A herpes blood test is not considered to be a general screening test because false positive results are a possibility. Genital herpes is a fairly common sexually transmitted disease, so if you’re concerned about an infection of the HSV-1 or HSV2 virus, it is important to discuss your sexual history with your doctor to determine if this blood test is right for you.
There are a lot of questions about the herpes blood test, so this guide is intended to help everyone understand why the recommendations for testing are designed as they are today.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Receive a Herpes Blood Test?
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 may be common infections today, but a majority of people who actually have this infection will not experience any symptoms. Disease control agencies, such as the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] do not recommend herpes testing for anyone without symptoms. There is evidence that diagnosing someone without symptoms does not change their sexual behavior.
When discussing your sexual habits with your doctor, it is more effective to determine if you should be tested for any or all STDs instead. This would include a herpes blood test at this point.
If there are bothersome signs and symptoms of a herpes outbreak, then the herpes blood test may be able to provide useful information. You’ll want to consider requesting this blood test if any one of these three sexual health issues would describe your current situation.
- You are currently experiencing genital symptoms that you believe could be related to herpes.
- You are currently having sex or have had a sexual partner in the past who you know had genital herpes.
- You have had multiple sexual partners in the recent past and you want to have a complete STD exam.
Why Is Testing Recommended Only In These Areas?
When a herpes “outbreak” occurs, the blistering and rawness that appears around the genitals, rectum, or mouth can be very painful. The sores which appear when an outbreak occurs can take weeks to heal properly. The herpes blood test can provide your medical provider with information about what can be expected in the future. This would include what medications would be necessary to control symptoms and how you could lower the risks of spreading the infection to a partner.
If you know that you have or had a sexual partner with genital herpes, this testing can tell if you also have the virus. For women who are pregnant, this blood test is very important because the fetus can become infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2 if the mother is infected. This can place the pregnancy at risk and in babies, a herpes infection can even be fatal.
Do I Have To Specifically Ask For a Herpes Blood Test?
You may need to speak with your medical provider if you want the herpes blood test. Even if you ask for all of the recommended testing for STDs, the blood test for herpes may not be included. This is because the local risk factors for infection and behavioral habits will determine if a doctor feels this test is necessary.
STD testing is generally performed on infections which have a serious outcome to the individual involved if the infection is not addressed. Since genital herpes does not cause serious consequences or outcomes for non-pregnant individuals, the testing may not even be ordered. If you are worried about this infection, however, you should speak to your doctor about your risks, your symptoms, and whatever treatment may be necessary.
Herpes is not considered a notifiable disease in the United States either, which means there is no specific data collected about this STD.
What Can I Do About Genital Herpes?
So here’s the good news: herpes is rarely a serious health issue. Although there can be a negative stigma associated with those who have an outbreak and the blistering sores may change sexual habits, a majority of those infected have no symptoms at all.
If you do request a herpes blood test, ask if your doctor is going to be performing a type-specific test. These blood tests tend to be more reliable.
Should the blood test come back as positive, how your treatment plan develops will depend on other health conditions that may be affecting you. Suppressive therapies and other medication may be ordered, but in some patients, careful watching and waiting may be the best solution. If suppressive therapies are ordered, this will mean taking a drug every day that you’ll have to pay for.
Genital herpes can be detected with a herpes blood test. If no symptoms are being experienced, your doctor may wish to hold off on testing to avoid a false positive. And, if you’re concerned about your sexual health for any reason, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.