How does a herpes test work?

Table of Contents

How does a herpes test work?

How does a herpes test work? Let’s run through the different types of testing for herpes, as well as where you can access a herpes test. 

Herpes is a virus that causes contagious sores to form around the mouth and/or genitals. Herpes is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, this can include oral, anal or penetrative sex, as well as kissing. 

Though there are more than 100 types of herpes viruses, only 8 are known to affect humans. The two most common types of herpes which affect humans are herpes simplex I and herpes simplex II. 

How does a herpes test work? 

A herpes test may require a swab sample, a blood test or both.

Swab tests involve taking a swab sample from an active sore in or around the mouth and/or genitals. A swab sample can either be collected by a healthcare professional or by you in the comfort of your own home using an at home herpes test. Swab tests are often the first port of call when it comes to diagnosing or confirming either oral (herpes simplex I) or genital (herpes simplex II). If symptoms are present (active sores), this will likely be the test used. 

Blood tests involve taking a blood sample. The type of herpes blood test used is a virus culture, also known as a PCR test. PCR tests look for pieces of the virus’s DNA and are very accurate. A PCR test will be able to diagnose herpes even if you are not experiencing any symptoms. It is a very accurate herpes test. Other blood tests on the market test the blood for antibodies that are produced in reaction to the virus. 

The two antibodies that are tested for include IgM and IgG. IgG antibodies appear shortly after you become infected with herpes and stay in the body for life. IgG testing is more accurate than IgM testing.

herpes-blood-test

How do you test for herpes? 

  • If you have a visible blister or sore. The liquid from the sore can be taken using a swab sample. It’s best to test the fluid that appears from a sore within 48 hours of its appearance. 
  • A blood test (PCR) test can also be used to detect herpes simplex I or herpes simplex II. If you suspect that you have contracted herpes, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible. 

At home herpes tests

At home herpes tests are relatively easy and simple to use. 

Some at home herpes test providers offer swab tests while others use blood tests. It will depend on the provider. You will be able to receive a diagnosis from either type of test. 

Here’s how at home herpes tests work: 

  1. Order the herpes test online.
  2. Take either a swab sample or blood test depending on the type of test used. 
  3. Mail your sample to the lab using the self-addressed envelope included in the price. 
  4. Receive your results by logging onto a secure online portal or via phone call. 

You can quickly and easily order an at home gonorrhea test from the following providers: 

at-home-herpes-test

How does a doctor test for herpes? 

A doctor will test for herpes in the same way that a home health test would be able to

What is the most accurate test for herpes?

Taking a swab of a lesion or sore is the one of most accurate way to test for herpes, but it does have its drawbacks. A positive swab test means that you definitely have herpes, as well as which type of herpes you have, however, the problem is that a swab test can produce a false negative, if the test is taken outside of the window in which the sore is most contagious (within 48 hours).  

A blood test (PCR) test is another accurate test for herpes. It is more accurate than a swab test and can be used even if you are not displaying symptoms.  

Other blood tests on the market test the blood for antibodies that are produced in reaction to the virus. 

The two antibodies that are tested for include IgM and IgG. IgG antibodies appear shortly after you become infected with herpes and stay in the body for life. IgG testing is more accurate than IgM testing.

What are the first signs and symptoms of herpes? 

Oral herpes symptoms include: 

  • Swelling, redness, heat, pain and/or itching at the point of where the infection has started. 
  • Fluid filled blisters on the lips or under the nose. At this point of oral herpes development, the herpes are highly contagious. 
  • Blisters leak fluid and become sores. 
  • After about four to six days, the sores will start to crust over and heal.

Genital herpes symptoms include: 

  • Pain or itching in the genital area. 
  • Small red bumps or tiny white blisters in/on the genital area shortly after the infection has started. 
  • Ulcers that may ooze or bleed. 
  • Painful urination. 
  • Crusty scabs (this indicates that the healing process has started).

What should you do if you think you have herpes? 

If you think you have herpes, get tested as soon as you can. Before you receive a diagnosis, you should also minimize contact with others until you have a treatment plan. 

While there is no cure for herpes, take hope in the fact that it can very effectively be managed with antiviral medication. 

A treatment plan that works for you can: 

  • Minimize the number of outbreaks you experience
  • Minimize the severity of symptoms you experience with each outbreak 
  • Minimize the duration of each outbreak 
  • Help the sores to heal faster 

If you are diagnosed with oral herpes, it is recommended that you do not kiss partners during outbreaks. If you are diagnosed with genital herpes, it is recommended that you always wear a condom, even when you are not experiencing an outbreak to minimize the risk.

what-should-you-do-if-you-have-herpes=infographic

FAQs

How do you get herpes if your partner doesn’t have it? 

Herpes may be asymptomatic which means that you will not experience any symptoms. Therefore, it is possible that you could have contracted herpes from a previous partner. It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your partner if you discover that you have herpes and are unsure how you could have gotten it. 

Does herpes have a smell? 

Herpes sores on the genitals can produce a fishy smell in both men and women. 

What does herpes look like? 

Herpes often appears as small red or white pimples that develop into larger fluid-filled sores. These sores then crust over during the healing process and may look like a circular scab. 

Can you get rid of herpes? 

Antiviral medications are used to treat herpes. 

Written byHannah Kingston on March 11,  2021

Resources 

 

}

Keep Reading

What is the cervical cancer survival rate?

Written by Dr. Andrea Pinto - Written on October 21, 2021 The words “cervical cancer” can be very scary, but the prognosis for cervical cancer can vary depending on many...

20 October 2021

How to lower stress: 10 tips

Written by Dr. Andrea Pinto - Written on October 21, 2021 Stress can be a normal part of life, and we all experience stressful situations now and then. However, chronic...

20 October 2021

Do stress toys actually make a difference?

Written by Dr. Andrea Pinto - Written on October 21, 2021 We’ve all seen the stress toys and fidget spinners that became hugely popular just a few years ago —...

20 October 2021