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How Do I Get Tested For Herpes?

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Updated May 21, 2014

Girl with cold sore
Peter Dazely/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Question: How Do I Get Tested For Herpes?

Answer:

Although a lot of doctors don't realize it, it is possible to get tested for herpes. However, the way you get tested depends on whether or not you currently are having symptoms.

  • If you go to see your doctor during an outbreak:

    Your healthcare provider will look at the sores and see if they seem typical of a herpes outbreak. If they are, your provider may swab the sores to see if they contain virus. However, this swab test is not always accurate and has a high risk of false negatives. An outbreak that looks like herpes, but that comes back with a negative test for virus, may still be a herpes infection. Testing a swab for virus is most useful in the first 48 hours of a first outbreak. After that, and during recurrent outbreaks, it becomes much less accurate. Visual inspection can actually give better results than a viral culture in such circumstances.

    Herpes outbreaks usually appear as one or more blisters that then break open to become sores.

  • If you go to see your doctor when you have no symptoms:

    Although there are commercial blood tests for herpes that looks for antibodies against HSV1 and HSV2, they do not always give conclusive results. There are also type-specific blood tests that are more accurate, but these may be more difficult to find.

    It is also important to know it can take a while before you test positive after you've been infected with herpes. The exact amount of time depends both on your immune system and the specific test you.

If your doctor doesn't know how to test you for herpes, or is reluctant to test you, you might try visiting an STD clinic. Practitioners there are usually better informed about the latest developments in STD testing and treatment.

Next: Five reasons why everyone should get tested for STDs...

 

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