Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), often called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are common infections spread from person to person during sex or close sexual contact. Many STDs have no symptoms or very nonspecific symptoms, which can make them hard to notice.
STD testing can be quick and painless. It’s important to keep in mind that STD testing is not always part of your regular checkup or gynecologist exam. In most cases, you will have to ask your doctor or gynecologist for STD testing. If left untreated, STDs can cause severe health problems.
This article will explain the different types of STD testing, preparing for a test, and where you can get tested.
Who should get tested for an STD?
STDs are incredibly common. It’s a good idea to get tested for an STD if you have been sexually active.
What STD should you be tested for?
Your doctor or healthcare practitioner will help you figure out which tests you will need. There are a number of different STDs, including:
The one sexually transmitted disease your doctor may not offer to test you for is genital herpes. Unless you have a known exposure, no good screening test exists for a viral infection. If you have a known exposure and are experiencing symptoms, your doctor may take a tissue scraping or culture of blisters, if you have them, to a lab to be examined.
What happens when you get tested for an STD
STD testing is quick, easy, and usually painless. Each STD has its own test and your doctor can help you figure out which test you may need. STD tests include:
A urine test: you pee in a cup and your doctor will send your sample to a lab, such as Your Health Lab, for testing. Urine tests can be used to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea, although you can test for both with a swab.
A cheek swab: you rub the inside of your cheek with a soft swab to test for HIV.
A physical exam: your doctor will examine your genital area for warts, blisters, discharge, and sores.
A blood test: your doctor or laboratory technician takes blood from your arm or a finger prick. Blood tests are used to test for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C.
A genital swab: your doctor or healthcare practitioner uses a swab to gently take discharge or cell samples from your penis, vagina, urethra, cervix, anus, or throat. Your doctor then sends the sample to a lab, such as Your Health Lab, for testing. Swabs are typically used to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
You can get tested for most STDs whether you have symptoms or not.
When to speak with a doctor
Though some STDs don’t have symptoms, it’s important to check for any signs of infection or changes in your body. Some symptoms can be very mild.
You should make an appointment with your doctor or healthcare practitioner if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Changes in urination
- Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
- Sores, bumps, and rashes
- Pain during penetration
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic pain or pain in the lower abdominal region
- Genital itching or burning
What to do if you have an STD
The best thing you can do if you test positive for an STD is to follow your doctor’s direction for treating it. It’s important to remember that you are not alone — STDs are incredibly common and treatment is usually quick and easy.
You will need to inform your past partners so they can be evaluated and treated. You can check out this article for tips on how to speak with past partners about STDs.
Frequently asked questions about STD testing
Can I get tested when I’m on my period?
Yes! STD tests, along with physical examinations, can be conducted while menstruating.
When will I receive my results?
The timing of your results will depend on the clinic you go to, as well as what type of testing you are receiving. Here at your Health Lab, we know waiting is never fun. That’s why we provide lab results within 24 hours of taking your test. You can access your lab results online so you can always be in the know.
For many clinics, if you don’t hear back for STD testing, it means your results are negative. This being said, you can call the clinic and ask for your results over the phone if you are concerned.
Are my results confidential?
Yes. Your results will be given to you in a HIPPA compliant manner. With STD testing, though, there are some limits to confidentiality. The Texas Department of State Services requires all providers who diagnose or treat an STD to report it to the local health authority within seven days.