What is the Standard Testing for Herpes in NYC?
Herpes Type 1 (HSV-1) testing is initially performed by a visual inspection of the lesion by a physician. If the virus is suspected, further testing may be performed for confirmation. A swab from the ulcer is obtained by wiping a cotton-tipped applicator in the ulcerous region. In rare cases, additional testing may be necessary to determine if the virus has spread into the central nervous system or other parts of the body. This additional testing may include a blood sample or a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. In the absence of more serious symptoms, usually, a swab will be sufficient to determine the presence of the virus.
If an ulcer is noticed in or around your mouth and lips, getting tested for HSV-1 is important. Early diagnosis of Herpes will allow treatment with antiviral medication that may minimize the severity and duration of the ulcerous outbreak, and it may reduce the risk of spread to other parts of the body such as the central nervous system and a condition known as meningitis. Early treatment may also reduce the time an active infection is contagious to others.
What is Herpes Type 1 (HSV-1)?
HSV-1 is also referred to as cold sores, mouth ulcers, and canker sores. Although the virus may form lesions anywhere on the body, infections are usually limited to the mouth and face area. The virus that causes these ulcers is very similar to the type of herpes which is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but HSV-1 is generally not considered a sexually transmitted infection. It is spread through direct contact with an ulcerating lesion (such as kissing), by saliva from an infected individual, and by other forms of close contact such as playing a sport or drinking out of someone else’s cup. This form of herpes is very contagious from the time of the first tingling sensation to when an active, open lesion has healed. Children often get these lesions from classmates, but any age group may be affected.
Once an individual is infected with HSV-1, the virus remains in their body for the remainder of his or her life, although active lesions are only experienced periodically. Because the organism that causes HSV-1 is a virus and not bacterial, antibiotics are not effective in treatment. However, there are antiviral medications that can reduce both the duration and severity of the lesions.
What are the Symptoms of Herpes?
Before an ulcer breaks out or erupts, it is common for an individual to sense a tingling or slightly painful feeling in a localized region that will eventually become an ulcer. The area may itch. The most common places for HSV-1 ulcers are on the face and mouth, but ulcers can appear anywhere on the body. The area affected will eventually become a localized but painful ulcer that may initially look like blisters. When these blisters pop, the fluid that is released is highly contagious. HSV-1 outbreaks are generally self-limited. The ulcer will develop a crust over the affected area and will likely heal on its own even without treatment. The first time an individual experiences an ulcerous outbreak is usually the most painful and is of the longest duration.
This infection occurs equally among males and females and can occur at any age. Recurrent outbreaks of HSV-1 occur for many reasons, including stress, prolonged sun exposure, exposure to another infected individual, a coexisting infection that reduces the immune system’s vigilance over the virus’s control (such as a cold or the flu), hormonal changes, and seasonal changes (cold weather in particular).
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Dr. Gafanovich is performing STD testing as a part of her annual check up .
What is the Treatment for HSV-1?
Although ulcers are usually self-limiting, there are many reasons why early diagnosis and treatment are important. As already mentioned, antiviral medication can reduce the severity, duration, and frequency of outbreaks. Treatment reduces the risk of spread to other parts of the body. Early awareness and treatment of the onset of a lesion are important so that steps can be taken to reduce contagion to others, such as not sharing drinks or food. A recent study found that approximately 60% of Americans are infected with the virus, so it is a major health epidemic. This epidemic is not just limited to the United States – it is a global health issue with infections occurring in every country in the world.
Antiviral medications are the treatment of choice to directly target the virus. As with most medications, there are potential side effects associated with antiviral medication including nausea, upset stomach, or mild fever. Some products address individual symptoms of the disease, such as lip balm, lidocaine cream, and other topical products to reduce pain, redness, and appearance. Putting ice on the lesion can also minimize pain temporarily but will not cure an ulcer or alter the course of the infection.
Many cases of HSV-1 are asymptomatic. Such cases are still contagious at certain stages, so an individual may spread the virus without being aware of its presence. Because HSV-1 is so prevalent in society and can be spread without someone’s knowledge, it is even more important to treat diagnosed cases of the virus. HSV-1 is a manageable condition using a combination of prescribed antiviral medication and over-the-counter products for symptom release. Another way to manage the disease is for an individual to recognize triggers in the environment that may make someone more susceptible to an outbreak, such as stress at work, staying too long at the beach, or when a significant other has an outbreak.