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Genital Herpes Health Center

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Herpes Tests

How It Feels

You are likely to feel some mild discomfort or pain when the sores are scraped to collect a sample for testing.

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.


If an antibody test is done, there is very little chance of problems from having a blood sample taken from a vein.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used several times a day to treat this.
  • Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.


Herpes tests are done to find the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Results for a rapid viral culture may take 2 to 3 days, while results for a standard culture can take up to 14 days. Antigen detection test results are ready in a day. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results are ready in 1 to 3 days. Results from an antibody blood test are ready in 2 days. The results from an antibody test called an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA, EIA) may be ready in about 2 hours.

Herpes tests

Normal results are called negative.

No HSV grows in the viral culture.

No viral antigens or DNA are found.

No herpes antibodies are present in the blood.


Abnormal results that show HSV are called positive.

HSV grows in the viral culture.

HSV antigens or DNA are found.

Antibodies to the herpes virus are present in the blood.

Samples taken from newly formed sores containing fluid (blisters) are generally better than samples collected from older, crusted sores.

A normal (negative) test result does not mean you do not have a herpes infection. If the first test is negative but you have symptoms of herpes, more tests may be done.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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