Avatar universal

Positive IgM - can it be wrong? Severe anxiety!

I got a blood test for herpes and the results were negative for IgG and positive for IgM. Here is a timeline of my sexual encounters and testing:

8th March to 14th May - New sexual partner, combination of protected and unprotected sex
21st March - Herpes blood test with IgG negative but IgM equivocal
May 26th - New sexual partner, unprotected one night event
July 2nd - IgM positive test for herpes, IgG still negative

Now I know it was only 5.5 weeks after the last possible exposure date that I got tested so is it true I would not show IgG this early?

My partner from March to May advised me his tests came up negative IgG for HSV 1 & 2 (if his not lying) which means the 26th May is my online potential infection.

I have not had any classical symptoms of herpes - no blisters, ulcers, itching, painful urination. I have had a red spot the size of a pea on my inner labia 2 weeks ago that lasted 6 hours and left - could this be something?

I also had a swab test on the left of my vaginal opening because it felt irritated and I was having severe panic attacks about my IgM however that came back negative.

I've read a lot about the unreliability of IgM however my doctor conclusively diagnosed me for herpes. I refuse to believe that IgM is entirely useless - surely the medical industry would NOT be ordering this if it did not have some medical merit to it!!

Will I 100% seroconvert to IgG in time? Would testing at 12 weeks be conclusive?

Would it be likely that I would have shown with more severe symptoms? My second doctor is very doubtful of my blood test because he seems to be certain I would have had an outbreak and that the first outbreak is generally severe.

I am at breaking point, I am at the stage where I am having suicidal thoughts - I need closure. Have I definitely acquired the herpes virus? Am I now an infected person?

Any insight that anyone can provide I would be beyond grateful.

4 Responses
Sort by: Helpful Oldest Newest
Avatar universal
Did two additional swabs in the last week - one for red bumps that were on my labia minora and bikini line and the other swab from my cervix. All negative!

I have my form to re-test for herpes IgG but I'm having second thoughts about re-testing. What if I come back positive and I don't know how to process the information well? Is it worth it? IgM positive at 5.5 weeks but IgG negative. Should I assume I'm negative and move on with my life? Or is that being irresponsible with my sexual health? I'm so scared :(
Helpful - 0
So you are almost 3 months post exposure to the May encounter you mention. I think if you're going to test, you may as well wait until it's 4 months, so it's conclusive.

So should you test? Right now, with the IgM being as unreliable as it is, all we really know is that you've had 3 negative swabs (is that correct?) and a former partner with a negative type specific IgG test. The IgM has such a high  false positive rate that we might as well discount it ever happening.

The IgG does give false positives. I may have mentioned this already, but I'm not scrolling, and it won't hurt to read it again. The official test guidelines say anything over a 1.10 is positive. Experts and the CDC agree that anything under a 3.5 needs to be confirmed and could be a false positive.

I would hate for you to get a result in that range and then have to figure out how to confirm that (it's confirmed with a Western Blot, and it's not all that easy to get).

I think if your partner doesn't think you have it or care if you do, your 3 swabs are negative, a former partner with negative tests, and an IgM that was done out of the proper time frame and is unreliable anyway, I think you can skip the retest now. If for whatever reason you find yourself with a new partner, maybe test then, but for now, I don't see any reason to test. Your partner doesn't either.

I don't think it's being irresponsible. You have explored the options, been open with your partner, and allowed him to make his own, informed decision. That's not irresponsible at all.

Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Follow your instincts. You know yourself best.

If it were me, I'd probably assume I'm negative and move on, but I'm not you, and can't make decisions for you. There is no right or wrong here. Either decision is reasonable.

I've been told 12 weeks is conclusive?... today is the day for me to draw my blood but I'm sooooo nervous I don't know what to do. Yes I have 2 partners (current and previous) saying they have negative IgG however I have a strong feeling my previous partner is lying to me. And I still can't discount a one night stand on the 26th May.

3 negative swabs correct and no lesions, ulcers or paper cuts, no pain and dysuria, no fever or feeling run down - nothing of the like. Just random red spots/bumps that I would have never in my past questioned and I got them swabbed anyway - all negative. I experienced tingling and dull stabbing pains, kind of what is described as prodrome symptoms however I think that it was psychosomatic because an OB never followed and having anxiety over this I'm sooo hyper-aware of my genital region atm.

