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Genital Herpes Health Center

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Tests to Diagnose Genital Herpes

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    Antibody tests can tell the difference between the two types of HSV. It's important to know which type you have. If you're infected with type 2 (HSV-2), you may have outbreaks more often than you would with type 1 (HSV-1), which refers to cold sores that appear on the lips and around the mouth. What's more, knowing which type you have gives a clue as to how you were infected. HSV-1 usually infects the genitals through oral sex, and HSV-2 usually is passed on during vaginal or anal sex.

    Unfortunately, an antibody test (usually done on blood samples) only tests whether you have been exposed or ever had herpes virus. It is helpful, but does not diagnose a specific outbreak.

    New tests on the horizon include one that can detect HSV in saliva, tears, and urine.

    Before you visit your health provider to be tested for genital herpes, first read Preparing for Your Doctor Visit. To get the most out of your exam, print and take along 10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor.

    If you are diagnosed with herpes, you have many decisions to make. Do you want to take medication? Which one? Should you take medicine every day or only when you have symptoms? To better understand your choices, see Treatment Options and this helpful chart, Medications Chart.

    For more information and help understanding words you may hear about genital herpes, see Resources and the Glossary.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on September 07, 2014
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