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Anonymous on October 20, 2011

Can you tell me when to test for herpes?

I’m worried that I might have herpes. Can you tell me more about when to get tested?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on October 20, 2011

Thanks for your question. When to test for herpes is a personal decision that depends on a few factors... 

Do you currently have signs or symptoms of herpes? Genital herpes sores commonly start as very small blisters in the groin region. Typically, the blisters will rupture early on, and you may notice open sores that bleed or ooze fluid, then crust over. 

If you currently have symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor to get tested right away. When you have herpes sores, a doctor can do a swab test by taking a small sample from the sore. For the best accuracy, this test needs to be done soon after you notice the sores and before they begin to heal.  

If you don’t have symptoms or open sores, you may want to take a herpes antibody test. This test looks for your body’s immune response to herpes in a sample of your blood. For this test to be most accurate, it’s best to wait 6-12 weeks after you may have been exposed to herpes before getting tested.

Keep in mind that, according to research conducted in New York City, researchers estimate that 80-90% of people who have herpes don’t know they’re infected because they’ve never had signs or symptoms of infection. That’s why getting tested is important...it’s the only way to know for sure if you have herpes.

Want to know more about herpes testing? Read more in our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2. 

Related info: 

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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