Testing For Herpes

Sometimes, one does not know what one is looking for. This is a general truth for just about anything, from something as superficial as shopping, to matters of person and public health. That is to say, with STD testing sexually active persons do not always know what they are looking for. Visits to the clinic for screenings can be spurred by symptoms or as a part of a routine. Herpes is one of the most commonly checked for STD. in fact, it is thought that nearly half of all sexually active adults in the United States are likely to have herpes antibodies.

What is Herpes?

A herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection is marked by a cluster of small painful blisters on or near the skin of the genitals, or in some cases, the mouth, urethra, rectum and or tissue lining the throat or nose. There are two types of herpes simplex viruses, HSV1 and HS2. HSV1 is most commonly know as cold sores or fever blisters. Located on the lips, HSB1 is usually transmitted though kissing or sharing eating utensils with someone having an outbreak. HSV1 can cause blisters around the genitals.

HSV2 is referred to as genital herpes, since the blisters grow on and or around the vagina or penis. But, HSV2 can cause mouth sores, as a result of unprotected oral sex. Additionally, pregnant mothers with genital herpes can infect their unborn babies if delivered vaginally.

Testing

Typically, medical professionals perform HSV tests by examining the blisters located on the genitals. However, since there are cases of HSV infecting other body parts, including the eye and brain, a test can be completed using samples of blood, urine, or tears. Before visiting a health care provider and being tested, a patient might find it helpful, maybe even empowering, to understand how many tests are available, how they work, and which most fits his or her needs. Being informed, observant, and unafraid to ask questions can make the experience of sharing personal information, like ones sexual history, might make the testing experience more productive.

Herpes Testing Four Ways

To determine if sores or blisters present on a sexually active person are caused by HSV for types of tests can be performed. The best method of identifying a genital herpes infection is by taking a culture sample. This is done by swabbing cells or fluid from a afresh blister. As effective as this test is, some patients receive false-negative results. For added security an antigen detection test can be performed along with a viral culture. An antigen requires scrapping cells from a fresh blister and examining them under a microscope. Since herpes has a dormant period, when no blisters are visible, another testing option is a polymerase chain reaction test. While, a PCR test can be used on cells, urine, spinal fluid, or fluid from a blister work equally as well. PCR looks for the DNA of HSV and can differentiate between HSV1 and HSV2. This test is particularly useful for the rare instances when herpes infects the brain. A fourth and less accurate test is an antibody test. Antibodies develop in the immune system to fight the infection. However, it takes time to develop antibodies and patient may not have a positive test if infection recently occurred.

Herpes is incurable and while medication can relieve symptoms, reducing blister outbreaks and relieving pain, medicine cannot cure the infection. Those who test positive should know that the recurrence of infection depends on but is not limited to stress, fatigue, sunlight, or other infections like the cold or flu.