This test looks for which type of herpes simplex virus (HSV) is causing your infection.
HSV is a common virus that comes in two types: HSV1 and HSV2. Each type of HSV causes a number of health problems.
HSV1 is more common. It's carried in saliva and typically causes outbreaks of cold sores around the mouth.
HSV2 affects the genitals and is spread by sexual contact. HSV1 can cause genital outbreaks, too, often from oral sex. Herpes sores can also develop on the hands and buttocks, around the eyes, and across large areas of the body.
This test works better in people having a first outbreak of HSV rather than those with recurring infections.
You may need this test to find out whether you have a herpes infection. With outbreaks on the face, symptoms can include:
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Sores on the lips, tongue, face, palate, and gums
Genital HSV infections can cause:
Discharge from the urethra or vagina
You may also need this test if you have symptoms of meningitis, or inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain. HSV can also cause meningitis. Symptoms include:
Photophobia, or eye pain when looking at light
You may also need this test if you have symptoms of encephalitis, or brain inflammation. Symptoms include:
Difficulty thinking clearly
Changes in taste and smell
Your doctor may also order other tests to check for:
HSV DNA in sores
Antibodies against HSV in your blood
If your doctor suspects that your brain has been affected by the infection, he or she may order a viral DNA test of your cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid around your brain and spinal cord.
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.
Normal results are negative, meaning that no HSV was found in your sample. Positive results mean that HSV was found. The results may also show which type of HSV you have.
This test requires a sample of fluid from a herpes sore or from genital secretions. Your doctor will collect the sample by gently pressing a soft swab into one or more sores, or placing the swab on the tip of the penis or in the vagina.
You may feel discomfort when the doctor takes the sample from a sore.
Washing the sores with certain cleansers, including alcohol, may kill the virus and affect your results. If sores have started to heal, they may be less likely to have the virus.
You don't need to prepare for this test.