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    Signs You May Have an STD

    Although sexually transmitted diseases may go unnoticed, particularly in their early stages when symptoms may be absent or mild, there are some classic symptoms of an std that you should be aware of. Find Out More

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    Questions About STD Testing?

    If you are wondering how do you know you have an std, the only way to be definitely sure either way is to undertake screening for sexually transmitted infections. Find Out More

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    STD Risk Factors

    With 110 million STI infections in the US, no one who is sexually active is free from the risk that they may contract an STD. However, there are certain factors that increase the likelihood someone will become infected. Find Out More

Getting Tested for STDs

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are more common than many people realize and according to the American Sexual Health Association at least half of the population will be affected by an STI at some time during their life. Although around half of all the new incidences of STDs in the USA each year are in those under the age of 25, it is not just the younger generation who should consider an sti test; in the over 50s age group stds in men and women are also on the increase. Older adults have often missed out on targeted messages about practicing safe sex, are less likely to discuss their sexual health with their doctor or to receive sti screening routinely, and often fail to notice that they have an STI, as they may put down some of the std symptoms to the natural aging process. Anyone who is sexually active is potentially at risk of an STD and therefore should consider taking a test for the most common sexual infections, which include chlamydia, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis and HIV, as the consequences of remaining untreated can be detrimental to your health.

