Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on November 21, 2011

How can you test for herpes?

I think it might be a good idea for me to get a herpes test. How can you test for herpes?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on November 21, 2011

I’m glad you asked this question and I applaud you for learning more about herpes testing.

The first question to ask yourself when deciding on herpes testing is: do I currently have signs or symptoms of herpes? Current signs of herpes ⎼ such as small blisters or sores in the genital area ⎼ can be tested at a doctor’s office using a swab test. Keep in mind that the swab test is most accurate on new sores and it’s accuracy decreases as they begin to heal (usually within a few days). So if you have sores, it’s important to visit your doctor quickly. 

If you don’t currently have signs or symptoms of genital herpes infection, we provide the Herpes Simplex Virus Type-Specific HSV-1/2 IgG blood test. This antibody test is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and doesn’t require that you undress at all. Instead, you can just visit one of our local lab sites to provide a blood sample. For more about when to get tested for herpes, you can visit our Testing Windows Guide.

When you test with us, one of our doctors will consult with you about your next steps and treatment if you do happen to have herpes. Remember that it’s important to avoid sexual activity (including vaginal sex, anal sex and oral sex) if symptoms are present. And it’s always a good idea to practice safer sex ⎼ even when you don’t have active sores. Why? The virus that causes herpes can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact even when symptoms aren’t present.  

To learn more about safer sex and herpes testing, turn to our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.

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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