Can I Get Tested For Genital Herpes
Yes, if you think you have symptoms of genital herpes or have been at risk of infection, you should speak to a healthcare worker.
There are different tests available. If you have symptoms, the most common test is to take a swab from a blister. The fluid can be tested for the herpes simplex virus.Some places may also offer blood tests to check for antibodies to the virus, but these are often not routinely available, so ask a healthcare worker if youre unsure.
If you have genital herpes you should be tested for other STIs.
Its also advised that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have genital herpes do not notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on.
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How Is Genital Herpes Treated
Herpes has no cure. But antiviral medicines can prevent or shorten outbreaks during the time you take the medicine. Also, daily suppressive therapy for herpes can lower your chance of spreading the infection to your partner.
Your doctor will either give you antiviral medicine to take right after getting outbreak symptoms or to take regularly to try to stop outbreaks from happening. Talk to your doctor about treatment options.
During outbreaks, you can take the following steps to speed healing and prevent spreading herpes to other parts of your body or to other people:
- Keep sores clean and dry.
- Try not to touch the sores.
- Wash your hands after any contact with the sores.
- Avoid all sexual contact from the time you first notice symptoms until the sores have healed.
Genital Herpes And Pregnancy
Women with herpes before pregnancy can usually expect to have a healthy baby and a vaginal delivery.
If you have genital herpes during pregnancy, there’s a risk your baby could develop a serious illness called neonatal herpes.
This can be fatal, but most babies recover with antiviral treatment.
The risk of your baby getting neonatal herpes is low if you have had genital herpes before.
It’s higher if you get genital herpes for the first time in pregnancy.
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Genital Herpes Hiv And Sexual Health
Genital herpes is one of the most common co-infections for people living with HIV and can be a more serious condition if youre HIV positive meaning that outbreaks may last longer and blisters can be more severe. If youre having recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes, you should have an HIV test, as this may be a sign of a weakened immune system caused by HIV.
Having an STI such as genital herpes can increase your risk of getting and passing on HIV, as the blisters and sores provide an easy way for HIV to get into your body and cause an infection. People living with HIV who arent on treatment or who have a lower CD4 count are especially vulnerable to other infections, like herpes.
If youre taking antiretroviral treatment for HIV, its important to discuss with your doctor how treatment for herpes may interact with your HIV drugs.
How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
- Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
- Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes or
- Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes.
You also can get genital herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools. You also will not get it from touching objects, such as silverware, soap, or towels.
If you have more questions about herpes, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
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How To Check If You Have Asymptomatic Herpes
If you have no herpes symptoms but believe you might have been exposed to the virus, you can take a herpes test to verify whether or not youre infected.
The most accurate herpes testing method for asymptomatic people is an IgG test, which checks for the presence of IgG antibodies in your blood. These antibodies can signal a herpes infection using certain testing methods, they can also be used to differentiate between HSV-1 and HSV-2.
IgG antibodies can take several months to form after a herpes infection, meaning youll typically need to wait for 12 to 16 weeks before taking an IgG test to make sure you receive an accurate result.
If youre concerned that you might have asymptomatic herpes, the best approach is to speak to your doctor about testing options. Your doctor will be able to schedule a test based on the date of your potential exposure to the virus and provide you with an accurate diagnosis. If you discover you do have HSV-1 or HSV-2, the most important thing is to not panic. These viruses are extremely common, and there are a variety of anti-viral medications out there to help minimize the severity and requency of outbreaks. Most notably, vacyclovir.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
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Other Impacts Of Genital Herpes
Its important to also remember that there are mental and social impacts of having an incurable STI. Many people with recurrent genital herpes symptoms may feel stigmatized or fearful of pursuing sexual relationships. But people should remember, while genital herpes is not curable, it is manageable, and the outbreaks often decrease over time.
Most people live healthy happy lives with genital herpes .
to track your sex life and herpes symptoms using custom tags.
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Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
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.
Remain alert for prodromal symptoms that indicate an outbreak is coming on. during a herpes outbreak. Continue to avoid sex until the sores have scabbed and gone away. Treatment with antiviral medications such as valacyclovir can shorten symptomatic infections.
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It Is Only A Taboo Because No One Will Talk About It
Things stop being taboo when we stop staying silent about them. We need to normalize herpes, and Dr. Loanzonâs book aims to do that by sharing her experience and journey. She has already heard from many readers who see themselves in her story: âWeâre all having the same experience, yet nobody is talking about it. One of my girlfriends who is a plastic surgeon just told me, âSeveral years ago, breast cancer was a taboo thing, and now everybody knows someone who has breast cancer.â Iâd really like to move into that commonplace topic.â
Colds Fever And Immunity Busters
Getting another illness like the common cold can bring on herpes outbreaks because your immune system is busy fighting the new thing.
A fever is popularly known to cause HSV-1 outbreaks, or cold sores, giving them the name fever blisters.
Those with compromised or taxed immune systems will have more frequent herpes outbreaks. After all, thats the reason things like UV light, which affects immunity, and fighting off other illnesses are outbreak triggers at all.
An immune system compromised by receiving chemotherapy can lead to more outbreaks, as can an immune system weakened by HIV.
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Can Genital Herpes Come Back
Yes. Genital herpes symptoms can come and go, but the virus stays inside your body even after all signs of the infection have gone away. The virus becomes “active” from time to time, leading to an outbreak. Some people have outbreaks only once or twice. Other people may have four or five outbreaks within a year. Over time, the outbreaks usually happen less often and are less severe.
Experts do not know what causes the virus to become active. Some women say the virus comes back when they are sick, under stress, out in the sun, or during their period.
