Anonymous on November 2, 2011

What is a herpes test?

What is a herpes test? Is it a blood test? What else do I need to know about it? 

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on November 2, 2011

Thanks so much for sharing your question with us. I’m glad you’re taking the time to find out the facts about herpes testing.

First, if you have active signs or symptoms of herpes ⎼ for example, red bumps, blisters or sores on the genitals ⎼ a doctor can do a swab test.

If you don’t have obvious herpes symptoms, but you’re concerned that you may have been exposed to the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend a Herpes Simplex Virus Type-Specific HSV-1/2 IgG blood test. This test screens for both herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) antibodies.

All you need to provide for our test is a blood sample...unlike the swab test, there’s no need for a physical exam, and you don’t have to get undressed. You can learn more about herpes testing on our website.

Just so you know, many people already have oral HSV-1 infections, which typically result in cold sores or so-called “fever blisters” in the mouth area. But if it turns out that you’re positive for HSV-2, it’s likely that you have genital herpes. And if so, it’s important that you tell any of your partners about your infection and use protection during sexual activity.

I would also encourage you to speak with a doctor about treatment that reduces herpes outbreaks and decreases your likelihood of transmitting the virus to sexual partners.

Thanks again for writing to us, and I wish you good health.

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.

Related Q&A's

I know I was exposed to the herpes virus. When should I get tested?
Can I pass genital herpes to a partner when I don’t have an outbreak?
What symptoms are common for STD infections and how can you tell if you have an STD?