With so many questions about herpes tests, I decided to add a collection of frequently asked questions (FAQ). This is very important since many people with genital herpes don't know that they are infected or they've never had an official diagnosis.
If you think that you might have genital herpes, you should schedule an appointment to see a doctor. Although it's much better to visit while you are experiencing an outbreak, you can just visit to talk about the genital herpes symptoms that you've had in the past.
Being knowledgeable about herpes is the first step to beating this condition.
Herpes Viral Culture: Cells from a fresh genital blister or open sore are collected with a swab and placed in a culture container. A viral culture is typically considered the most specific method of diagnosing a genital herpes infection because false-positive results are very rare. False-Negative results are quite common so follow up testing using another herpes testing method is recommended.
Herpes virus antigen detection test: Cells from a fresh genital blister or open sore are scraped off and then placed onto a microscope slide. This examination detects antigens on the surface of cells infected with the herpes simplex virus. This test may be done in addition to or in place of a herpes viral culture.
Polymerase chain reaction test or PCR test: PCR testing can be completed on cells or liquid from an open sore, genital blister, blood or spinal fluid. The PCR test detects the DNA of the herpes simplex virus. The PCR test is commonly recommended for those rare cases in which a person may have a herpes infection in or around the brain.
Antibody tests: Blood tests can detect antibodies that are produced in the body’s immune system to battle a herpes infection. Antibody blood tests cannot distinguish between a current, active herpes infection and a past infection. Antibodies can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to form so a positive antibody test result may be difficult to obtain if you have recently been infected. Some new blood tests can accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2.
Not really. The most important thing that you can do before or directly after having a test is to avoid having sexual contact with someone until you know what actions that you can take to protect your partner.
For Women: It is recommended that women do not urinate for two hours before a urethra sample is taken. Women should not douche for 24 hours prior to having a cervical sample taken.
A blood sample will be taken for a herpes antibody blood test. The samples are usually taken using a needle stick into a blood vein in your arm then filling a tube with blood. Some of the newer methods may only require a finger stick.
The sampling procedures for the viral culture, PCR and antigen test are much simpler. A swab is scrapped on the open sores of a suspected outbreak. The swab collects the fluid of the sore. It is much better if the sample is taken from new sores (less than 48 hours) because there is more of the herpes virus making it easier to detect during testing.
The time it takes to get your herpes test results back varies depending on your doctor and the labs they use. Typically, if your results are positive your doctor will let you know as soon as possible. A viral culture results can come back as fast as one day but can also take up to 14 days. The Antigen test results usually only take about one to two days. The PCR test results commonly takes between one to three days. Antibody herpes blood test usually only takes about two days.
Depending on the lab and your doctor you more than likely received either a “normal” or “abnormal” result.
A Normal result means that there were no detection of the herpes simplex virus or its antibodies
An Abnormal result means that the selected method of the herpes test did detect the herpes simplex virus or it’s antibodies.
I know that I have genital herpes but I'd like to know when I was first infected. Are there any test that will tell me?
Currently there are no tests on the market that will pinpoint the exact time or date that a person became infected or for how long the person has been infected.
I've never experienced any genital herpes signs or symptoms. Can I still have a herpes tests?
Since so many people have been exposed to the herpes virus and have no signs or symptoms its very important that you get tested if there is the slightest hint that you may have been exposed. You may be spreading the virus to other people.
If the herpes test results reveals that you do have the herpes simplex virus your doctor will want to schedule a follow up appointment to discuss your treatment options and how you can avoid spreading it to others. This is the perfect time to ask questions so don’t be afraid or embarrassed.
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