Herpes simplex causes the herpes virus. There are two types of herpes simplex viruses, simplex 1 and simplex 2. Simplex 2 is genital herpes, which affects the area surrounding the genitals, the buttocks and the inner thighs. Simplex 1 is oral herpes, which effects the area outside of the mouth, around the lips and nose. In serious cases, herpes simplex 1 can spread to the eyes, in which case the patient should see a doctor as soon as possible. Both herpes simplex viruses are contagious through sexual contact and skin-to-skin contact. There are several ways that a doctor can test for both herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2. You can also test for the herpes simplex virus at home with kits you can order online.
Go to the doctor. Most doctors can determine if you have either herpes simplex 1 or 2 by looking at an active outbreak. Genital herpes sores often are open, oozing sores that are painful and sometimes slightly itchy to the touch. Oral herpes sores, known as cold sores, are crusty sores that are usually painful and swollen and, like genital herpes sores, can be filled with puss and ooze clear liquid.
Get a herpes culture. Your doctor can do a scraping of a herpes sore during an outbreak and send it to a lab to determine if you have the herpes simplex virus. This method can be used if you have an open sore that does not look characteristic of the herpes simplex virus, but your doctor wants to check just to be sure. Even if the test comes back negative, it does not mean that you do not have the herpes simplex virus. A blood test should be ordered if your doctor still suspects you have the herpes virus.
Take a blood test. The doctor will perform a blood test or send you to the hospital to get a blood test for herpes. This test is ideal if you do not have any symptoms of herpes but think you may be infected due to skin-to-skin or sexual contact with someone who has been diagnosed with herpes. If the culture test was inconclusive, the blood test is also a good alternative. Finally, if your doctor wants to test for herpes in between outbreaks, this test is ideal. A herpes blood test must be taken approximately eight weeks after you have been infected and cannot determine whether you are infected with herpes simplex 1 or simplex 2. The blood test will also not determine if you will have herpes symptoms in the future, if you have not had an outbreak yet. According to Royal Adelaide Hospital in Ontario, the herpes simplex blood test provides a false negative in about 15 percent of patients who are given the test and receive negative results.
Test for herpes at home. Some laboratories, like Private Diagnostics (see Resources) offer private, at-home herpes tests where you take a cotton-swab scraping at home and send it in to a laboratory. You can order a moderately-priced kit online and keep your privacy, but remember that a doctor can usually determine if you have herpes just by looking at your sores and may save you some time and money.