What is a Vaginal smear for Herpes?
A vaginal wet mount (sometimes called a vaginal smear) is a test to find the cause of vaginitis or inflammation of the vagina and the area around the vagina (vulva).
Vaginitis is often caused by an infection. But it may also be caused by a reaction to vaginal products such as soap, bath oils, spermicidal jelly, or douches. It may cause symptoms such as vaginal itching, pain, or discharge.
Infections that can cause vaginitis are common and include:
- Yeast infection. Most vaginal yeast infections are caused by a type of yeast called Candida albicans. A yeast infection is also called a candida infection, or candidiasis. A vaginal yeast infection often causes itching and a white, lumpy discharge that looks like cottage cheese. It also causes pain with sexual intercourse. A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
- Trichomoniasis. This is an infection caused by a parasite (Trichomonas vaginalis). It is sometimes called trichomonas infection, trichomonal infection, or simply trich (say "trick"). Trichomoniasis may cause a vaginal discharge that is yellow-green, foamy, and bad-smelling. Pain with sex or urination may be present. Lower belly pain may also be present. Trichomoniasis is spread by sexual contact and is an STI.
- Bacterial vaginosis. This is a change in the balance of bacteria that are normally present in the vagina. The vaginal discharge is often thin and milky with a strong fishy odor. Many women have no symptoms. Bacterial vaginosis is not an STI.
- Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Infections such as chlamydia, genital warts, syphilis, herpes simplex, and gonorrhea can also affect the vagina. These infections are found by doing other tests.
A vaginal sample may be tested by:
- Wet mount. A sample of the vaginal discharge is placed on a glass slide and mixed with a salt solution. The slide is looked at under a microscope for bacteria, yeast cells, trichomoniasis (trichomonads), white blood cells that show an infection, or clue cells that show bacterial vaginosis.
- KOH slide. A sample of the vaginal discharge is placed on a slide and mixed with a solution of potassium hydroxide (KOH). The KOH makes it easier to see yeast cells.
- Vaginal pH. The normal vaginal pH is 3.8 to 4.5. Bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and atrophic vaginitis often cause a vaginal pH higher than 4.5.
- Whiff test. Several drops of a potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution are added to a sample of the vaginal discharge. A strong fishy odor from the mix means bacterial vaginosis is present.
What is a herpes (HSV) test?
Herpes is a skin infection caused by the herpes simplex virus, known as HSV. HSV causes painful blisters or sores in different parts of the body. There are two main types of HSV:
- HSV-1, which usually causes blisters or cold sores around the mouth (oral herpes)
- HSV-2, which usually causes blisters or sores in the genital area (genital herpes)
Herpes is spread through direct contact with sores. HSV-2 is usually spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Sometimes herpes can be spread even if there are no visible sores.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are recurring infections. That means after your first outbreak of sores clears up, you may get another outbreak in the future. But the severity and number of outbreaks tend to lessen over time. Although oral and genital herpes can be uncomfortable, the viruses usually don't cause any major health problems.
In rare cases, HSV can infect other parts of the body, including the brain and spinal cord. These infections can be very serious. Herpes can also be dangerous to a newborn baby. A mother with herpes can pass the infection to her baby during delivery. A herpes infection can be life-threatening to a baby.
An HSV test looks for the presence of the virus in your body. While there is no cure for herpes, there are medicines that can help manage the condition.
herpes culture, herpes simplex viral culture, HSV-1 antibodies, HSV-2 antibodies, HSV DNA
What is it used for?
An HSV test may be used to:
- Find out whether sores on the mouth or genitals are caused by HSV
- Diagnose an HSV infection in a pregnant woman
- Find out if a newborn is infected with HSV
Why do I need an HSV test?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend HSV testing for people without symptoms of HSV. But you may need an HSV test if:
- You have symptoms of herpes, such as blisters or sores on the genitals or other parts of the body
- Your sex partner has herpes
- You are pregnant and you or your partner has had a previous herpes infection or symptoms of genital herpes. If you test positive for HSV, your baby may need testing as well.
HSV-2 may increase your risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You may need a test if you have certain risk factors for STDs. You may be at higher risk if you:
- Have multiple sex partners
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Have a partner with HIV and/or another STD
In rare cases, HSV can cause encephalitis or meningitis, life-threatening infections of the brain and spinal cord. You may need an HSV test if you have symptoms of a brain or spinal cord disorder. These include:
- Stiff neck
- Severe headache
- Sensitivity to light