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You Really Need to Know
STD testing is one of those responsibilities in life, like taxes are car insurance. You know you should do it but the fear of finding out bad news can be difficult. Well, we are glad you are here, taking a responsible step in knowing and possibly preventing something bad from happening to someone else. Getting tested for an STD doesn't have to be difficult. There are plenty of local STD testing centers standing by to help you take control and empower you to live a healthy lifestyle.
What Is Herpes?
The truth is, almost everyone has had at least one type of herpes in their lifetime. That is because herpes is categorized into two types of viruses: Herpes Simplex 1 and Herpes Simplex 2. Herpes Simplex 1 is more commonly known as a cold sore or a fever blister and can be transmitted through direct oral contact such as kissing or sharing eating utensils. Herpes Simplex 2 (otherwise known as genital herpes) is the strain of viruses that most people are thinking about when they talk about herpes and is spread through unprotected sexual contact with someone who has genital herpes.
A common misperception regarding sexually transmitted infections such as genital herpes is that they are caused by having unprotected sex with multiple partners, but it is important to remember that it only takes one encounter with someone who has herpes to contract the virus. That is why one key factor in preventing herpes is making sure you know the status of any intimate partner, as you have zero chance of contracting herpes from a partner who does not have herpes. Using condoms and taking anti-viral medication can also greatly reduce your chances of contracting an infection.
While rare, it is also technically possible for someone with a cold sore to spread the infection to their partner via oral sex, so if you have a cold sore you should use a condom or dental dam until the outbreak clears up. You should also be aware that while experiencing an outbreak greatly increases your chances of passing genital herpes on to your partner, it is still possible to pass it on even when the infection is dormant. You can learn more about risk factors for contracting herpes by following this link: https://stdtestingfacilities.com/std-risk-calculator-chances-getting-herpes/
Symptoms of Herpes
Both herpes Simplex 1 and 2 are characterized by outbreaks of blisters which give way to painful sores. These outbreaks alternate between dormant periods in which you experience no symptoms, but you still have the virus even if you are experiencing no symptoms at the moment. The blisters caused by Herpes Simplex 1 tend to remain around the mouth, while genital herpes (as the name implies) tends to affect the genitals and anus.
Although you can’t always control outbreaks, some factors can greatly increase your chances of experiencing one. These include factors that weaken your immune system such as illness, sleep deprivation, AIDS, and chemotherapy. Other factors include stress, menstruation, and certain medications. Living a healthy lifestyle and taking certain medications can help reduce the occurrence of outbreaks.
Those with genital herpes can also experience discharge from the genitals, painful and burning sensations, and difficulty urinating. Everyone’s experience during an outbreak is different—for some it can be mildly painful and for others the pain is excruciating. Generally, however, the first few outbreaks are the most painful and the most frequent. With time, outbreaks naturally become less painful and less frequent.
Fortunately, even though there is no cure for herpes, there are options for managing the symptoms. Taking a warm bath is a natural remedy to minimize pain, though if that doesn’t completely manage the symptoms a doctor can prescribe medication.
It should be noted, however, that some can have herpes and never experience symptoms at all. This is why it is important for you to get tested even if you or your partner have never experienced an outbreak.
Testing for Herpes
The easiest way to diagnose herpes is visually through the presence of an outbreak. The patient describes their symptoms to their doctor and undergoes a physical exam. To confirm the visual diagnosis, a doctor can take a cell culture from an open sore and look at it under a microscope to check for the herpes simplex virus. The limits of a cell culture are you can’t be tested if you aren’t experiencing an outbreak and a healing sore might not reveal the virus which can result in a false negative. The most accurate method for testing for herpes is for a doctor to perform a blood test.
Herpes Blood Test
The most common and accurate test for genital herpes is a blood test called the PCR blood test. The best part about the PCR blood test is that not only is it extremely accurate, it also can be used whether or not a person is experiencing symptoms. One drawback is it can take time for herpes simplex antibodies to show up in the blood (up to several weeks after exposure), which is why it is important to get tested regularly. It also can’t tell a person how recently they were exposed.
How Much Is a Herpes Test
Although some insurance plans cover STI testing, many prefer to pay for testing out of pocket. The price will depend on the clinic and whether you are doing the test in conjunction with other tests, but expect to pay a minimum of $50 for just a herpes test.
If you are sexually active, it is your social responsibility to learn as much as you can about STIs and get yourself tested regularly. That includes educating yourself about herpes and deciding which herpes test is right for you, even if you have never had symptoms. To gauge your risk of herpes, try our FREE STD Risk Calculator.