Wherever possible, an initial diagnosis of genital herpes should be made by a GUM specialist. If you cannot get to a GUM clinic, you should see your GP instead. They may refer you to a GUM specialist for a formal diagnosis and treatment. Before being referred for specialist, your GP will ask you about your symptoms and carry out an examination of your genital area.
If it is not possible for you to be referred to a GUM clinic, your GP will take a swab, which means that they will take a sample of fluid from a blister and send it to a laboratory to be tested for HSV. Your GP may also screen you for other sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).
It is important to be aware that even if your swab result comes back negative for the herpes simplex virus (HSV), you may still have genital herpes. Your GP may only be able to confirm a diagnosis of genital herpes by any recurrent infections that you may have.
Diagnosing recurrent infections of genital herpes
See your GP if you have previously been diagnosed with genital herpes and you think that you may have a recurrent infection.
Your GP will ask you about your symptoms, and about any previous bouts of genital herpes that you have had in the past year. They will ask you whether or not you have noticed any triggers, such as stress, or illness, that have set off your recurrent infections.
You will also need to have an examination of your genital area, so that your GP can assess the severity of your infection.
Pregnancy and weakened immune system
It is very important that you are referred for specialist treatment if you are pregnant, or if you have a weakened immune system - for example, if you are HIV positive, or receiving chemotherapy. See the 'complications' section for more information about genital herpes and pregnancy.