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.
Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but theyll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital herpes.
Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.
Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.
Theyll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
How Can Herpes Simplex Be Treated
Many mild cold sores need no specific treatment but the general rule in treating herpes simplex is that all treatments work best if they start as soon as possible. It may be hard to know what is happening during a first infection but in future episodes it is easier to spot the first signs of the virus becoming active, and so to start treatment early.
At the start of an episode of infection when the area of skin is uncomfortable, tingling or painful you may need to take a painkiller. Starting treatment with a drug to counteract the virus can help to lessen the severity of the outbreak and/or shorten it. The anti-viral treatments can be taken as tablets, which have few side effects. Be sure to follow the correct dose . If frequent recurrent symptoms are a problem, antiviral medication can be taken daily to prevent them. Aciclovir and famciclovir are also available as creams, but these do not work as well as the tablets. Other soothing skin treatments are listed below.
It would be sensible to seek medical advice if you are not sure of the diagnosis or if the treatments you have tried do not seem to help. To avoid delay in treating recurrences, your doctor may give you an extra course of tablets to be kept in reserve and used at the first sign of a flare up. Once you have started this, you will need to order another course for the next episode. If the infection involves the eye it is important to seek medical advice promptly.
Dont Miss: How Much Does Herpes Medicine Cost
Read Also: How Many Types Of Herpes Viruses Are There
How Does Herpes Simplex Spread
Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
People may get HSV-1 through
- Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
- Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
- If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.
People may get HSV-2 through
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.
You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.
Should I Talk To A Doctor About It
Now that you have a broad idea of how to differentiate a genital herpes ulcer from other commonly encountered conditions, you should consult your doctor when you suspect genital herpes for the first time. The first episode of herpes can have more noticeable symptoms than recurrences later will and it will be less difficult to ensure that the prognosis is benign and rule out more harmful conditions.
Herpes is still a condition often associated with anxiety, fear, and shame. Your healthcare provider can talk to you about your feelings in that regard and give you support and guidance.
With any genital condition, it is important to have the correct diagnosis made by your doctor, who will use laboratory tests for confirmation to establish a proper management plan.
Youtube video on how to differentiate herpes from other skin conditionsPractical tips by expert STD doctor – Dr.Fuzayloff
Don’t Miss: How Can I Protect Myself From Herpes
Can Genital Herpes Be Prevented
The only way to prevent genital herpes and other STDs is abstinence. This means not having sex . If someone decides to have sex, using a latex condom every time can prevent most STDs.
But condoms cant always prevent the spread of genital herpes. This is because the virus may be in the skin near the genitals .
When It Is Clearly Not Genital Herpes
Youtube video that helps distinguishing the herpes infectionfrom other similar-looking skin conditions:
Practical tips by expert doctor on our YouTube channel.
The following are some conditions that cause skin imperfections around the genital area. They do not necessarily look like genital herpes or pose a diagnostic problem. However, they are common conditions and many patients ask if their skin lesions are related to herpes.
Also Check: Will Herpes Outbreaks Eventually Stop
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.
Are Canker Sores Caused By The Herpes Virus
Canker sores are not caused by the herpes virus or by any other virus. In fact, the cause of canker sores is unknown, although they may be triggered by a minor injury in your mouth from dental work or brushing too hard, an allergy, a vitamin B deficiency, stress, or a food intolerance. Some medical conditions, such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, may also cause canker sores, and they often occur in families, so it’s possible genetics or environment play a part, too.
Canker sores typically appear as small, round, or oval whitish sores with a red border, according to the Mayo Clinic. They typically occur on the tongue, inside the cheeks, inside the lips, or on the gums. The medical term for a canker sore is aphthous ulcer. Canker sores can be quite painful, but they usually heal within about two weeks without leaving any scarring.
Unlike cold sores, which usually occur outside the mouth, canker sores occur only inside the mouth. Like cold sores, canker sores are recurrent, but they are not contagious: You cant give a canker sore to another person. Canker sores occur more often in teenagers and young adults, and they are more common in women than men.
Read Also: What Can I Take For Herpes Pain
How Do You Prevent Genital Herpes
Practicing safe sex includes:
- Telling your sex partner you have herpes
- Using a condom every time you have sex
- Condoms may not fully protect against getting herpes
- Not all herpes sores occur in areas covered by a latex condom
- Herpes virus can be shed from areas of the skin without a visible herpes sore
Taking antiviral medicine every day may also reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
What Can I Do If I Have Herpes Simplex 2
Many people who find out they have herpes feel depressed knowing they’ll always have the virus and can give it to others. But you arent alone. Herpes is one of the most common STIs, both in the U.S. and worldwide. If you have herpes, you should:
- Learn all you can about it. Information will help you to manage your disease and feel better about yourself.
- Talk about your illness with your doctor.
If you have herpes, you can still:
- Have sex if you use a condom or dental dam , and you tell your partner about your illness. Some couples, who have sexual relations only with each other, may choose not to use condoms even though one partner has herpes. Because each situation is different, you should ask your doctor if this is the right choice for you in your relationship.
- Have children. People with herpes can still give birth to healthy babies. If you have herpes and plan to have children, discuss your illness with your healthcare provider.