Unfortunately here the results are qualitative not quantitative so I will never know my index numbers to question a false postive.

I don't want to test in case it is positive and I don't take the news well but at the same time I want closure because I think of this 24/7 and check myself 20 times every single day!!!
16 weeks is conclusive, but your result is unlikely to change from 12 to 16 weeks since you don't have hsv1, and most people test positive by 6 weeks, anyway.

Where do you live (I just need the country/province/general area)? If they can do a qualitative, they can do a quantitative. They may have to order it differently, but they can do it.

You don't need to check yourself so much. If you get any irritation, it could be from that. Limit yourself to checking once a day. Other times, lock the mirror or whatever you are using up. :)

How long will it take for you to get your results?
I live in Sydney Australia - my doc said he has never seen any lab provide index numbers. Someone else who has been testing told me the same thing and she called up all the labs we have - all of them only provide 'positive' or 'negative' reporting.

Yea I've been told off a few times that I may be causing irritation to myself for checking and touching that region so many times in a day lol just can't help going to check every hour or so. I figured if I keep checking I can grab any symptom and have it swabbed at the perfect time so as to avoid false negatives on swabs.

Get my results this Friday - I am terrified!!! Can't sleep!
If you notice symptoms, you can get them swabbed within 48 hrs and should get an accurate result. Check once a day, and leave your genitals alone lol. Treat yourself kindly.

That's so strange that they won't do quantified results. It's also a huge disservice, because anything under a 3.5 is considered likely to be a false positive, and how would you know?

Well, we can cross that bridge if we get there. If you test positive, I can give you a ton of materials to show your doctor, who can figure out how to order a quantified result.

Take a few days away from this. Check yourself ONCE a day, and stay off the internet. Go do some things to take your mind off it. Let me know the results when they come in. :)

OMG auntiejessie! They marked my follow-up appointment as a 'recall appointment' which means I need to go in and discuss my results which means it must have come back abnormal/positive!!! I am absolutely panicking!! I really thought I was negative :( I am having severe panic attacks!!!!!!!!
OR it could mean that they want you to come in because they need to figure out how you are testing negative on the IgG when you tested positive on their stupid IgM. Or maybe they marked it "recall" automatically because you tested positive on the IgM, and they assumed you'd test positive on the IgG.

OR they marked it "recall" because lots of doctors now are only giving results in person, so they can get an extra office visit fee.

DO NOT PANIC. There are all kinds of things that could happen.

(This is why I hate doctors. I really, really do. They cause so much undue anxiety. They treat STD results like cancer results. I mean, for real, it shouldn't be this dramatic - a "recall" appt. Sigh. I'm sorry you are going through this.)  
auntiejessie... I feel foolish now after all this panic but I thank you soooooo much for the support you've given me despite my overreactions. I went into the doc today and got my results at 12 weeks.... it came back negative IgG!!! This doc refused to order IgM because of its unreliability. I might re-test for extra peace of mind at 6 months but with no typical herpectic symptoms, 4 negative swabs (correction, not 3) and negative IgG I think I can say with a good degree of confidence, I am herpes free...???

Again, thank you so much for calming my fears. I am grateful for your time truly!
And f**** that Igm test for creating such emotional trauma for no reason! I guess you and the herpes experts were correct about it after all, it is just too unreliable :)
I think you can safely say you are herpes free. :)

And congrats!

And don't feel foolish. You are very typical of what happens when people get a positive herpes test, or conflicting results, and this is why I hate doctors doing herpes tests when they aren't up to date on the info (and the CDC has been saying for years not to do the IgM - your original doc is seriously out of date).

You can do another IgG, but there really isn't any need to, and remember that you could get a false positive, leading you down this road again.

I'm very happy for you! :)
Avatar universal
auntiejessie - thank you! I had another chat with my partner on the weekend and he really is adamant on staying with me regardless what my results end up being which is great!

I am still concerned after a weekend full of symptoms. Had sex on Friday night. Next morning woke up with a red spot, which was raised, on my right labia minora and some 6-7 red spots to the right near my bikini like. Went to the doctor, he said none of it appears as herpes however took a swab and I'll find out this Thursday.

