You might be wondering if you need a test for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You might be wondering if your partner needs one. Or you may simply be interested in learning more about STD testing. Whatever the reason, the more information you have, the better you can protect your sexual health.
Should You Get Tested for STDs?
If you think you may have been exposed to an infection, getting tested for STDs is a great way to protect your sexual health. It’s also a great way to protect the health of your sex partners.
If you have symptoms of an STD, it’s important to be tested. Some common symptoms of STDs include sores on the genitals, discharge from the penis or vagina, itching, and burning during urination.
But remember, many infections often do not cause any symptoms. Many people have sexually transmitted infections and never know it. Many people get or spread infections without ever having symptoms.
If you’ve had sex with another person and did not use a condom, female condom, dental dam, or other barrier, it’s a good idea to talk to your health care provider about STD testing. Getting tested can put your mind at ease or get you (and your partner) needed treatment. It’s also important to learn about ways you and your partner can protect yourselves in the future through safer sex.
Which STD Tests Do You Need?
There is no single test for every sexually transmitted disease — tests are specific to each infection. And some infections can be found using different kinds of tests.
You and your health care provider will decide what STD tests make the most sense for you. In most cases, your provider will first ask you questions about
- your sexual practices such as how many partners you have, whether you use condoms or other barrier methods, and what body parts are used during sex play
- whether you have symptoms, and to describe the symptoms if you do have any
- whether you have had symptoms in the past
- whether you’ve ever had any STDs
- whether you have used over-the-counter medications to treat your symptoms
- whether your partner(s) have any STDs or symptoms of STDs
- drug allergies you may have
It is important to be honest with your health care provider. Your provider will be helping you make important decisions about what test(s) you may need.
How Are STD Tests Done?
It depends on which infection you may have. And some infections can be tested for in more than one way. Your test may include:
- physical exam — Your health care provider may look at your genitals and/or your anus for any signs of an infection, such as a rash, discharge, sores, or warts
- blood sample — your provider may take a blood sample, either with a needle or by pricking the skin to draw drops of blood.
- urine sample — you may be asked to urinate into a special cup.
- discharge, tissue, cell, or saliva sample — your provider will use a swab to collect samples that will be looked at under a microscope.
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