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How to test for herpes

Medically reviewed by William Ross Perlman, PhD, CMPP on December 14, 2019. Written by Kathryn Wall. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

If you think you’ve possibly been exposed to herpes or are experiencing symptoms you think could be related, don’t fret. You’re not alone, and we’re here to help. The first place to start is knowing your STI status.

You’re most likely wondering what herpes is and how to test for it. There are two types of herpes [1]: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).

HSV-1 causes common cold sores and chancres at or around the mouth, and it’s also commonly known as oral herpes. HSV-2 occurs more often at or near the genitals and is more commonly referred to as genital herpes. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be spread through close personal contact, such as kissing or sexual intercourse.

Fortunately, you can take a genital herpes test to help determine whether you’re infected. With the Everlywell STD Test for women or STD Test for men, you can test from the privacy of your own home.

Signs and symptoms of herpes

Oral herpes is an infection in the mouth, caused by HSV-1 [2]. Symptoms often include cold sores or fever blisters, but you can have oral herpes without any symptoms.

The virus can be dormant until an active outbreak occurs. The initial infection typically has the worst symptoms, ranging from flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes to headaches. Sores may occur in and around the lips and mouth. Recurring infections are usually milder, and may include redness, itching, or swelling. Painful, fluid-filled blisters can occur and are highly contagious. These blisters often turn into sores, which will then scab over and typically heal in a few days.

Symptoms of genital herpes range from none to more severe manifestations [3]. The usual course begins with genital inflammation, where the skin may itch or burn. Blister-like sores may appear. The sores may open, scab over, and heal.

Other indirect symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle aches, and a burning sensation during urination.

Testing for HSV-2 is easy with the Everlywell female STD Test or male STD Test. Genital herpes virus infections are highly contagious and spread through sexual contact. The first outbreak of herpes can last several weeks. The virus then typically becomes inactive, but outbreaks may continue in the future.

How to test for herpes

If you would like an easy at-home option to test for HSV-2, try the Everlywell home STD Test for women or the STD Test for men.

If you suspect you have herpes, the first thing you should do is contact your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can examine your blisters or sores to check for herpes.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a genital herpes test if you have symptoms of herpes or a sexual partner who has genital herpes [4]. Because not everyone shows symptoms, the herpes blood test is a great option if you suspect you have been infected.

Common questions

How do healthcare providers test for herpes?

Healthcare providers will examine the location and severity of any active blisters or sores. They may take a tissue sample of the sores to send to a laboratory for examination. A blood test for antibodies to the herpes virus can also determine if you have been exposed to the virus at some point.

How do you test for genital herpes?

Genital herpes is diagnosed through examination by a medical professional and a blood test. If you suspect you have herpes, you can test for HSV-2 from the convenience of home with the Everlywell STD Test – Female or STD Test – Male.