After the doctors visit, I was feeling irritated from the sex I had the previous night and had what appeared to be ulcers/ white irritated skin at the entry of my vagina equally on both sides. Sunday morning I had a about 10-15 red spots near the entry of my vagina, just outside on my outer labia - disappeared by night however before bed my entry where I had irritation from sex went from white to now 2 red sores equally on either side. No pain when pressed down, no pain when urinating - feels exactly like a friction burn HOWEVER all these red spots/bumps are not normal for me and there was just way too many. Now Monday 9am all red spots/bumps/sores cleared - can herpes OBs come and go within a 24 or 48 hour period???

Doctor said if swab comes back negative, he will allow one more blood test at week 12 and if that comes back negative for IGG, no more testing. I'll post results in the case anyone is going through the same thing as me i.e positive IGM and minor symptoms.
Helpful - 0
Okay, so what are you doing or using during sex that you may be allergic to? Are you using condoms? Does it have a lubrication on it? A spermicide? Loads of people are sensitive to spermicides, and some are to different lubrications.

Are you using a sex toy? Perhaps you are allergic to whatever it's made of.

Are you lubricated enough? Do you need additional lube? Chafing can cause all kinds of irritation. If you think this may be it, use a lube for sensitive skin, which it seems you have.



Do you have a latex sensitivity? After the doctor's office, and an exam, are you itchy or rashy?

After sex, are you washing with anything? A feminine wash (which really are evil and we don't ever need)? Wipes? Scented anything (also evil, as there is nothing wrong with our scents, and our vaginas never need to smell like lilacs, lavender or coconut water).

Herpes outbreaks wouldn't come and go that quickly - they last at least a week.

And kudos to your partner. I like him. (Okay, I don't know anything else about him, so I like his decision.)

Did not use a condom - partner does not believe I have herpes, he knows he does not have herpes and having been together for 6 years prior he does not want to create a 'barrier' and he said he frankly does not care if he ever got physical symptoms from being with me. I have encouraged him to use condoms with me but he just won't - he knows the risk his taking...

Funny you mention feminine wipes. Yes I used feminine wipes twice before having sex and once again straight after sex and really wiped out the vaginal entry. I used feminine wipes 3 more times on the Saturday and Sunday as I have in my mind if I keep fresh I might avoid an outbreak... I thought these were safe to use as they are pH balancing and alcohol and fragrance free - its the first time I used the actual wipes but I always use the wash in the shower no problems...
So the vagina naturally balances your pH. It has flora and fauna - good and bad bacteria - that keep everything in check. If it tips one way, you may get a yeast infection. If it tips the other way, you might get bacterial vaginosis. Obviously, infections like herpes, chlamydia, etc., can upset this balance, but on most ordinary days, your pH is fine, naturally.

Now, maybe you used them too much, or maybe you're allergic to or sensitive to something in the wipe, or maybe using the feminine wash along with the wipes caused the irritation. It's awesome that you used something fragrance and alcohol-free, but that doesn't mean you aren't allergic to something in it, or you didn't over use them. You are fresh without them.

You don't really even need the feminine wash, either. Because of the good and bad bacteria, the vagina is like a self-cleaning oven. The most you need to do is take a washcloth to the external parts. If you feel like you need soap, use a gentle soap, like Ivory or Dove Sensitive.

I'm with your partner (who I continue to like but don't know lol) - I don't think you have herpes, either. I think you have a false positive from a test that shouldn't have been done on you in the first place, and some reactions to maybe the feminine wipes. If you want to feel fresh before sexual activity, just wipe a wet washcloth over yourself.

Okay, so if I showed any signs of ranting - this is NOT directed at you. It is directed purely at the feminine health industry that has somehow managed to make us all feel like we need things we don't need, and that our bodies are not clean without their products, and against doctors who give tests they know nothing about for conditions they know nothing about.
Avatar universal
Thank you auntiejessie, really appreciate your response. I am just in fear of my own body now because of this positive IgM! I have reunited with an ex boyfriend and we are now in a committed relationship and I would be mortified if I infected (his IgG is negative for both).

Do we have statistics on how many people who are positive on IgM go on to seroconvert to IgG?

