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What is Herpes?
Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease/infection (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Herpes is transmitted primarily by sexual contact, specifically sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, oral). There are two types of herpes; HSV 1 and HSV 2--each can lie dormant after the initial infection and can reactivate several times a year, especially if left untreated.
Types of Herpes
Two types of HSV infections can cause genital herpes.
HSV-1 is associated with oral herpes (cold sores) and is often spread through skin-to-skin contact. However, it can also spread to your genitals during oral sex.
HSV-2 is associated with genital herpes and typically causes genital herpes. This type is spread through sexual contact and skin-to-skin contact. HSV-2 is extremely contagious regardless if you have an open sore or not.
Causes of Herpes
Herpes is caused and spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone infected with herpes and can be spread even if the person infected shows no signs or symptoms. Anyone who has chosen to be sexually active can get herpes. Some people don’t develop symptoms until years after having sex with someone who’s infected, making it difficult to know when you were first infected.
You can also spread a herpes infection via genital warts to your baby while pregnant. Rarely, the infection can cause brain damage or blindness in the infant.
Can I get Herpes from a Toilet?
Because the virus dies so quickly outside the body, it’s almost impossible to contract the infection when you come into contact with a toilet seat. It is also unlikely that you can be infected by an object that was used by an infected person. For example, if you’re at the gym and sit on a workout bench that was first used by someone with herpes.
Symptoms of Herpes
Many people infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2 actually are completely unaware that they have it because they either aren’t showing symptoms or because their symptoms are mild. When symptoms are present, they can begin two to 12 days after being exposed to the infection.
Symptoms of Herpes can include:
Pain or itching in the genital area until the infection clears
Small red bumps or tiny white blisters that appear a few days after infection
Ulcers may form when blisters have ruptured, which may begin to ooze or bleed. Scabs can form as the ulcers heal.
Pain while urinating due to the ulcers
You may experience flu-like symptoms including swollen lymph nodes in your groin, headache, achy body, and fever.
When genital herpes or cold sores are present, it is normal to feel embarrassed, discomfort, or pain in the affected area, and it is recommended that you make an appointment with your doctor or seek medical advice from an online doctor if you’d rather not leave the comfort of your home.
Where are Herpes Sores Located?
Generally, sores will appear where the infection entered your body. You can spread the infection by touching a sore then touching or rubbing another area of your body or someone else’s body. This can also include your eyes.
Sores most commonly appear on:
Buttocks and thighs
Vagina or Cervix (in women)
Penis or scrotum (in men)
Treatment for Herpes
There are several treatment options for both HSV 1 and HSV 2, unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes. Treatment for herpes can include medication, home remedies, and there are now many companies that offer at-home lab-testing that will test for the presence of HSV1 and HSV2.
No medication can get rid of the herpes virus for good. However, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication such as Valtrex or Acyclovir that will prevent the virus from spreading to other areas of your body. With the advances in telemedicine, there are many digital clinics, such as Hers and Hims that can now diagnose and write you a prescription for these medications based on your medical history and symptoms. The best part of utilizing the online route is that you no longer need to wait in a doctor’s office with potentially sick people or go to a pharmacy to pick up your prescriptions. Once a licensed online doctor has deemed it a prescription appropriate, they will have it sent directly and discreetly to your doorstep.
If you’re not into taking prescription meds and are looking for a more homeopathic course of action, the following can possibly help to relieve symptoms of HSV.
Dab cornstarch onto the affected area
Apply aloe vera gel to sores
Take pain relievers, such as ibuprofen
Take a bath in slightly salty water
Use an ice pack on affected areas
Companies like LetsGetChecked offer you the ability to take an at-home test that will screen for herpes simplex virus antibodies from a blood sample that is collected via a finger prick.
These tests are affordable and convenient, allowing you to be in the comfort of your own home and not have to make an appointment and wait in your doctor's office.
Types of Herpes Tests
There are two ways to get a herpes test, including visiting a lab for a blood draw and ordering an at-home lab test. Both provide accurate results when it comes to detecting the presence of herpes. One you can simply take at home while the other requires an in-person lab appointment (and potentially a specialist referral).
At-Home Herpes Test
At-home tests are for both men and women and require a finger-prick blood sample. Simply collect the blood sample according to the instructions, mail your sample to the lab, and get the results in a few days.
Lab technicians measure each sample to determine if it contains the antibodies of HSV-1 and HSV-2.
Companies such as MyLAB Box and STDcheck evaluate your sample and will tell you whether or not you test positive for herpes types 1 or 2.
When you receive your results, you will be able to consult with one of the companies licensed medical professionals for next steps.
In-person Lab Test
Your doctor may recommend getting a lab test (especially if you are suffering from discomfort or painful sores). The lab will collect a blood sample and analyze it to detect both types of HSV.
Before heading to a lab, you’ll probably need to get a referral from your doctor. You’ll need to make an in-person appointment with your general practitioner or an appointment with an online doctor. After ruling out other conditions, your doctor will provide a referral to a local lab and testing site. Simply make an appointment at the labs, show up for your blood sample collection, and contact your doctor for your results.
How to Take an At-Home HPV Test
At-home testing kits require a bodily fluid sample, such as blood, urine, or spit. Most herpes tests ask for a blood sample, as this is most likely to give an accurate measurement.
How many at-home herpes tests work in three easy steps:
Order your kit online--it will be delivered directly to your doorstep a couple of days later
Collect your sample at home, then mail it to a certified lab for analysis
Get your results and actionable next steps
Where to Get an At-home Herpes Test
- MyLAB Box
- Health Testing Centers
Is Herpes Testing Secure?
Herpes testing is extremely secure. Companies like LetsGetChecked are HIPAA compliant and store data securely with bank-grade encryption software to ensure you’re the only one that knows about your diagnosis.
Companies do not sell, share, or exchange your information. Most companies do not label vials or samples with patient names — only barcodes and serial numbers.
If you suspect you have HSV, you should get tested as soon as possible. The sooner you know what’s causing your symptoms, the sooner you can start treatment. At-home test kit companies have made it very easy to get tested from the comfort of your own home.