Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on October 18, 2011

What do the test results for herpes look like?

I’m getting tested for herpes and waiting for the results, but I have no idea what to look for when they come back. What do the test results for herpes look like? How will I know if I have herpes, or not?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on October 18, 2011

Thanks for your great question.

A herpes blood test screens for antibodies to the herpes simplex virus. If you get a type-specific herpes antibody IgG screening, the test will look for both types of herpes simplex virus ⎼ type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). 

According to the research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, close to 60% of adults are already infected with HSV-1 (the type of herpes infection that causes cold sores). On the other hand, most genital herpes infections are caused by HSV-2. But keep in mind that both strains of the herpes virus can be spread to either the mouth area or the genitals. 

On your test results for herpes, you’ll likely see a number value. If the value is less than 0.9, it indicates a negative result. A value between 0.9-1.1 is a result that’s unclear and will likely require a second test to confirm whether or not you have a virus (but this result is rare). A value higher than 1.1 indicates a positive result...but could still require additional testing to confirm. 

If a test indicates that you are positive for either HSV-1 or HSV-2, you can talk to your doctor about treatment. And if you’d like to learn more about herpes tests, as well as herpes risk factors, treatment and prevention, I encourage you to turn to our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2. 

Thanks for your question and I hope this information helps answer your concern about herpes test results.

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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