Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Genital Herpes Health Center

Select An Article

Tests to Diagnose Genital Herpes

    Font Size

    Genital herpes is a common STD; however, many people who have this sexually transmitted disease don't know they have it. Genital herpes frequently has no symptoms, so you can be infected and contagious without knowing it. When symptoms do occur, they can easily be mistaken for something else. Without adequate testing you may be told you are infected with genital herpes and not be, or the other way around.

    If you have sores on your genitals, your health care provider can perform tests to determine if you have genital herpes.

    Recommended Related to Genital Herpes

    Genital Herpes and Your Sex Life

    You can have a fulfilling sex life if you have genital herpes, even though it may be more complicated than it was before your diagnosis. Now, you must be careful about what you do and when you do it. Avoid these sexual activities when you have sores on your genitals, or when you feel a herpes outbreak coming on: Vaginal sex Anal sex Receiving oral sex (fellatio, cunnilingus, and analingus) Between outbreaks, it's OK to have sex, as long as your partner understands and accepts...

    Read the Genital Herpes and Your Sex Life article > >

    Genital Herpes Tests

    Tests used to diagnose or screen for genital herpes include:

    • PCR blood test: The PCR blood test can tell if you have genital herpes even if you don't have symptoms. The PCR test looks for pieces of the virus's DNA. This is the most common test used to diagnose genital herpes and is very accurate.
    • Cell culture: During the exam, your health care provider can take a sample of cells from a sore and look for the herpes simplex virus (HSV) under a microscope.

    Cell culture or PCR test may give a false-negative result if the sores have begun healing or if you are recently infected. It takes several weeks for HSV antibodies to show up in the blood. A false-negative test shows you don't have the condition when in fact you do. False-positive test results are possible, too. If you test positive, but your risk for getting the virus is low, you may need to be tested again.

    PCR and cell culture tests show that you have been exposed to the virus at some point. It is difficult to tell from these tests when the exposure may have occurred. You may have had HSV for many years before you have your first noticeable outbreak. Or you may have never had an outbreak but still may be contagious to a sexual partner.

    Other Genital Herpes Tests

    Antibody tests are also used to diagnose genital herpes. Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system in response to an infection. With direct fluorescent antibody testing, a solution containing HSV antibodies and a fluorescent dye is added to the sample of cells. If the virus is present in the sample, the antibodies stick to it and glow when viewed under a special microscope.

    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    STD Overview
    BHC Healthy Sex Life
    things your guy wish you knew slideshow
    Sex Drive Killers 03
    Genital Herpes Risks Quiz
    Young couple holding hands
    Hepatitis Prevent 10
    Herpes Vaccine Study
    Daughter Development Evaluator
    HPV Vaccine Future
    STD Facts Quiz
    mother and daughter talking

    WebMD Special Sections