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Herpes Testing

Getting tested for herpes is the only way to know if you have this sexually transmitted infection (STI). The earlier you know if you have herpes, the earlier you can seek treatment and take the necessary steps to stay healthy.

Herpes testing is available in a wide range of healthcare settings, including urgent care centers, walk-in clinics, and hospitals. If you need a herpes test, Solv can help you locate the top-rated test providers in your area so you can make an appointment at your earliest convenience.

Who should get a herpes test?

Anyone who has symptoms of herpes should get a herpes test. The CDC does not recommend getting a herpes test if you are not experiencing symptoms, reports the National Library of Medicine (NLM). However, you may need a herpes test if you meet other risk factors for this STI.

According to the NLM, you may need a herpes test if you:

  • Have symptoms of herpes, such as sores or blisters on the genitals.
  • Have a sex partner with herpes.
  • Are pregnant and either you or your partner have had herpes in the past.
  • Meet risk factors for other STIs, such as having multiple sex partners or being a male who has sex with males.
  • Have symptoms of a brain or spinal cord disorder, such as fever, confusion, or severe headaches.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re unsure whether you may benefit from a herpes test. Your provider can talk to you in greater detail about your risk factors and make a recommendation based on your lifestyle and medical history.

How to get a herpes test

Herpes testing is available in many healthcare settings, including at your doctor’s office, a community health clinic, or your local health department, reports Planned Parenthood. It is also available at walk-in labs, urgent care centers, walk-in clinics, and hospitals.

If you want a herpes test, visit one of the locations mentioned above, or ask your healthcare provider if it offers this service. If it doesn’t, ask your provider for a referral to a clinic providing a herpes test, or use Solv to read reviews of testing providers in your area.

At-home herpes test kits are also available to purchase online and at pharmacies if you prefer to take this test in the privacy and comfort of your home.

What to expect during a herpes test

The herpes test can be done as a swab test, blood test, or spinal tap—also known as a lumbar puncture, says the NLM. It adds that the type of herpes test you get often depends on your symptoms and medical history.

During a swab test, your provider will use a swab to collect cells and fluid from a herpes sore.

During a blood test, your provider will use a fine needle to draw a small sample of blood from a vein in your arm. A herpes blood test usually takes under five minutes to perform, reports the NLM.

On very rare occasions, a spinal tap is needed to make the diagnosis. A herpes spinal tap is usually only performed if your healthcare provider thinks you may have an infection in your brain or spinal cord, notes the NLM. During this simple outpatient procedure, you will lie or sit on an exam table. Your provider will inject a local anesthetic into your back so you will not feel pain during the spinal tap. Then, your provider will insert a thin, hollow needle between the vertebrae in your spine and withdraw a small amount of spinal fluid. The NLM adds that a spinal tap usually takes about five minutes to perform.

After your sample is collected, the healthcare worker will send it to a lab for further evaluation. Test results are usually ready within a few hours to several days. Your healthcare provider can talk to you more about what to expect during a herpes test based on the type of test you are having.

How to prepare for a herpes test

No preparation is required for a swab or blood herpes test, reports the NLM. However, it adds that if you are having a spinal tap, you may be asked to empty your bladder and bowels beforehand. Your provider may give you any additional instructions regarding how to prepare for your herpes test if you are getting a spinal tap.

Testing positive for herpes

Positive herpes results are also commonly referred to as abnormal results, says the NLM. If your results come back positive, it means the herpes virus was found in your sample. It could also mean that you have an active infection, or were infected with herpes at some point in the past.

Contact your healthcare provider right away if you test positive for herpes. According to the NLM, there is no cure for herpes, but it rarely causes serious health problems. In some instances, your provider may prescribe medications that can help you prevent outbreaks or blisters. Some medications can also help you manage your symptoms.

Planned Parenthood suggests treating herpes outbreaks by taking a warm bath, wearing soft and loose clothing, and keeping your genitals dry. It also recommends treating your herpes sores with an ice pack and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

Planned Parenthood notes that factors that may cause herpes outbreaks include surgery, sex, sunburn, and menstruation. Planned Parenthood says other infections, skin irritations, and stress may also contribute to outbreaks. If possible, try to avoid behaviors that may cause outbreaks. Steps you can take to prevent herpes outbreaks include managing stress, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of quality sleep.

If you have herpes and do not seek treatment, you may continue to experience frequent outbreaks. Planned Parenthood adds that herpes can make it easier for you to get HIV due to the way herpes sores give HIV the opportunity to enter your body. It recommends always using condoms to prevent the spread of both HIV and herpes if you have this STI.

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