What is the Purpose of STD Testing?
STD testing identifies the presence of bacteria or viruses that can be transmitted when an infected individual has sexual contact with another person. Finding out if you have an STD means you can get the necessary treatment before the disease has a chance to cause long-term problems or be passed to an unsuspecting partner.
You can get relief from symptoms or even be cured, depending on your diagnosis, but it starts with prompt STD testing.
What Causes STDs?
Sexually transmitted diseases are caused by viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herpes or human papillomavirus (HPV). Other types of bacterial STDs are caused by gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.
Depending on the bacteria or virus, STDs can be passed through skin-to-skin, oral, anal or genital contact. They also can be passed through contact with blood or bodily fluids. Some STDs can be transmitted regardless of whether sexual penetration occurs. Altogether, over 25 organisms cause STDs.
Who Is at Risk?
Women, minorities and drug users are at higher risk for STDs.
In general, if you are sexually active or you’re having or have had unprotected sex, STD testing is recommended. If you are aware that your partner has an infection or you have had an infection in the past, you should be tested. Anyone who is engaging in risky sexual behavior, including sexual contact with unknown partners, multiple partners, sex workers or drug users, should be screened.
Do You Have Symptoms?
If you are infected, you may not show symptoms at first or at all. For instance, genital warts (HPV) may not show symptoms, but once you are infected, you can continue passing on the disease. Hepatitis B and C can cause liver disease or liver cancer, but no symptoms may be present in the early stages.
If you have any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor right away about STD testing:
• Painful urination
• Increased vaginal discharge
• Lower abdominal pain
• Pain during sex
• Irregular vaginal bleeding
• Pain during bowel movements
• Itching in vaginal or anal region
• Flu-like symptoms
• Bumps, blisters or sores on or near genitals
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and will want details about the types of sexual contact you’ve had. Based on your answers, doctors will administer certain kinds of STD testing for specific viruses or bacterial infections. These may involve a pap smear, a blood test, a mouth swab, a urine test and/or a pelvic exam.
What’s the Right Treatment?
Treatment will vary based on your diagnosis. In general, STDs caused by bacterial infections can be cured, and the earlier these conditions are treated, the faster they are eliminated and the less likely they are to spread further. Viral STDs such as HIV, herpes and hepatitis B and C have no cure, but treatment can limit the symptoms.
You should not put off STD testing. Contact Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center to schedule an appointment for STD testing and get the comprehensive treatment you need to better your health and prevent the infection of others.