Tuesday, September 8, 2009


What is Herpes?

Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. There are 2 main types of Herpes: Type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Most oral herpes is caused by HSV-1 while most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. Both types can be found in and released from the sores that the virus causes. However, transmission can occur from an infected partner who does not have a visible sore and may not know that he or she is infected. Due to the increase of oral sex over the last several years, HSV-1 can cause genital herpes and HSV-2 can cause oral herpes.

What are Symptoms?

Most individuals have no or only minimal signs or symptoms from HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. When signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the mouth, lips, tongue, genitals or rectum. These blisters can be quite painful. The first outbreak usually occurs within two weeks after the virus is transmitted. The blisters break, leaving tender ulcers (sores) that may take up to two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur. Typically, another outbreak can appear a few weeks or months after the first, but it is almost always less severe and shorter than the first outbreak. People who are diagnosed during a first outbreak of HSV often have several more outbreaks in the first year. Although the virus stays in the body indefinitely, the number of outbreaks tends (tend) to decrease over time. Many individuals who have HSV outbreaks mistake the blisters for insect bites or other minor skin irritations, which is one reason why the virus is transmitted so frequently. Other signs and symptoms during the primary episode may include a second crop of sores and flu-like symptoms, including fever and swollen glands.


HSV infections can cause major complications for infants born to mothers with the virus. Therefore, if a woman has an active genital herpes infection at delivery, a cesarean delivery is usually performed. Herpes also plays a role in the spread of HIV. The skin is a barrier that protects us from contracting some infections. Since open sores on the body caused by herpes disrupt that barrier, people become more susceptible to infections such as HIV. An HIV-infected individual also becomes more infectious if he or she has an outbreak of herpes sores.


HSV infections can be diagnosed during and between outbreaks by the use of a blood test. Blood tests, which detect antibodies to HSV-1 and/or HSV-2 infection, can be helpful, although the results are not always definitive.

IgG Test

The Herpes 1&2 Type Specific IgG test is an ELISA antibody test that detects IgG antibodies specific to HSV-1 and/or HSV-2 infection. This test will tell you which type(s) of the herpes virus you have, if either. However, this test does not indicate the site of HSV infection, absent of any symptoms.

IgM Test

The Herpes Types I/II IgM Combination test is an ELISA antibody test that is a non-type specific herpes test and, therefore, cannot distinguish between herpes types. However, IgM levels can provide useful information about an acute event, new infection, or a recurring outbreak. The IgM antibody levels may be elevated every time the virus becomes active from its dormant state.