Herpes Testing: Types Accuracy Timing And Necessity
In this section, weâll give you information about herpes testing.
Testing is what ultimately establishes or rule out a diagnosis of herpes. All the other weâve talked aboutâwhat you feel, what you see, and your odds of getting itâhelp us with the diagnosis, but theyâve canât establish it or confirm it.
This section will summarize the different types of herpes tests, their accuracy, how theyâre interpreted, and when theyâre necessary. Tables with important statistics will be followed by FAQ answered by âDr. F,â an STD expert.
So, if you want to know all about herpes testing, this chapter is for you!
Which Symptoms Mean I Should Get Checked
Get tested for herpes if you have:
- an outbreak of blisters, sores or lesions around the genital area
- pain around the genital area
- pain or discomfort when urinating
As soon as you begin to see blisters around your genitals, you can try home testing or visit a clinic. Do this before the blisters begin to scab over and heal for the most accurate results. If you have no symptoms or suspect a false negative result, a blood test can be done. This will only show if you have ever been exposed to HSV and if you may have outbreaks in the future.
Genital Herpes Treatment In Pregnancy
You may be offered antiviral treatment:
- to treat outbreaks in pregnancy
- from 36 weeks to reduce the chance of an outbreak during birth
- from diagnosis until the birth if you first get herpes after 28 weeks of pregnancy
Many women with genital herpes have a vaginal delivery. You may be offered a caesarean, depending on your circumstances.
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Myth #: A Blood Test Is The Best Way To Know If You Have Herpes
Blood tests are not always accurate and testing for herpes can be tricky. It can take two weeks to six months after being exposed to herpes before it is detected in the blood. To make matters more complicated, if you are low risk for herpes and asymptomatic, it increases your risk of a false positive result. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against routine testing for herpes unless you or your partner have symptoms. The most accurate test is when you are able to take a swab sample from a new herpes lesion, but often times the diagnosis is made by a clinician based on your history and report of symptoms.
Because the blood test can be expensive and inaccurate, it is not typically included in a sexually transmitted disease evaluation unless you ask your provider for it specifically.
In short, if you dont have symptoms, you dont necessarily need a blood test. If you do experience an outbreak, a skin swab not a blood test is your best bet for confirmation.
How Can I Protect Sexual Partners Against Herpes Infection
If you have genital herpes, there are several steps you can take to avoid passing the herpes virus to your sexual partners:
Tell your partner you have genital herpes. Even if your partner does not have any visible herpetic sores, they may already be infected. The blood test for herpes can detect the infection even when no blisters are present. It is only fair to tell future partners about a diagnosis of genital herpes before initiating sexual contact. Taking antiviral medications can suppress viral loads and decrease the risk of infecting your partner. Taking antiviral medications by sex partners is another option to decrease the chances of sexual partners getting herpes infection.
Remember, you can transmit HSV infection to a sexual partner even when you are not having an outbreak, and there are no visible or symptomatic sores. The skin looks normal right before an outbreak, but contact during this time can spread the infection. The use of male latex condoms can reduce the chances of genital herpes transmission. However, condoms do not provide complete protection. The virus can still spread through areas not covered by the condom or through contact with semen or vaginal secretions.
Avoid touching the sores. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water following any contact with sores. This prevents transmission of the genital herpes infection to others as well as the re-infection of the infected person.
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How Will My Doctor Know If I Have Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at your symptoms. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. In certain situations, a blood test may be used to look for herpes antibodies. Have an honest and open talk with your health care provider and ask whether you should be tested for herpes or other STDs.
Please note: A herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection. It cannot tell you who gave you the infection or how long you have been infected.
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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Myth: I Cant Have Kids If I Have Herpes
When my patients find out they have herpes, they often ask me, Oh my god, can I still have children?’ shares Dr. Rosser. The answer? Absolutely. Herpes doesnt affect your fertility in any way and there are plenty of safe delivery options to ensure the virus isnt transferred to your baby, she says. Still, genital herpes can increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, or in rare cases, a potentially dangerous infection in newborns if the mother is experiencing symptoms at the time of birth.
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Can You Donate Blood With Hsv 2
According to the American Red Cross donor eligibility guidelines, people with HSV are allowed to donate blood , unless they have another prohibitive infection, like HIV or hepatitis. However: People having their first herpes outbreak are discouraged from donating, and are asked to wait about a month.
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If You Get A Positive Result Dont Panic It Really Doesnt 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 youre 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 arent 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 its a mystery as to why were 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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Some research has shown that two-step testing might improve the specificity that is avoid false positive results for the blood test which would be a great thing because these diagnoses create great anxiety and concern for people, he said. In a commentary accompanying the USPSTF guidelines, Hook expressed disappointment that herpes testing had barely improved over the past decade.
There is no perfect test but there are ways to reduce the inaccuracies and reduce the number of equivocal results and those are actively used in other diseases, he said in an interview with STAT. But they havent been used very aggressively for the purpose of herpes.
In the absence of sure-fire test advances, education and a lessening stigma surrounding herpes might help, not only by reducing test-related confusion, but potentially by bringing discussion of the virus out into the mainstream, said Hook.
