Herpes Simplex Virus I (HSV)-IgG Test

hsv igg test

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is IgG immunoglobulin?

The antibodies produced by the body as a defense mechanism for various diseases are also termed as immunoglobulins. The IgG is a specific type of immunoglobulin that is measured for the diagnosis of a variety of conditions, including various bacterial and viral infections. To determine whether an infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus, the IgG test is widely used along with the IgM test. Herpes simplex is a widely spread virus that affects millions of people all around the globe.

The effect of the virus is generally exhibited in the mouth, genitals, or the anal area and it can result in the formation of sores or blisters. The virus is highly contagious and can be transmitted by physical contact as well as sexual activity. While the virus does not cause serious infections, the symptoms are bothersome and cause a lot of discomforts.

What is HSV or Herpes Simplex Virus?

The virus is classified into two types which are the herpes type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes type 2 (HSV-2). In general, the HSV-1 virus causes oral herpes and the HSV-2 type causes genital herpes. The virus can be transmitted through oral secretions or from the sores on the skin. It can also spread through kissing or sharing objects such as toothbrushes or lip balms.

Since genital herpes can get passed on to the child during birth, women infected by the virus needs to take special precautions as advised by the doctor. The virus can remain in a dormant state in a wide variety of the patients and it can get activated by certain specific conditions, some of which are listed below.

– General illness or infections
– Physical or mental fatigue
– Stress in any form
– Immunosuppression due to AIDS or such medications related to chemotherapy or organ transplant.
– Any kind of trauma to the affected area, including sexual activity.
– Issues related to menstruation.

What is the HSV-IgG test?

The test for the virus can be conducted for the IgG as well as the IgM antibodies. The main difference between the two is that IgM appears first after the infection but it may disappear with time, while IgG remains in the blood for life.

The IgM test can deliver deceptive test results in certain conditions and it cannot distinguish between the HSV-1 and the HSV-2 viruses. So the IgG test is considered as the more reliable test for confirmation of the infection. But the time taken for IgG antibodies to reach a detectable level varies from one person to the other. Ideally, a waiting period of 12 to 16 weeks after the last infection is considered before undertaking the test.

At present, there is no specific cure for herpes. Once the presence of the virus is determined by the blood test, the symptoms are checked by various medications.

Why do I need to undergo an HSV IgG test?

The test is used to detect the presence of the herpes virus so that the right diagnosis can be made for specific symptoms. The most common sign of herpes is sores or blisters that come up on the affected area and get painful as well as itchy. At times they may burst open to ooze fluids and can take more than a week to get cured. Other symptoms that may be a reason for the test include the following.

– Localized tingling, itching, or burning
– Fever or flu-like symptoms accompanied by fatigue
– Problems like pain or discomfort while urinating
– Eye infections or a burning sensation in them.

The test will help to distinguish between the HSV-1 and the HSV-2 type virus for effective treatment. It is also used to check for any infection in the sexual partner of a person infected with the virus. Apart from that, it is conducted on babies to check for herpes infection, in case the mother has been tested positive for genital herpes.

How is an HSV IgG test performed?

The test is a simple blood test and takes only a few minutes. As mentioned earlier, the IgG test must be conducted within a specific window of time or else it might produce a false-negative result. The blood test is conducted on a blood sample collected from a vein in the elbow area and it involves the following steps.

– An elastic band is tied in the upper arm to make the veins swell with blood, thus making them more visible. The healthcare practitioner disinfects the area with an antiseptic swab and then the needle is gently inserted. A stinging or burning sensation is felt when the needle is inserted.

– The required volume of blood which is around 8 to 10 milliliter, is drawn through the needle in an attached vial.

– The band is loosened and the needle is then gently withdrawn. Slight pressure is applied to the collection site through a gauze or a cotton piece to prevent any excessive bleeding. The spot is then covered with a sterile bandage and the sample is sent to the laboratory for testing through an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)

– The process is safe and there is hardly any chance of complications. Since the size of the veins can differ from one person to the other, multiple punctures may be needed for some patients before the right vein is found. Some individuals might feel dizzy or lightheaded after the collection and may need proper care. Any pain or bruising in and around the collection site is generally cured within a few days.

– Chances of infection or excessive bleeding from the site are rare but in case of any such event, specific treatment might be needed.

What is the price for an HSV IgG test in India? 

The cost of the test ranges between Rs 600 to Rs 1500 depending on the location and the specific facilities provided in the testing center.

When will I get the test results?

The test results are generally delivered within 24 to 72 hours depending on the laboratory.

What is the normal range for an HSV IgG test?

The test does not have a standard range of values. The test results can be indicated as positive, negative or equivocal. A positive result means that the virus was detected and a negative result means it was not found. An equivocal report indicates that the test was unable to determine any specific result.

What do the results mean?

The doctor will interpret the test results and can also order a retest for confirmation. In many cases, the IgM and IgG tests are conducted together. In case HSV-2 is suspected, they may ask about the patient’s sexual health history. The treatment involves taking medications to fasten the healing process and to reduce the chances of the infection spreading. Even without treatment, the symptoms will get resolved within a few weeks. Special care might be needed for patients with a weak immune system, new-borns, and pregnant women.

Do I need to fast for the HSV IgG test?

The blood test does not need any food restrictions or any other special preparations.

What else do I need to know before I appear for an HSV IgG test?

The following points can be noted in order to develop a clearer idea about the test and the results.

– The IgG test does not identify the virus in the blood and false-positive results may happen. You might be infected by a virus that generates similar antibodies that may react with the herpes test.

– Before the test, the doctor should be informed about any other viral infections in the recent past or specific medications that you might be consuming because of that.

– The virus can infect the eyes, resulting in a condition called herpes simplex keratitis. Without the right treatment, this may cause significant loss of vision with time.

– In infection of the virus in the brain is termed as herpes encephalitis and can lead to a serious condition involving seizures and mental confusion. In such cases, a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid will have to be collected for further testing.

– Once the infection is detected, the doctor can suggest steps to prevent the recurrence of the disease and also to prevent the chances of spreading it to another person.

– It has been noted that herpes can make patients more susceptible to HIV infections and statistics indicate that up to 90% of HIV-infected individuals are co-infected with the HSV-2 virus.

Can pregnant women undergo an HSV IgG test?

Pregnant women can undergo the test without any restrictions.

Is the HSV IgM test possible for new-born babies?

The test is possible for new-born babies in line with the doctor’s advice.

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