Most people think they would know if they had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) . . This is not true!
The truth is many STIs have no symptoms in the majority of people infected. Or they have mild symptoms that can be easily overlooked.
The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested.
According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20 million new STIs occur each year in the United States.
Unfortunately, many people don’t receive prompt treatment for STIs. Many STIs have no symptoms or very nonspecific symptoms, which can make them hard to notice. The stigma around STIs also discourages some people from getting tested. But testing is the only way to know for sure if you have an STI and also to protect your loved ones.
If left untreated, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), often called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), can cause severe health problems.
- organ damage
Lots of people are confused about getting tested for STIs. For example, you may think your annual medical check-up will include tests for STIs. Don’t assume that your doctor will automatically test you for all STIs at your annual physical or sexual health checkup. The fact is that some providers might test for some infections when you come in for a regular check-up, while others do not test for any STI unless you ask them to.
How Long Does It Take for STDs to Show Up?
You may think that as soon as a sexually transmitted infection enters the body, you can get tested for it and detect it. But, the truth is that the exact processing route is far more complex. We get infected when a pathogen enters our system. If the route is sexual (oral, anal or vaginal); then, the infection is called an STD. The pathogen can be a virus, bacteria or other types of microbes. As soon as any of these enter the body, they start reproducing. When the infection is spread in the body and starts damaging our normal cells, disease can happen. However, every infection has its own time-frame and susceptibility.
Also read: Oral Sex & STI Transmission
What is an Incubation Period?
The incubation period is the time needed for the body to develop symptoms, following an infection.
Taking care of your sexual health is nothing to be shy about. If you’re concerned about a particular infection or symptom, talk to your doctor about it. The more honest you are, the better treatment you can receive. If you’ve had unprotected sex, have a new partner (or more than one partner), or for any reason are worried you have been exposed to an STI, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested be tested for these leading common STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, herpes, HPV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.
It’s important to get screened if you’re pregnant, as STIs can have an effect on the fetus. Your doctor should screen for STIs, among other things, at your first prenatal visit.
You should also get tested if you’ve been forced to have intercourse, or any other type of sexual activity. If you’ve experienced sexual assault or were forced into any sexual activity, you should seek care from a trained healthcare provider.
What types of tests are out there?
Most tests require a urine or blood sample, or a swab of the area where the infection might be present. If you have a sore and we want to pinpoint the cause, a swab can additionally identify whether a specific virus or bacteria is present. There are also rapid HIV tests / STD tests available.
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea screening is done either through a urine test or through a swab inside the penis in men or from the cervix in women.
Get screened annually if:
- You’re a sexually active woman under age 25
- You’re a woman older than 25 and at risk of STIs — for example, if you’re having sex with a new partner or multiple partners
- You’re a man who has sex with men
- You have HIV
- You’ve been sexually assaulted
Request testing for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis if you:
- Test positive for another STI, which puts you at greater risk of other STIs
- Have had more than one sexual partner (or if your partner has had multiple partners) since your last test
- Use intravenous (IV) drugs
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant
- Have been sexually assaulted
Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer while other varieties of HPV can cause genital warts. Many sexually active people become infected with HPV at some point in their lives, but never develop symptoms.
- Pap-smear test. Pap tests, which check the cervix for abnormal cells, are recommended every three years for women between ages 21 and 65.
- HPV PCR test. For both men and women
HPV has also been linked to cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and mouth and throat. Vaccines can protect both men and women from some types of HPV, but they are most effective when administered before sexual activity begins.
Your doctor may take a culture of blisters or early ulcers, if you have them, for examination in a laboratory but the results may take up to 4 weeks. A HPV PCR swab test is the recommended test when there are blisters present and results may be available in a few days. But a negative test doesn’t rule out herpes as a cause for genital ulcerations.
A blood test looking for herpes antibodies also may help detect a past herpes infection.
If you are sexually active, getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. Make sure you have an open and honest conversation about your sexual history and STD testing with your doctor and ask whether you should be tested for STDs. If you are not comfortable talking with your regular health care provider about STDs, there are many clinics that provide confidential and free or low-cost testing.