You can’t tell if you have herpes just by the way you look or feel. Like all STDs, the only way to know for sure if you have herpes is to get tested.
If you notice sores on or around your genitals, get checked out by a nurse or doctor as soon as you can. Other STDs, like syphilis, can look like herpes but need different treatment. So it’s important to find out exactly what’s going on. Ask your nurse or doctor if you should be tested for herpes.
What happens during a herpes test?
If you have blisters or sores, your doctor or nurse will gently take a sample of fluid from the sores with a swab and test it.
If you don’t have any sores, talk with your doctor or nurse about whether a blood test for herpes makes sense for you. But herpes tests aren’t normally recommended unless you do have symptoms.
The idea of getting tested may seem scary, but try to chill out. STD testing is a regular part of being a responsible adult and taking care of your health. And herpes tests are quick and usually painless.
Where can I get tested for herpes?
You can get tested for herpes and other STDs at your doctor’s office, a community health clinic, the health department, or your local Planned Parenthood health center.
STD testing isn’t usually part of your regular checkup or gynecologist exam — you have to ask for it. Be honest with your nurse or doctor so they can help you figure out which tests are best for you. Don’t be embarrassed: Your doctor is here to help you, not to judge you.
What does the beginning of genital herpes look like?
Right before an outbreak, you might feel tingling, itching, or burning around the area where the sores will happen. You might also notice some small discolored or white bumps starting to form. Genital herpes sores can appear on your vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, scrotum (balls), butt, anus, or upper thighs.
What does a genital herpes outbreak look like?
Genital herpes outbreaks usually look like a cluster of itchy or painful blisters filled with fluid. They may be different sizes and appear in different places. The blisters break or turn into sores that bleed or ooze a whitish fluid. As the outbreak comes to an end, the herpes sores will scab over and eventually go away. The sores can take a week or more to heal.
Symptoms of genital herpes look different at different stages of the outbreak — they usually start out mild but get worse as the outbreak goes on. You can also have flu-like symptoms during an outbreak, like a fever, chills, body aches, and swollen glands. Herpes outbreaks look different in different people, and your next outbreak might look different from your last one.
Your first genital herpes outbreak is usually the worst one. If you do have more outbreaks, they’re usually shorter and less painful. Most people get fewer outbreaks over time, and some people stop having them altogether. There’s no way to know for sure if you’ll have another outbreak, or how often you’ll get them — it’s different for every person. Your nurse or doctor can give you herpes medicine to help prevent or treat outbreaks, and there are ointments that can make your sores heal faster and hurt less.
Herpes sores can look a lot like other skin problems, like acne, contact dermatitis, or ingrown hairs. So the only way to know for sure if you have herpes is to see a nurse or doctor, like the ones at your local Planned Parenthood health center.
What does genital herpes look like when it’s healing?
As your herpes outbreak comes to an end, your herpes sores will begin to crust over, scab like a small cut, and eventually go away. The sores can take a week or more to heal.
Your nurse or doctor can give you herpes medicine to help prevent or treat outbreaks, and there are ointments that can help make your sores heal faster and hurt less.
What do I do if I have genital herpes?
Some people have a lot of fears and misconceptions about herpes, but it’s a common STD. It can be painful and uncomfortable during outbreaks, but it’s not deadly and it doesn’t cause serious health problems. So if you have genital herpes, try not to panic or feel too bad about it. Millions of people are living with herpes, so you’re not alone. And even though there’s no cure for herpes, there are plenty of ways to treat the symptoms and manage the infection. Your doctor will tell you about the best treatment options for your situation.