If you have herpes, you should also get checked for HIV and other STIs .
Don’t Miss: Can You Get Hiv From Herpes 2
What To Look Out For
“Genital herpes outbreaks can differ in severity. While some people encounter multiple painful blisters, some only have one single sore.” – Dr Zenon Andreou
“Genital herpes outbreaks can differ in severity. While some people encounter multiple painful blisters, some only have one single sore.”
Pimples Test Negative For All These Tests
What do I do now?
Once you successfully identify the nature of your sores, which should be an easy task now that you know what herpes looks like, the management is not that complex either. Since pimples are a hygiene issue, it only means a more thorough cleaning with effective products such as acne ointments, antibacterial soap and creams, oil ointments for inflammation, and patting with a warm, wet cloth a few times a day.
On the contrary, if you have even a little doubt that your sores may be herpes, you should visit your primary care physician and get an anti-viral prescription. Herpes may be incurable but anti-viral is more than enough to stop it from affecting your quality of life at all. Early identification is the key to a better life.
I am Jeannette, the medical writing specialist here at Family Medicine Austin. I have over five years of experience working with a range of medical and healthcare across the U.S.
Recommended Reading: Foods To Avoid With Herpes Outbreak
Faqs About Cold Sores Answered
Most cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-2. Since sexual contact is the major means by which genital herpes is transmitted, the illness does not usually arise before adolescence. When a child develops genital herpes, healthcare providers must consider the possibility of abuse. This is true whenever a person contracts a sexually transmitted disease prior to the teen years.
People at heightened risk for HSV-2 infection include those who have multiple sexual partners, women, people with low incomes, and those infected with human immunodeficiency virus . In fact, among people who tested positive for HIV, one study found that the prevalence of HSV-2 infections ranged from 70 to more than 90 percent.
- A herpes sore on any part of the body
- Saliva, if your partner has oral herpes, or genital fluids, if your partner has genital herpes
- Skin around the mouth if your partner has an oral herpes infection, or the skin in the genital region of a partner who has genital herpes
You can catch genital herpes from a partner who has no visible sores, or from a partner who doesnt know that they have the infection. But a person is most infectious during their first outbreak of herpes, when they have sores, and during later outbreaks that produce sores.
How Can I Protect My Sex Partners
You can take steps to protect others from herpes. Keep in mind that you can spread it even when you dont have symptoms.
Avoid sex during outbreaks: Youre more likely to give your partner herpes while you have an outbreak. Avoid sexual contact from the time you notice the first signs, such as tingling or pain, until the scabs fall off and your skin is back to normal.
Try not to touch your sores: If you do, wash your hands right away. A good cleaning may stop the spread to another part of your body or to your partner.
Use condoms: They wont totally protect your partner, but they can lower the chances of spreading the virus.
Talk to your doctor: They might prescribe a drug to make it less likely youll give herpes to someone else. As with condoms, the medicine wont 100% protect your partner.
You May Like: How To Get Rid Of Herpes In Your Mouth
Syphilis: A Greater Health Threat Than Herpes
Syphilis and genital herpes are both STDs that can cause sores in the genital area. Like oral herpes, syphilis can also cause mouth sores, which often clear without treatment. But despite these similarities in symptoms, the two diseases differ in their causes syphilis is caused by a bacteria and herpes by a virus and the health risks they pose.
For most people the exceptions being infants and people who have weakened immune systems or who are chronically ill herpes is more of an annoyance than a dangerous disease. But untreated syphilis can lead to severe complications, including bone, joint, liver, heart, and brain damage.
There are four stages of syphilis, according to the CDC, each with different signs and symptoms. In the primary stage, a painless sore or sores develop where the bacteria first entered the skin or mucous membrane. In the secondary stage, you may develop a skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. In the latent stage of syphilis, there are no signs or symptoms, and in the tertiary stage, the bacterial infection can damage the heart, brain, and other organs of the body.
What Are The Complications Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes may cause painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV-infected persons. 5 Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis . 5 Development of extragenital lesions may occur during the course of infection. 5
There are also potential complications for a pregnant woman and her newborn child. See How does herpes infection affect a pregnant woman and her baby? below for information about this.
Recommended Reading: Can You Donate Blood If You Have Genital Herpes
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
Who Is At Risk From Shingles
Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of getting shingles later in life. About one in three people who have not been immunised against chickenpox or shingles will get shingles in their lifetime.
Shingles usually affects older people. The older you are if you get shingles, the higher your risk of getting serious disease. People who have a weakened immune system are also at risk of getting more severe disease, even if they are young.
Recommended Reading: Can You Get Herpes From Blood
Read Also: What Triggers Genital Herpes Outbreaks
How Long Do Pimples Usually Last
Depending on the type of pimple you get, each pimple can last from a couple days to about two weeks. Pimples with a lot of pus may take longer to heal. They will likely heal faster when kept clean and undisturbed. Constantly touchingespecially poppinga pimple can make it larger, more uncomfortable, and delay the healing process.
Pimples have a regular, round shape and can appear as a single pimple.
Dont Miss: How Do They Check For Herpes