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Herpes Simplex Virus Screening Singapore

oral and genital area

What is Herpes?

Herpes/Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV Herpes Test) is a virus that affects the skin. There are two major types known as type 1 and type 2.

Typically HSV type 1 affects the mouth area and is associated with cold sores (passed on through kissing) and is common.

HSV type 2 typically affects the genital area and is associated with sexual transmission.

Who should get tested?

Anyone with symptoms (listed below) should get tested but even those without symptoms who believe they are at risk should consider getting tested. HSV can pass on through skin contact from an infected area so protection is not as effective for prevention.

What are the symptoms of Herpes?

HSV presents as painful/burning blisters that are often clustered together on the skin. Sometimes the blisters burst and small painful ulcers are left.

For some the initial symptom will be a tingling sensation in the affected area before visual symptoms appear. Symptoms are very similar to shingles which is a condition caused by another member of the Herpes family. HSV 1 may present around the genitals and HSV 2 may present on the face.

HSV 1

Typically HSV 1 presents around the mouth as cold sores. This is very common and most are infected when they are young and learn to recognise the patterns early on.

HSV 2

HSV 2 usually presents around the genitals and anus region. But do note that it is possible for cross infection, ie. HSV 2 can affect the face particularly if oral sex was involved.

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How do we test for Herpes?

If symptoms are present then we can perform a swab test of that area. This test is very accurate and can differentiate between type 1 and type 2. We cannot perform a swab test when no symptoms are present.

If no symptoms are present or you just wish to know if you are a carrier then a blood test for antibodies can be performed. However, this test should only be performed a minimum of 3 months after possible infection.

What are the treatment options?

Unfortunately there is no cure for HSV. Once you have been infected it will usually remain with you for life. However, if no symptoms are present then it is dormant and you do not need specific treatment meaning you may lead your life as normal.

If symptoms are present we can use cream, tablets or a combination of both to help alleviate the current flare. For mild cases of HSV 1 we may just use antiviral cream but in more severe cases or if genital herpes is present then we may use oral antiviral medication as this produces a prompter response.

What happens if it is left untreated?

Thankfully herpes is not a serious condition, although it can produce troublesome symptoms. If left to run its full course, symptoms would usually settle down in time. It is possible that a serious flare could lead to other areas of skin becoming infected but it will usually quieten down on its own. During this time, however, the symptoms might be noticeably uncomfortable. Due to this most will want medication to settle symptoms as soon as possible.

Another note is that while symptoms are present you will be considered much more infectious.

How to prevent getting Herpes?

Herpes is remarkably difficult to prevent. It can pass on even if there are no symptoms (although the majority of infections will occur from symptomatic people). Additionally practicing safe sex does not guarantee a reduction in risk because herpes can affect the whole genital region and not just the penis and vaginal are. This means any pelvic contact can also lead to transmission.

However, two methods that can help reduce the chance of infections are avoiding sex when symptoms are present or using long term medication to suppress the virus. It is important to note that these methods apply to the partner that is already infected and wish to reduce the chance of passing it to their uninfected partner.

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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs

When should I go for STD screening?

You should consider screening if you have symptoms of a possible STD, if you have had a recent risky exposure (unprotected sex with a casual partner), or both.

Can I get STDs from oral sex?

Yes, you can. The common misconception is that oral sex is not considered ‘real’ sex and therfore has no risk but the opposite is true. Often oral sex is performed without protection and this is why infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea can pass on through oral sex.

Can STDs be cured?

Thankfully the majority can be cured but there are some such as Herpes and HIV that can be treated but not cured. This is why prevention is better than cure and ensuring safe sex goes a long way to reduce your risks.

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