Herpes Drugs Dont Stop Herpes Shedding
Got Genital Herpes? Youre Still Infectious, Even if Drugs Cut Symptoms
Even when they dont have an active herpes outbreak, people who carry genital herpes viruses are at risk of infecting their sex partners. With the discovery of drugs that prevent herpes outbreaks, there was hope that the drugs would also prevent herpes transmission. But theres been troubling evidence that this may not be true.
Now University of Washington researcher Christine Johnston, MD, and colleagues show that people with no herpes symptoms often shed infectious genital herpes virus even while taking very high doses of anti-herpes drugs.
Short episodes of genital shedding occur frequently with antiviral therapy, even for high-dose regimens, Johnston and colleagues report. These breakthrough episodes are typically , last several hours, and occur at much the same rate irrespective of antiviral dose.
One in 5 Americans and Europeans carries HSV-2, the virus that causes most cases of genital herpes HSV-1 causes some cases. Most people have few, if any, of genital herpes painful symptoms: blisters on or around the genitals or rectum.
Theres no cure for herpes infections. Thats because herpes viruses travel up nerves to take up latent form in the nerve root. Powerful anti-herpes drugs acyclovir , famciclovir , and valacyclovir prevent most outbreaks in most people. But they dont eliminate virus hiding in nerve cells.
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Preventing The Spread Of Herpes
Even when you do not have sores, you can pass the virus to someone during sexual or other close contact. To protect others:
- Let any sexual partner know that you have herpes before having sex. Allow them to decide what to do.
- Use latex or polyurethane condoms, and avoid sex during symptomatic outbreaks.
- Do not kiss or have oral sex when you have a sore on the lips or inside the mouth.
- Do not share your towels, toothbrush, or lipstick. Make sure dishes and utensils you use are washed well with detergent before others use them.
- Wash your hands well with soap and water after touching a sore.
- Consider using daily antiviral medicine to limit viral shedding and reduce the risk of passing the virus to your partner.
- You may also want to consider getting your partner tested even if they have never had an outbreak. If you both have the herpes virus, there is no risk for transmission.
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 .
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Genital Herpes: Common But Misunderstood
First recognize the symptoms and signs, then take action to prevent outbreaks
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause small, painful sores in the genital area. The symptoms may include low-grade fever, itching, burning, and trouble urinating. But many people with the disease dont realize they have been infected with HSV, because either they have only mild or infrequent symptoms, or no symptoms at all. In women, herpes outbreaks can also be mistaken for vaginitis, urinary tract infections, or even hemorrhoids.
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What Increases Your Risk
Things that increase your risk of getting genital herpes include:
- Having more than one sex partner.
- Having a high-risk partner or partners .
- Having unprotected sexual contact .
- Starting sexual activity at a young age. The younger people are when they start having sex, the greater their risk is of getting genital herpes.
- Having a weakened immune system.
- Being a woman. Women are more likely than men to become infected when exposed to genital herpes. And their symptoms tend to be more severe and longer-lasting. Women also are at a greater risk of having complications from a genital herpes infection.
Having herpes, especially if you have open sores, also increases your risk for becoming infected with HIV if you are exposed to HIV.
Any child with genital herpes needs to be evaluated by a doctor to see if it is the result of sexual abuse. For more information, see the topic Child Abuse and Neglect.
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No Ulcers Doesnt Equal No Herpes So Then What
If youve never had genital ulcers and as far as you know, have never been exposed, is it worth getting tested? Thats a controversial point and in fact, the widely followed official guidelines discourage screening.
Why? Many reasons: Lets say a person has a blood test that comes back positive for HSV-2. This means that the patient may have been exposed to HSV-2 at some point in their lives, somehow, somewhere. Research tells us that these folks may be periodically shedding virus particles in their genital fluids. These patients would then be diagnosed with genital herpes, encouraged to share their status with future partners, and offered daily antiviral medication to prevent possibly spreading the virus.
All of this can be a tough pill to swallow, so to speak. There is significant social stigma and shame associated with herpes. In addition, there are occasionally false-positive tests. Labeling someone with the diagnosis can be devastating to their future relationships, and asking someone to take a pill for a condition they may or may not have and may or may not spread seems unreasonable.
However, not all experts agree with the official guidelines. Except for the uncommon case of a false positive blood test for HSV-2, a seropositive test means one of three things:
If you are not sure about getting tested, talk with your doctor.
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Always Use A Condom And/or Barriers
People who use condoms every time they have sex have are 30% less likely to contract genital herpes .
Condoms should be used before any genital or sexual contact beginsânot just during ejaculation. Since outbreaks and viral shedding may occur in areas not covered by a condom, total protectionâeven with perfect and consistent condom useâcannot be guaranteed .
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More Questions From Patients:
Many people with genital herpes have no symptoms, or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed.
The first time genital herpes symptoms appear is called the âfirst episodeâ or âinitial herpes.â Initial herpes symptoms are usually more noticeable than later outbreaks.
Symptoms of genital herpes in men may include
burning when you pee if you have sores
trouble peeing if you have sores covering your urethra
itching or pain around your genitals
During initial herpes, symptoms may also include
swollen, tender glands in the pelvic area, throat, or under the arms
I contracted genital herpes from an assault 7 years ago. Iâve always battled with the the occasional mild outbreak, usually around my period time. However, about two years agoI had a huge outbreak, bigger than my first. Since then Ive taken daily alciclovir, as perscribed by my doctors. However, the outbreaks have gotten more frequent. Around October time, I started getting them every two weeks, but since around Christmas, i have lesion, then that heals, then another appears, then that heals etc etc. Iâm really at my wits end. Can anyone offer advice?
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