Also, 3 days ago I have a new weird symptom - the skin on my clitoris is peeling off (not the clitoral hood but the clitoris itself). No pain, no itching or burning urination - just peeling skin. I googled of course and couldn't find much but the 3 similar things I found online all said 'herpes'!! Is this a typical herpes symptom? Is this my first outbreak? I'm trying to get an appointment with my doc.

I'm living everyday in fear now, my sex life has taken a hit and I'm contemplating leaving my partner so I don't burden his life. I can't work and I've gone from being a real social, productive person to being a couch potato. I don't understand how to gain acceptance after being told by my first doctor that I have the virus. Maybe it serves me right for being a **** and sleeping with 2 new people after a 6 year monogamous relationship. But I just can't get this past my head, I really can't doesn't matter who I talk to :(
Helpful - 0
So I noticed something while answering this, and I had it later in this post, but I'm putting it at the top:

You had the IgM test at 5.5 weeks? Lord, your doctor annoys me. The IgM antibody should only be present for 2, maybe 3 weeks, so he shouldn't have even done this test on you. Your IgM is irrelevant, and clearly a false positive, and shouldn't have even been done on you. IGNORE IT.

Now to the rest:

First thing I want to address - " Maybe it serves me right for being a **** and sleeping with 2 new people after a 6 year monogamous relationship."

Illnesses and infections are not punishment. Even if you do have herpes, and we can't know that right now, this is not some sort of moral karma for something. Viruses and bacteria and the like don't have the ability to know if you are the sweetest person who helps the elderly cross the street after church, or are the evilest person who abuses animals and children. They just do their biological thing and reproduce and spread. That's it - nothing more.

Second - don't leave your partner. You aren't a burden. Again, even if you do have herpes, you know that being in a long term relationship comes with all sorts of challenges, and I promise you that herpes is way down at the bottom of the list of those. Money, bills, chores, jobs, kids (eventually, maybe, if you don't have them now), families, etc., etc., are all way more of a challenge than herpes ever is. I've had it for 15+ years. It's a tiny little blip comparatively, I swear.

Okay, so on to the medical stuff. Peeling skin is usually a sign of a fungal infection, like yeast. I don't know what you read, but it's not typical of herpes at all.

70% of people will test positive on the IgG by 6 weeks. Your IgG test isn't conclusive yet, but it's a good indicator that you don't have it.

Go out and do something fun. I doubt you have herpes, but even if you do, your life will not change. There may be some things you do to help reduce the chance of transmission, like taking daily meds, but overall, your life will remain the same. Go be social and productive. Get out of your head for awhile. Whatever happens, you're going to be okay. I promise.

Oh and consider getting some therapy. I get the idea that anxiety isn't new for you?

And you aren't a ****. (Why that's filtered, I don't know.) You are an adult woman who had sex. If you wouldn't shame your best friend, don't do it to yourself.
Thank you auntiejessie - you really are giving me a lot of hope that I may not have the virus. I am re-testing at week 12 which is another 9 days away. Anxiety is new for me, I've never dealt with this before. I didn't even know what panic attacks were until my doctor had diagnosed me with this. There is a large stigma with herpes and I'm afraid of my future and how I could ever be with someone romantically again - my partner now is sticking around but I told him if my test results at 12 weeks confirm this that he really needs to think about whether or not to stay with me - I have encouraged him to leave.

Again thank you so much for your kind words and providing me some info re IgM testing. I guess it's hard for me to believe that the medical industry is administering something that is deemed 'inaccurate' when it can result in major psychological damage to someone. I'll try and ignore it for now and when I re-test I will ONLY be requesting the IgG.
Oh hon. No, don't encourage your partner to leave. He is a fully grown man who is capable of making his own decisions regarding his health, his relationship choices, and his feelings. If he wants to stay, that's his choice, not yours.

One thing I always say is that herpes isn't ever a good reason to leave a good relationship, or a good reason to stay in a bad one. Your partner could leave you, someone he clearly has feelings for, and then immediately meet someone else who has herpes. Don't be a martyr.

Listen, I've had this for 15+ years. Not once has a guy turned me down, and I am just an average woman. I'm short, a bit overweight, and not young anymore. I've even tried to use it as a deterrent to get guys away from me, like "Oh no, you don't want me, I have herpes, yuck" and it doesn't work. Two guys told me they have it, too. One guy told me he didn't care, and did I want to get pizza with him.

