Herpes is a virus, and it comes in two main strains: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Herpes can be either genital or oral, and while an STD, most people don’t know that shingles and chicken pox are both diseases that are caused herpes strains.
Herpes will infect the mucous membranes and skin.
What is HSV1?
HSV-1 is a form of herpes that spreads virally and lives in your nerve cells. This strain of herpes will cause a person to break out in blisters that form around or on the mouth. If a person starts to experience cold sores or fever blisters on or near the mouth, this is oral herpes.
Herpes, or HSV-1 more precisely, can be transmitted even when no signs or symptoms are present.
This is caused by a process called shedding.
Shedding occurs when:
- Active, herpes-infected cells are present
- Cells fall off the body or shed off the skin
Oral herpes is easily transmitted, and transmission can occur through:
- Sharing drinks
It’s very easy to spread oral herpes to another person, and a person can also contract oral herpes through oral sex. HSV-1 can also be spread through intercourse or through:
- Fluid from sores or blisters
- Vaginal fluid
Herpes spreads through your cells. The virus first enters your cells and then begins to invade your body.
Many people don’t know they are infected with the herpes virus because it typically doesn’t produce any symptoms. The only time symptoms will present is when the virus causes sores or blisters.
For sores or blisters to occur, the infected host cell must be destroyed.
Herpes HSV-1 is an interesting STD because it will start to cause sores or blisters, which will then scab once all of the fluid has been absorbed. The virus will then go into the dorsal root ganglia and will become inactive. The virus can become active again at any time. When this happens, it’s called “an outbreak.”
When the virus goes into an inactive state, it will remain inactive for an undefined amount of time before reactivating randomly.
Approximately 33% – 50% of people will undergo shedding and show no symptoms of it occurring.
What is HSV2?
The HSV-2 strain is also a viral sexually transmitted disease, and this form of herpes will result in sores, too. The difference is that the sores and lesions that present will be found in three main areas:
- Upper thighs
When a person has either strain of herpes in the genital area, it’s considered genital herpes. While both strains can cause genital herpes, HSV-2 is the leading cause of genital herpes. Doctors are seeing a rising number of HSV-1 cases causing genital herpes in recent years, too.
This STD is contracted via:
- Vaginal fluid
Oral sex can transmit HSV-2. The person receiving oral sex can get the viral disease from someone that has oral herpes.
The virus will also not present any symptoms initially, but as the host cell is destroyed during replication, blisters and sores will appear. The virus is very similar to HSV-1 and will go dormant and reactivate at random.
Genital herpes is easy to spread, and while the infection is easier to transmit when active, HSV-2 can also be transmitted when there are no symptoms present. Those who do experience symptoms during the initial outbreak will have less severe symptoms during recurring outbreaks.
What’s the Difference Between HSV-1 and HSV-2?
Herpes strains seem rather similar in nature and symptoms based off of their description, but they are different. The difference, while not a visual one, is in the genetic makeup of the strain of herpes.
Surface proteins vary from HSV-1 and HSV-2, and a herpes blood test can help you determine which strain of herpes you have contracted.
If you want to protect yourself from herpes and a variety of other sexually transmitted diseases, the process is rather standard:
- Get tested often
- Ask partners to get tested
- Wear condoms during intercourse
The problem with condoms is that they might not cover the entire area of the infection. Since the area is not covered, this will lead to the possibility of the infection spreading. Wearing a condom can help lower the risk of the disease spreading, but you can also get herpes through:
- Skin contact
- Fluid contact
Fluids from a sore can transfer the virus to other parts of your own body, too. Some sufferers will even get herpes in their eyes. Herpes can cause meningitis or encephalitis in some circumstances.
Oral sex can lead to the transmission of herpes if the person either has open sores on the vaginal area or if the giver of oral sex has open sores. Herpes is not a curable disease, but with the right medication and recommendations, you can have a fairly normal sex life and will be able to manage your symptoms effectively.
Pregnancy and Herpes Information
Pregnant women need to be concerned and cautious about contracting or managing sexually transmitted diseases while pregnant. Oral herpes is not a concern, but there are some reports of oral herpes possibly causing pregnancy complications.
Genital herpes is a very big concern, and it can be very dangerous for the child during childbirth.
An active infection can be transmitted from the mother to the child during birth. Babies that contract herpes during the birthing process can get herpes in/on the:
- Central nervous system
Herpes can also spread to the child’s internal organs in severe cases. It’s always advised that you consult with your physician and explain that you have herpes. You will not be allowed to have a vaginal birth in an effort to ensure your baby is safe. A C-section will be performed instead.
Doctors will also supply you with antiviral medication during pregnancy to treat your lesions.
Women who have their first genital herpes infection during late pregnancy have a 30% to 50% risk of transmitting the disease to their child. Recurring outbreaks during pregnancy have a lower risk of transmission at 2% to 5%.
C-section deliveries will not transmit herpes. Breastfeeding is considered safe, but if a person has lesions or sores on the breast, there is a risk of transmission.
How Do You Test for Herpes?
If you believe that you have herpes, you’ll need to get tested. A test will allow you to confidently know if you have herpes and seek management options to stop the spread of the disease.
Herpes Testing 101
Herpes testing can be done at home, or you can choose to go to the doctor and have a test conducted in person. The choice is yours, but most people choose to get tested in the comfort of their home.
Herpes is a widespread disease, with the CDC stating:.
- 776,000 people get new herpes infections every year.
- 7% of people between the ages of 14 and 49 have HSV-2.
- HSV-1 cases involving genital herpes is on the rise.
- HSV-2 infections infect 20.3% of women compared to 10.6% of men between ages 14 and 49.
