes. The result “doesnt mean much, and it makes people go crazy.”
Hutcherson’s motto is pretty simple: Why stress yourself over something if you haven’t seen anything especially when it’s something as common as herpes? “Let’s say they have a blood test come in positive but theyve never had a lesion. Now what? You may never get a lesion,” she says. It’s for this reason that she recommends people do not get tested for herpes unless they have a visible lesion that can be cultured and sent to a lab. Let’s say you get tested anyway and it comes back positive, despite the fact that you have no symptoms. What do you do?
Myth: Cold Sores And Genital Sores Are Way Different
Many people wrongfully believe that cold sores dont count as real herpes, Raquel Dardik, MD, clinical associate professor at NYU Langones Joan H. Tisch Center for Womens Health, explains to Health. This misconception stems from the general patterns of the two types.
For most people, HSV-1 tends to affect their mouth, while HSV-2 usually manifests on the genitals. But either virus can affect either body region all it takes to spread is skin-to-skin-contact.
Lets say you touch an infected persons genitals with your mouth while theyre shedding the virus, but theres no genital-to-genital touching. You can then be infected with either HSV-1 or HSV-2 and go on to develop lesions at the site of the infection .
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Visual Diagnosis Of Herpes Least Accurate
Visual diagnosis is the least accurate way to determine whether or not you have herpes. The herpes pictures that you might find on the internet are of extremely rare worst cases, and give a false impression of what most people with herpes experience which is usually NOTHING most of the time. For the great majority of people with herpes, their symptoms are so mild or infrequent or not at all that their herpes is never diagnosed!
Thats Not To Say I Never Recommend Herpes Testing
People who have multiple partners, HIV, or are sex workers are considered high-risk by the CDC and should be routinely tested. If you have a one night stand and dont know anything about your partnermaybe they have multiple partnersits not unreasonable to get testing done even if you dont have symptoms, but you should know everything I said above still applies when you get your result.
“Maybe 10 years ago, herpes had more of a stigma, but today it’s as common as an abnormal pap smear.”
Pregnant women who have had outbreaks should also be tested so that they can take pills to reduce the risk of an outbreak during delivery. If a woman does have an outbreak around the time of labor, shell need a C-section because its dangerous for babies to be exposed to the virus. Still, there’s no need to get tested if you haven’t had an outbreak.
And of course, if you have genital lesions, get tested to confirm that its herpes. Youll be treated right then with a pill for that outbreak and, if you never have another outbreak again, you wont need any further treatment. If you have more frequent outbreaks, you can choose between a few medication regimens based on factors like your insurance.
Basically, a herpes test is not going to change your lifeas long as you don’t freak out and divorce your husband over it.
Dr. Rachel Rapkin is an ob-gyn and assistant professor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine.
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Urine Tests Vs Swab Tests
Urine tests can be used to identify bacterial sexually transmitted infections.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea urine tests are widely available. Trichomoniasis urine tests are also available, but they are less common.
It is important to note that the most accurate way of under-going STD testing is via bacterial culture. Bacterial cultures may be taken from using a swab sample. That involved attempting to grow bacteria out of samples that were taken directly from the cervix or urethra.
Bacterial DNA testing looks for the DNA of the bacteria as opposed to looking for the culture. Urine testing very simple and completely safe. You simply collect your urine sample in a sample jar and either hand it to your healthcare provider or mail it to the laboratory.
Samples are tested in the laboratory to identify whether it contains bacterial DNA.
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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.
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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