There is a stigma, but that's from the uneducated. People who take a bit of time to learn about it realize that a lot of people have herpes, and that it's not nearly as bad as people think, and there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of transmission. (I'll include that info at the end, just to help ease your mind.)

The medical community is woefully ignorant about herpes. We've had a lot of advances in the past decade or two, and many doctors, especially primary care docs, haven't taken the time to catch up. A lot of doctors don't realize that you can transmit herpes without an outbreak present, and we've known that since at least 2004.

Anyway, I'll spare you that rant, and just give you some transmission stats.

Genital hsv2 transmission, female to male, over the course of a year, assuming sex 2-3 times a week:

Only avoiding sex during an outbreak - 4-5%

Adding condoms OR daily suppression - 2-3%

Adding condoms AND daily suppression - 1-2%

If all you did was avoid sex during an outbreak, that would equal about 1 transmission per 1000 sexual encounters. (Anything beyond that is above my math skills.)  

You have a better chance of getting pregnant on the pill (with typical use, not perfect use) than transmitting herpes while taking daily suppression, like Valtrex.

The transmission rates for hsv2, male to female, over the course of a year, assuming sex 2-3 times a week:

Only avoiding sex during an outbreak - 8-10%

Adding condoms OR daily suppression - 4-5%

Adding condoms AND daily suppression - 2-3%

So again - I've posted a lot, but my takeaway? It's not as bad as you think, and your partner is a grown up who can make his own decision regarding his health. If he wants to stay, let him stay. You offer so much more than herpes, if you even have it.
207091 tn?1337709493
Actually, yes, the IgM is that useless, and many in the medical community are totally unaware of this and continue to order this test. I'm including links at the bottom that you can read for more info on this. My own IgM tests were wrong - it was negative when it should have been positive, and positive when it should have been negative.

Since you have tested negative on the IgG 12 weeks after the exposure, you do not have herpes. You can test out to 16 weeks if you feel you must, but the chances the results changing are very slim.

I don't know what the red spot on your labia was. Given that it lasted 6 hours, I'd guess it was some sort of irritation. Herpes symptoms last at least a week, give or take. No STD symptoms would clear in 6 hours.

If you have neither type 1 or type 2, and became infected with hsv2, the chances of you getting a severe primary outbreak are good. Not everyone does, but since you have no antibodies to either type, you'd be far more likely to have a really bad first outbreak.

I'm with your second doctor and don't think you have herpes. However, even if you ever get it, I'm more concerned about your mental health, since you are considering suicide as an option. I've had herpes for over 15 years, and I promise you that it's not even close to worth ending your life over. It's a blip in my life, nothing more.

I urge you to consider counseling. Medical unknowns are stressful, but responding with suicidal thoughts suggests that anxiety is an issue for you. I say this with only compassion, and no judgement. Please consider getting some help. If you need resources - https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

Info about the IgM test -




https://westoverheights.com/herpes/the-updated-herpes-handbook/ - "IgM (a different kind of antibody) tests do not accurately distinguish between the types of virus nor can they accurately tell a new infection from an old one. IgM tests also may pick up other herpes viruses, like chicken pox or mono virus. IgM tests for herpes should be avoided completely until better ones are available. Many clinicians don’t realize that the IgM test is not good for diagnosing people, and tell people, based on an IgM test, that they have herpes. And not only that, they tell them have new herpes infection because IgM, with other viruses, comes up early in infection. But with herpes, IgG and IgM come up around the same time. The IgM can be generated years after first infection and will be detectable periodically. There are also commonly false positives on the IgM test. A person might have an IgM test and four months later, still be IgG negative. The IgG is the only test you ever want for herpes, never ever IgM."

Hang in there. You're going to be okay.
Helpful - 0
Have an Answer?

You are reading content posted in the Herpes Community

Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Herpes spreads by oral, vaginal and anal sex.
Herpes sores blister, then burst, scab and heal.
STIs are the most common cause of genital sores.
Millions of people are diagnosed with STDs in the U.S. each year.
STDs can't be transmitted by casual contact, like hugging or touching.
Syphilis is an STD that is transmitted by oral, genital and anal sex.