Why Get Tested
There are a number of reasons why it is essential to undergo an std test procedure, which include:
  • STDs do not always cause symptoms, particularly in the early stages. Although you might be aware of some of the common std symptoms, these may not be present in everyone and chlamydia, which is the most common STI in America, is notorious for not showing any signs that it is there in the majority of people. Treatment for stds in their early stages is vital to prevent any long-term problems, which is why routine sti screening is recommended even if you are asymptomatic.
  • STIs might be known for their embarrassing symptoms, but if left untreated they can spread beyond the immediate area leading to infertility and can also have a systemic effect on the body as a whole affecting other organ systems. To appreciate this you only have to think of the destruction that HIV causes to the immune system leaving the body vulnerable to life-threatening infections when it takes hold, that syphilis can lead to blindness and have a negative impact on mental health, or that gonorrhea can infect the joints leading to debilitating arthritis. However, these complications do not have to be inevitable and can be prevented with the help of an sti test.
  • Through their very nature sexually transmitted diseases are contagious, so getting tested and receiving treatment not only helps to protect your own health, but that of your partner too.
When to Get an STD Test
While there is no time like the present to get an STD test, there are certain points at which it is especially important to consider having your STI profile checked. Besides taking a test if you notice any unusual symptoms, crucial times to consider getting tested include:
  • Prior to pregnancy. STDs not only have an adverse effect on your chances of becoming pregnant, but following conception can also pose a risk to the developing fetus either through the action this has on the mother's body or by way of infecting the infant. For instance, chlamydia can result in premature delivery as well as eye infections or pneumonia in newborn babies. Meanwhile gonorrhea can lead to miscarriages, pre-term labor and low birth weight and syphilis to an increased likelihood of stillbirth and death in early infancy; both also increase the risk of infections in the baby shortly after birth. Pregnant women with untreated HIV and hepatitis are also more likely to pass these infections on to their babies, with the implications that these diseases bring with them. Although an std test when pregnant is offered as a matter of course to all women and can allow treatment to be commenced, improving outcomes for both mother and child, ideally testing before conception is preferable. This allows women to make an informed decision to undergo treatment to either clear the infection or get it under control before they have a child.
  • At the start of a new relationship it is advisable to visit a gum clinic or undertake screening with the help of std testing online. Although it is always advisable to practice safe sex when you have a new sexual partner, in certain instances even using condoms does not remove the risk of contracting STDs completely, as is the case if genital sores from herpes or syphilis are not completely covered. STI testing therefore provides peace of mind that you are not at risk of infections and will not spread an STI to your partner, even if this means you need to undergo a course of treatment. Both taking an STD profile test also means that in a committed long-term relationship you can be certain that you do not need to use condoms.
  • Finding your current or a past partner has an STI. If one of your sexual partners has had std test results that don't bring good news and they are responsible enough to inform you that they may have passed on the infection to you, it is vital that you take action to determine whether you have also contracted the same problem. Besides getting checked for the same STI they have reported, it also makes sense to get tested for other possible infections, as if infected with one they may have others, particularly as some STDs increase the likelihood of this - for example, having gonorrhea makes someone more susceptible to being infected with HIV.
  • If you have multiple sexual partners, your risk of STDs is also increased, so even when using protection it is essential to have regular testing, ideally annually.
  • You have had unprotected sex or a condom burst. Even if this happened the once, there is a risk you could have picked up an infection from your partner, and if it was a long time ago and you are free from symptoms, this doesn't mean that you have not been infected. The only way to be sure is to undertake STD testing.
Even if none of these situations are applicable to you, if you are sexually active and have never been tested for a sexually transmitted infection, it is worth the std test cost to book yourself an appointment for screening of the most common infections.
How Does STD Testing Work
Now that you know more about when to get an std test, you may be interested to know more about the std test procedure so that you can feel confident you understand how to test for stds before making an appointment. With the knowledge of how the tests are performed, you will have a better idea what to expect from your consultation, which will help you to feel more comfortable. Depending on which STI is being tested for, a sample of urine, secretions or blood may be taken. These are then sent to the lab for processing, though exactly which method is used to detect a given infection does vary between laboratories. While your clinician will be able to explain more about the procedure used in your individual case, the following are commonly used to indicate the presence of the microbes that cause STIs:
  • DNA testing. The presence of bacterial or viral DNA can be detected through a number of specialist techniques, allowing the likes of chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes.
  • Testing for antibodies. A blood test can reveal whether your immune system has produced antibodies in response to the presence of the potential infection. This is commonly used to check whether someone is infected with hepatitis, HIV or syphilis.
  • Testing for antigens. These are the molecules on the surface of bacteria and viruses which trigger the immune system to respond to an infection. This can be an alternative way to identify whether someone is infected with gonorrhea or herpes.
  • Cultures. Bacteria and viruses can be grown in the lab if present in a sample of body fluid and is a further way to determine the presence of chlamydia, gonorrhea or herpes.
  • Staining. Special dyes are sometimes used to identify whether gonorrhea is present in fluid samples.
Lab testing for STDs
Where to Get Tested for STDs
Making the decision to take part in STI screening is one of the best ways to protect your own sexual health and that of your partners and there are a number of options for where you can get STD testing. These include:
  • With your usual doctor. While many family doctors will offer this service to their patients and some people prefer to see the health professionals they are familiar with for these intimate tests, this option does not appeal to everyone. As with all medical testing a confidential service is provided, but for matters relating to sexual health you may prefer to use the services of someone other than your usual health providers.
  • At a gum clinic. Doctors and nurses specializing in sexual health can be accessed at these health facilities and while they may be able to offer free sti testing, there may not be one in your area or the times these services are available may not be convenient for you.
  • Std testing at home. The option to purchase home testing kits to check for the presence of chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis, which require you to take a urine sample of swab of the affected area are convenient and can be performed in the comfort of your own home. However, it is important that you ensure that the provider of these is reputable and that they use regulated labs to process your results; you need to be particularly careful when obtaining any of these kits for std testing online. A safer option is to use the services of a trusted provider such as STDPanels.com, which provides the best of both worlds allowing you to make an appointment for testing at a time and location to suit your needs, while you can be sure that the results, delivered promptly to your online account, are accurate.
Whichever route you choose for STD testing, the provider of the test should take a full history from you to determine which testing option is most suitable. The details you provide about your sexual history will also help to inform their decision about when is the best time to test for possible infections, as due to the incubation period testing too soon can lead to false negative results.
Treatment for STDs
In a matter of days your test results will be available for you. All being well, you will receive the all clear and can continue to practice safe sex, only requiring further testing if you have a specific need to. In a small number of cases, the results may be inconclusive and you may need to undergo a further test to determine whether you indeed have a sexual infection. Equally if you have received a negative result and have reason to believe that you are highly likely to have contracted the disease in question, such as having had unprotected sex with a partner who is now known to have the condition themselves, again you may wish to pursue further testing. The final instance in which another test may be advisable is if you believe you have only been recently infected, as you may have taken the test too early to provide conclusive results with regards to this. Once you have received your std test results you will be guided as to whether any treatment is needed. The form your treatment takes will depend on your particular diagnosis, but antibiotics can be used to successfully treat STDs of bacterial origin and anti-viral drugs can be taken for those caused by viruses. When it comes to stds in men and women, the goals of treatment again are dependent on your specific infection, but they can:
  • Reduce the symptoms of the infection
  • Provide a cure
  • Help you to remain in good health
  • Reduce the likelihood of you spreading the infection to your sexual partners
However, you can only commence the appropriate treatment once you have received a firm diagnosis, which can only be achieved through STD testing.

