Knowing when to get tested for STDs or STIs is directly related to your overall sexual activity. Factors such as unprotected sex or multiple partners can increase your odds of contracting sexually transmitted infections. First, it’s important to understand that STDs and STIs are not the same. Most often, a person will contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) which can then, if left untreated, can progress into disease (STD).
It’s crucial to be on the lookout for various symptoms, which may offer a clue that it’s time to pay a visit to your doctor for a test.
If you’re sexually active, getting regular STD testing is an important part of your sexual health. In this quick article, we’re diving into the symptoms and the testing process, so you can stay informed, be proactive, and know when to get tested for STDs.
Knowing the STD Symptoms
In some people, STDs might not have any visible symptoms. In some cases, STD symptoms can be so mild that they don’t bother you at all, which is a reason many people don’t get tested.
STDs come with a wide range of symptoms. According to Mayo Clinic, this is what you may experience with the different types of STDs:
- Painful urination
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Vaginal discharge (in women)
- Penis discharge (in men)
- Pain during sex (in women)
- Bleeding between periods (in women)
- Testicular pain (in men)
If left untreated, the long-term effects of chlamydia may become worse. That is why getting tested regularly is important to remain healthy.
- Discomfort when urinating
- Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
- Heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding between periods
- Painful and swollen testicles
- Painful bowel movements
- Itching in or around the anus
- Vaginal discharge that is clear, white, greenish or yellowish
- Discharge from the penis
- Strong vaginal smell
- Vaginal itching or irritation
- Irritation in or around the penis
- Painful sex and urination
- Flu-like symptoms that usually occur between two to six weeks after infection
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Skin rash
- Feeling lethargic
As an HIV infection progresses into its later stages, symptoms may include everything from weight loss and chronic diarrhea to persistent headaches and night sweats.
If left untreated, an HIV infection can progress into AIDS. Please seek immediate medical attention if you believe you may have encountered HIV through either sexual intercourse or from sharing an infected needle.
- Small red bumps, blisters, or open sores around the genitals or anus
- Frequent pain or itching around the anus and genitals
- Swelling around genitals
- Genital warts close together
- Itching or discomfort
- Bleeding during intercourse
Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain or discomfort (usually near liver)
- Decreased appetite
- Dark-colored urine
- Muscle pain/discomfort
- Rash (with red or reddish-brown sores over the body)
- Lymph nodes that are enlarged
- Fatigue and discomfort
- Soreness and aching
So, When Do You Get Tested?
Because not all STIs show symptoms—and the severity of the symptoms above can range depending on the person—knowing when to get tested for STDs has a lot to do with your own sexual activity. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned or you suspect you’ve been exposed to an STD through unprotected sex or a new sexual partner, see your doctor for testing. Doing so will decrease your risk of incurring long-term side effects.
Remember, STDs can come from vaginal, anal, or oral sex—any method that involves the passing of sexual fluids or skin-to-skin genital contact. The more sexual partners you have, the greater the risk of contracting STIs.
How to Decrease Risk of STDS
If you are having sex, there are some simple practices you can implement to decrease your risk of sexually transmitted infection.
Use a condom whenever you have sex or have multiple sexual partners. Consistency and correct condom usage are key!
Practice Caution with New Partners
Make sure to be extra cautious with new partners. When you have a new partner, get tested to ensure neither one of you have STDs.
Speak with a Doctor
Talk with your doctor about STD testing and preventative measures you can take to stay safe.
What is an STD Test Like?
After an initial exam and a discussion of sexual history, doctors may conduct one or a combination of the following STD testing methods:
- A blood test (either from a blood draw or finger prick)
- A swab of any discharge or sores
- A sample of urine
- A mouth swab
- A swab from the genitals
What’s the Next Step?
After your STD test, if you’re diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, the next step is to seek treatment. Some of the most common STIs, like gonorrhea and syphilis, are caused by bacteria and treated with antibiotics.
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In closing, aside from the symptoms, knowing exactly how often you should get tested for STDs is a personal matter. Remember: being honest with yourself, and your partner, about your sexual activity is always a good first step.
- How to Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases. CDC. URL. Accessed February 9th, 2021.
- STD Testing: What’s Right for You?. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed February 9th, 2021.
- How Do Doctors Test for STDs? Teens Health. URL. Accessed February 9th, 2021.
- Sexually Transmitted Disease Information for Men. Healthline. URL. Accessed February 9th, 2021.
- Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Symptoms. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed February 9th, 2021.