I’m wondering how to test for herpes.
A guy I slept with a while ago just told me he has genital herpes. Does that mean I have it too? Can you tell me how to test for herpes?
Lisa Oldson, MD on November 10, 2011
Thanks for asking this important question about herpes transmission and herpes testing. When you find out a past sexual partner has a sexually transmitted disease (STD) like herpes, it can be scary.
The good news is, herpes is not life threatening in adults and it can typically be managed successfully with medications.
How can you know for sure if you have herpes? The majority of people with genital herpes don’t notice signs or symptoms of infection. That means the only sure way to find out if you’ve been infected with the herpes virus is to get tested. If you do happen to have any genital herpes signs ⎼ like small blisters or sores in the genital area ⎼ it’s a good idea to visit a doctor for a swab test.
If you no longer have signs of infection, or you’ve never experienced signs or symptoms, you can get tested with a herpes antibody test. We offer the Herpes Simplex Virus Type-Specific HSV-1/2 IgG blood test which is the recommended herpes antibody test by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a blood test that looks for antibodies to herpes 1 (HSV-1) and herpes 2 (HSV-2) which can cause oral herpes and genital herpes.
When you take this test, we’ll help you find a convenient lab near you where you can walk-in and provide a blood sample on your schedule. A few days later, when your test results are ready, you’ll be able to access it through a private and secure online portal.
Getting tested is easy, but it’s also important to get tested at the right time for more accurate results. A herpes antibody test works best if you wait at least four weeks after you may have been exposed to the virus. This gives your body time enough to develop antibodies to herpes and increases your chances for an accurate result. If you’ve had contact with your previous partner more recently, wait a few weeks before you go in for your blood test (but you can still arrange for testing today).
What if your test results indicate that you do have herpes? First, don’t fret. As I mentioned before, herpes doesn’t threaten your life, and won’t cause infertility...although it can be an annoyance. Luckily, medications can help ease any annoying symptoms and (along with condoms) can even help reduce the risk of passing herpes to a sexual partner. This is important, so be sure to talk to your doctor about what herpes treatment is right for you.
I hope this helped clear up some of your questions about herpes testing. If you’re interested in learning more, please visit our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.
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.