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    Increasing Access to STD Testing

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    If detected early through an STD test, the majority of sexually transmitted infections can be successfully treated. However, although everyone who is sexually active should consider an STI test, many people do not seek a sexual health screen, as a number of barriers to testing exist. Here we take a look at some of the potential bars to receiving STI screening and how they can be overcome.

    Why STD Test Uptake Is Poor

    Firstly, a lack of awareness of who is at risk of STIs means that few people believe it is necessary for them to get tested. It is often thought that STD testing for men and women is only necessary if someone has multiple partners or they have symptoms that indicate a sexually transmitted disease. However, STDs are more common than most people realize and anyone who has ever had sex without a condom may have contracted an infection; you also do not need to display symptoms to be infected. This means that the majority of people should book an STI test, so this message needs to be clearly communicated to the public.

    Similarly, people do not think that they will become infected, as STDs are something that happens to other people; this belief commonly held by teens and young adults. The reality is that STIs are contracted by people like them the whole time, with rates highest in the under 25 age group. Education targeted at young people and the importance of a yearly STD check for them once sexually active is essential to dispel this myth.

    Although the seriousness of infection with HIV is appreciated, it is commonly thought that most other sexual infections cause little harm, so there is no need to be tested for them. This is far from true, as if left untreated, the majority of STIs will cause long-term complications that not only affect your fertility, but your general health as well. Taking a test early allows you to preserve your health, as bacterial infections can usually be cured before any lasting damage has been caused.

    It is also a frequent misconception that catching an infection once will prevent you catching the same or similar STDs in the future. This is not the case, so taking precautions and regular screening is the best way to protect your sexual health.

    Access to STD testing clinics may be limited by factors such as a busy work schedule, lack of transport or living in a rural area. However, online STD testing offers more people the opportunity to get tested, as this can be conducted at a time and a place to suit them.

    Even if someone can physically get to a doctor to receive an STD test, their financial situation may be a barrier to taking the test. However, this need not be the case with free sexual health services and insurance policies more commonly covering these tests as part of preventive care.

    As people rarely talk about attending for sexual health screening, it is often the case that poor awareness of what is involved can deter people from making an appointment. The thought of an intimate examination can be off-putting, but in most instances either a urine, swab or blood sample is all that is needed to carry out the test to make a diagnosis. With more information now available online about STI tests provided by reputable sources, this allows the public to understand what is involved and that it is nothing to worry about.

    Concerns surrounding the confidentiality of their test results may also exist. People may worry that their usual physician or employer may be informed of their results or that other people may be able to easily access their STD status and will judge them based on this. This is not the case though, as confidentiality is ensured, with sexual health clinics and online providers offering anonymous STD testing services.

    Online STD Testing

    Not only are there plenty of useful resources online that you can use to inform your decision to get an STI test, but it is also possible to order this screening over the internet too. While in some cases you may be able to order a home STD kit, if you are concerned about the accuracy of these, you can also book an appointment online at a regulated STD lab locally to allow the required sample to be taken for testing. This service offers an easy way for you to access STI screening close to home and as it is an official lab you can be sure of the accuracy of the STD testing procedure used and that your confidentiality will be maintained.

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    How to Prevent STD Re-infections

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    Although treatments are currently under development that will prevent you being re-infected with a sexually transmitted disease you have already been diagnosed with, it is important to realize that at present these are not available and if you have been treated for chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis, you could easily catch these bacteria again. This is often not appreciated by people and failure to take the necessary precautions fuels the spread of these infections. Therefore it is essential that you take steps to keep yourself free from future STDs.

    Preventing STD Infections

    After you have attended testing for STDs and results show that you are positive for one or more infections, it is essential that you inform your sexual partners. This allows them to be tested, as they may have transmitted the virus to you or vice versa. An std check not only prevents the spread of the infection to others, but ensures you do not contract the STI for a second time. If you are not in contact with recent sexual partners, an STD testing center can help you to track them down and will advise them of the need for an STD test without identifying you as the possible source of infection.

    It is also important that both you and your current partner, if found to be infected, complete the course of treatment according to the directions given to ensure that the microbes are completely eradicated from your body, as even if just a small number remain they can begin to multiply and re-infection becomes highly likely. If you have been advised to attend for a further test to show that you are now free from the STD, it is equally important that you attend for this, as this will provide you both with peace of mind that neither of you can infect the other, as long as you do not have additional sexual partners, or if you do that you use protection.

