Genital herpes frequently does not have symptoms, or symptoms may be mistaken for something else. Genital herpes also can be passed to others without knowing it, if you are infected or contagious.
Testing seems like it would be straightforward to do, but there are many things you should know before you decide to be tested.
First, it is important to know that even if you have an active herpes lesion swabbed and cultured, it may come back falsely negative. False negatives occur because the lesion may be too small or already in the process of healing.
It is best to test blistered lesions in the first 48-72 hours after they appear.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is another type of viral test can be performed on fluid swabs from active lesions, with more accuracy than viral cultures.
PCR testing can detect DNA from the herpes virus and can also differentiate between HSV-1 (oral herpes type 1) and HSV-2 (genital herpes type 2). HSV stands for herpes simplex virus.
Though PCR fluid testing is only recommended by the CDC to test cerebral spinal fluid to rule out herpes encephalitis, labs often use PCR testing to test other herpes samples since it has more accuracy, stated University of Maryland Medical Center.
Blood tests can be done when a person does not have active symptoms. One type of blood test does not test for the herpes virus but will measure whether or not you have developed antibodies to HSV-1 and HSV-2.
According to Dr. Jennifer Gunter, OB-GYN and Pain Medicine physician, “there is only one reliable and commercially available type of blood test for herpes antibodies called a Type Specific IgG”.
Do not allow anyone to test you for IgM to detect herpes. IgM may elevate at the beginning of an exposure but it is highly unreliable and cannot differentiate between types of herpes.
Gunter stated that the IgG test can reliably tell the difference between HSV-1 and HSV-2. However, it takes three to six months to develop these antibodies so you must wait that amount of time in order to get an accurate test.