- Estimates suggest 87.4% of people aged 14 to 49 have undiagnosed HSV-2.
Herpes is a widespread disease, and the viral nature of the disease means it will continue spreading like wildfire unless sexually active people are more responsible. Testing is the best way to take action against herpes and put an end to the spread of the disease.
Herpes testing at the doctor will often include:
- The doctor taking a sample of the sore
- Testing the sore for herpes
Doctors may also decide to conduct a herpes blood test, which will look for antibodies in the body that are created when herpes is present.
Antibodies will always remain present in a person’s body whether or not the herpes virus is active at the time of testing. Tests can be administered at any time.
Testing methods for HSV-1 and HSV-2 may include:
- DFA: Direct fluorescent antibody is a microscopic examination of the cells.
- IgG: Immunoblot testing is blood testing that checks for antibodies that the body creates when the herpes virus is present.
- ELVIS: The culture and typing test looks for enzymes in the body using immunofluorescent staining. This can be done through biopsy material, vaginal swabs, throat swab and lesions vesicular fluid.
- Culture without Typing: A test where a culture is taken, but the type of herpes is not the focal point of the test.
- CLIA: Chemiluminescent immunoassay detects IgG antibodies to detect and determine the type of herpes a person has contracted.
- PCR: A PCE blood test, also called DNA Polymerase Chain Reaction, is a single test that will detect HSV DNA and will also detect the type of herpes present.
Herpes blood test accuracy is 99%. Once a person has become infected, the antibodies will forever remain in the body. This means that a person can get tested for herpes, even when they don’t have an outbreak, and the test will be able to detect the virus.
Blood tests are the easiest way to get accurate results.
IgG is the best option for diagnosing herpes simplex 1 and 2. A person can also be infected with both strains of herpes at once.
If you’re sexually active, you should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. A baseline test will ensure that you have the treatment needed to manage the disease. You’ll also be able to reduce the risk of transmission if you know that you have the disease.
Herpes symptoms will be different for HSV-1 and HSV-2, although the symptoms are rather similar. The signs and symptoms are:
Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1)
A person with HSV-1 will have oral herpes in many cases, but the CDC warns that HSV-1 is becoming more common in genital herpes, too. The symptoms of HSV-1 will include:
- Tingling or itching prior to blisters or sores forming
- Sores or fluid-filled blisters
- Blisters or sores around the lips and mouth
- Blisters on the face
- Blisters on the tongue
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
While less common, a person may also get sores or blisters on their nose, fingers, eyelids or even on the eyeballs.
Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2)
A person with HSV-2 will have genital herpes, and this can cause infections in the pelvis, vagina and penis. The symptoms or signs are for vaginal and pelvic infections are:
- Pain when urinating
- Flu-like symptoms
- Body aches
- Sores in or around the vagina or urethra
- Bleeding when not on your period
- Bladder infection
- General genital discomfort
Penile infections will present the following symptoms:
- Painful urination
- Swelling or the groin nodes
- Flu-like symptoms
- Sores on or around the penis
If you have any of these symptoms, you should order an at-home test to get tested as soon as possible.
A lot of people have herpes and don’t know it. The person may never experience any signs or symptoms of the virus. The good news is that testing will be able to detect the herpes virus whether or not you have any symptoms present.
Herpes Test Results Range and Interpretation
Herpes testing is very accurate, and while a herpes test can detect the virus with ease, it’s best to wait 4 – 6 weeks after exposure to allow antibodies to build in the body. Since blood tests will try to detect antibodies created by the body when HSV is present, the antibodies need to build up to levels high enough for detection to occur.
Test result ranges and interpretation are straightforward. HSV-2 tests will fall within the following ranges:
- Tests that are 0.91 or below are negative
- Tests that are 1.09 or above are positive
There’s always a risk of a false-positive result occurring, but tests are 99% accurate – so the risk is slim.
A herpes test is rather common, and while you cannot cure the virus, you can manage the virus with medication and control your outbreaks. You’ll often be given antiviral medications that will help control your outbreaks and reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to your partner.
Safe sex is a must to lower your risk or receiving and spreading the virus to others.
How to Test for Herpes from Home
Choosing to take a herpes test is a responsible measure for every sexually active individual. Testing is often the only way a person with herpes simplex virus knows that they have the virus active in their body.
Otherwise, the person may never know that they have herpes – a lot of people never get symptoms.
When you choose at-home herpes testing, you’ll need:
- 5 minutes of your time
- A small blood sample
At-home kits are a quick and easy to get tested in the comfort of your home. There are two main options that we recommend:
- Lab Based: A lab-based test will involve you going to a lab and getting tested. The results are faster, and this method can be done with the utmost privacy. You’ll do everything online and you won’t even need to divulge your name. This method allows for lower chances of mistakes occurring in the initial stages of the testing process.
- At-home: We do recommend a true at-home test that allows you to take the herpes test at-home and send the sample back to a lab. This method will take longer to get your results, but you never have to leave your home to get the results aside from going to the mailbox.
Which option is the best for you? It depends.
Lab based tests go through a professional doctor that will collect the sample and send it off to the lab to be tested. At-home options, when they’re true at-home options, will be sent to the lab directly by you. You will be required to provide a blood sample.
Testing results are all checked within a professional lab meeting government standards.
All test will come back with full results and instructions on what to do if you’ve tested positive for herpes. Physician consultations are provided with both of the tests we offer. Free prescriptions are also provided to help you manage the symptoms of herpes.
Blood test results are 99% accurate.
If a test is negative and you’re confident that you’re infected, you should wait 4 – 6 weeks to get tested again to allow the antibodies to build up in the body.
A person who is sexually active should be tested for herpes every 3 months on average.