Theres no major herpes advocacy group, he said. People call attention to diseases that they suffer from, but people with herpes dont feel they can call attention to it. And that creates a lot of suffering.
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Incubation Period Of Herpes
The incubation period for herpes 1 and 2 is 2-12 days. This means it takes your body 2-12 days to produce antibodies after been exposed to the herpes virus.
It is important that you wait for 12 days before undergoing herpes testing, lest you get a false negative. The body takes time to produce antibodies to fight an infection. It is these antibodies that the test detects.
So, if you undergo a test during the incubation period, you may get wrong results. Your body is still building the antibodies.
What Is Std Screening Exactly
Getting a screening test means that we look for an infection when you may not have any symptoms. Just like you get a mammogram, or screen for colon cancer, its also important to screen for sexually transmitted infections . There are no exact recommended times or tests that we recommend for everyone. These testing recommendations depend on your lifestyle and risk level.
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Doctors Dont 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.
Hutchersons motto is pretty simple: Why stress yourself over something if you havent seen anything especially when its something as common as herpes? Lets 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. Its 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. Lets say you get tested anyway and it comes back positive, despite the fact that you have no symptoms. What do you do?
Genital Herpes Is Common Shouldnt Cdc Recommend Testing For Everyone
CDC recommends herpes testing for people who have genital symptoms to confirm if they have it. Testing allows a healthcare provider to talk with patients about what to expect in the future. This includes talking about medications that help with symptoms. Providers can also tell patients how to lower the risk of transmitting herpes to sex partner.
CDC does not recommend herpes testing for people without symptoms in most situations. This is because of the limits of a herpes blood test and the possibility of a wrong test result. The chances of wrong test results are higher for people who are at low risk of infection.
Blood tests might be useful if:
- You have genital symptoms that could be related to herpes, or
- You have a sex partner with genital herpes, or
- Your provider found signs of herpes, but you still need a test to confirm it.
If you are sexually active, talk openly and honestly with your healthcare provider about what tests are right for you. These tips can help.
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Where Can I Get Tested For Stds / Stis
Your general practitioner, OBGYN, or urgent care clinic can all order STI / STD tests for you. You can also try a local or campus clinic or your local Planned Parenthood location.
Depending on your income, you may even be able to get tests for free. Search here for your local Planned Parenthood and call to find out if you qualify for free testing.
If youre uncomfortable with those options, or dont want STI tests on your insurance, some states allow you to order tests at home.
Same-day testing today: You can also use this site to order tests online and then stop by a lab near you for same-day testing.
What Is An Std Incubation Period
When to get tested for an STD is an important question. To determine when you should get tested, its important to understand how the body responds to STDs.
If you are exposed to an STD, your body will need time to recognize it in your system. Once the STD has been detected, your body will begin to produce antibodies to fight it. The time that it takes your body to identify the STD and produce these antibodies is known as the incubation period.
Most STD tests determine whether or not you have an STD by looking for the presence of specific types of antibodies in a sample of your blood, urine, or saliva. If these antibodies are present, you will test positive, but if they are not present in your sample, you will test negative.
Because STD tests look for the presence of antibodies, testing too early could lead to false negative results. If you take a test during the incubation period, your body may not have had enough time to produce antibodies yet, which means you could test negative even if you really are infected. Thats why it is so important to wait until the incubation period is over to get tested for STDs.
How To Check If You Have Herpes
Many people mistake herpes symptoms for a skin rash or experience such a mild outbreak that they dont become aware theyre infected until subsequent outbreaks occur.
Its also possible that you might experience no outbreaks at all after being infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Luckily, there are several ways to check whether or not you have herpes.The best and most obvious way is to talk to your doctor about herpes testing. There are several herpes testing methods in use today, ranging from swab tests that check for viral activity to blood tests that check for the presence of IgG and/or IgM antibodies.
Each testing method has strengths and weaknesses, meaning your doctor will recommend the best option for your symptoms and potential infection type.
Most of the time, youll need to wait 12 to 16 weeks from the last possible exposure date before taking a herpes test. This gives your immune system time to produce a large enough amount of antibodies for an accurate test result.
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Why Should I Get Tested
If you are experiencing symptoms of an STD after having sex with a new partner, it is possible for those symptoms to be extremely mild. It is possible for symptoms to be the result of something else, such as a UTI or yeast infection, but it is always good to check with your doctor. If left untreated, STDs can make it easier for you to contract HIV, or they can lead to infertility, blindness, or organ damage. Additionally, if you are pregnant, some STDs can be given to the baby during birth, or have an effect on the fetus itself.
Getting tested is convenient and easy. It does not take a long time and results are typically available soon after the test is completed. Many STDs are easy to treat and are not lifelong. This can help save you and future partners from worrying about getting an STD. Getting tested regularly can help stop future cases from happening since many patients with STDs are asymptomatic.
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Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but they’ll 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.
They’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
How Soon Do Std Symptoms Appear
How long it takes for an STD to show up in testing is entirely dependent on the STD itself, how long its own incubation period is, and your own bodys immune response. You can test for some STDs, like chlamydia, only a day after potential exposure. Meanwhile, HIV and syphilis can take a month or more before you can accurately test for them. Its all pretty confusing but lucky for you, we created a nifty little chart that breaks down each STDs average incubation period.
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