Anonymous on October 21, 2011

What is the test for herpes?

I’m curious about the test for herpes. What is it? Is there more than one option?


answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on October 21, 2011

Thanks for your question. I’m happy to help you learn more about the tests available for herpes. Actually, there are two kinds of tests you could take depending on your symptoms...

Do you currently have symptoms or signs of herpes? For example, a cold sore on your mouth, or small blisters or sores on your genitals? If so, you may want to see your doctor for a swab test (also called a viral culture). For the most accurate results, a swab test has to be done while symptoms are still present ⎼ usually within the first few days. Once the sores begin to heal, accuracy decreases. 

If you don’t currently have signs or symptoms of herpes, but you think you might have been exposed to the virus, you may want to consider taking the type-specific herpes antibody test (often referred to as HSV 1/2 IgG). This is a blood test that looks for antibodies to the two strains of the herpes virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2) that can cause oral herpes and genital herpes. This test is very safe and effective, and it’s recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

If it turns out that you’re positive for herpes, you’re not alone. According to the CDC, herpes is one of the most common and contagious sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States. The good news is, there are effective treatments available to help manage herpes outbreaks and reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others. 

You can learn more about tests for herpes in our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2. Thanks again for writing, and I wish you the best of health.

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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