Herpes is a common STD and a lot of people who have it don’t even know. There is no cure for herpes, but there is treatment that can lessen symptoms and decrease the likelihood of passing it on to someone else.

Most of the time herpes doesn’t cause any symptoms. When there are signs, they can include blisters around the genitals or anus. The first outbreak of sores is usually the worst. A person with herpes may have additional outbreaks of sores weeks or months after the first outbreak. These additional outbreaks are less severe, heal faster and occur less often over time.

There is no cure for herpes, but there are antiviral medications that can shorten and prevent outbreaks of sores as long as the person continues the medication. Taking this medicine every day can reduce the risk of passing the virus to a partner.

Condoms can help reduce the risk of passing herpes from one person to another, but they are not 100% effective. If you or your partner is having an outbreak of sores, you should abstain from having sex until they are fully healed. It is much easier to pass or catch the virus when sores are present.

As with all STIs, the most effective protection is to abstain from sexual activity or be monogamous with one long-term partner who has tested negative for herpes. Condoms made of made of latex, polyurethane and/or polyisoproprene or dental dams can help reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the infection. But because herpes is spread through skin-to-skin contact, condoms do not fully protect against the spread of the virus.

Getting Tested


Type of test

If you have an outbreak of sores, a health care provider can usually diagnose herpes by looking at the sores. To be sure, the provider can also take a swab sample and test it in a lab. If you are between outbreaks or think you might have been exposed but don’t have symptoms, a health care provider can do a blood test.

Test Timing

If sores are present, diagnosis can happen at your appointment. If they have to take a sample from a sore or they do a blood test, it may take a couple of days to a week for the results.