    If you start a new relationship, before you stop using condoms it is best if you both seek STI testing. This way you know that you won’t be infected by your new partner and that they can be sure of the same. Even if they tell you that not too long ago they had an STD screen that came back clear, it is safest if you both get re-tested to guarantee that neither of you has been infected in the meantime. When seeking STD tests together you may want to be completely honest with your new partner about your sexual history and that you have previously been treated for a sexually transmitted infection. It can be a worry that if your partner is aware of this that they may wish to end your relationship. However, this demonstrates that you have taken responsible action and being honest shows that you trust them, which is the basis for a strong relationship.

    When not in a committed relationship and you have a number of sexual partners, this does increase the likelihood of re-infection with STDs. However, using protection against these greatly reduces the risk of this taking place. When you have multiple partners, yearly testing for STD infections is strongly advised.

    STI Testing

    Seeking a test for sexually transmitted diseases with your partner forms part of the action you can take to protect yourself from re-infection. As mentioned, only after both of you have taken a full STD screen should you consider no longer using condoms with your partner. It may seem an unnecessary step if neither of you displays any symptoms indicative of an STI, but as so many people are symptom-free when infected, it is not worth taking the risk. There is equally nothing to worry about and although you will be familiar with the procedure, having already been tested and treated once already, your partner may be apprehensive. The tests are simple to perform, requiring either a urine sample, swab or blood test and you do not need to wait long to hear the outcome. Using confidential STD testing services also means that your usual doctor will not be informed of the test result and family, friends, co-workers and employers won’t be able to access the results either. However, your partner will obviously be advised to tell any recent partners if their test results are positive.

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    Why You Shouldn’t Delay Testing for Gonorrhea

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    Although you may not think you are at risk of gonorrhea, anyone who is sexually active can potentially pick up this common STD. This means everyone should consider a gonorrhea test if they have not previously had one. Even if you do not have any symptoms of gonorrhea you should consider this, as frequently the infection does not show any signs and it is only when you develop later complications that your positive gonorrhea status is identified.

    Signs of Gonorrhea

    If you have previously received a negative gonorrhea test result, you should still think about getting retested, as particularly if you have had other sexual partners since your last test, there is a chance that you may have been infected. This is essential if you spot any of the classic gonorrhea symptoms. In men these usually present as pain on urination and a white or colored discharge, typically within a fortnight of infection. However, gonorrhea symptoms in women can be more subtle and are often wrongly believed to be a urinary tract or vaginal infection. Alternatively, the signs of infection may be absent altogether. However, even with mild or absent symptoms of gonorrhea, women can still be at risk of serious complications if their gonorrhea goes untreated.

    Gonorrhea Complications

    If gonorrhea is not detected in time and the necessary antibiotics received, the infection can spread causing lasting damage. However, this isn’t the only complication associated with an untreated gonorrhea infection, as demonstrated below:

    • Both women and men are at risk of infertility. When allowed to spread, gonorrhea can reach the uterus and fallopian tubes in women leading to pelvic inflammatory disease, which causes the fallopian tubes to scar and reduces the chance of successful conception; even if conception does occur, the risks of complications during pregnancy is increased. Meanwhile, in men if gonorrhea is left untreated, this can cause inflammation of the area of the testicles that hold the sperm ducts and while this inflammation is treatable, this needs to be addressed quickly to prevent infertility.
    • Infection throughout the body. Gonorrhea doesn’t remain localized to the reproductive organs and can enter the blood allowing the bacteria to infect the skin and joints. When this occurs, skin sores and painful joints that are swollen and stiff are usually present.
    • Increased risk of infection with HIV. If you have gonorrhea, you are more likely to both contract HIV and spread it on more easily to your sexual partners.
    • Women can infect their baby during child-birth. Usually within 5 days of birth infants will display signs such as infections of the scalp, respiratory tract and eyes, though in some instances the bacteria can enter their bloodstream causing generalized infection throughout the body.

    However, these complications of gonorrhea need not be inevitable, as early testing can allow antibiotics to be given as a cure for gonorrhea.

    Gonorrhea Testing

    As already mentioned everyone should consider a gonorrhea test, especially if possible symptoms are present. However, testing is also strongly advised if you are also at increased risk of contracting gonorrhea, which is the case if you belong to one of the following groups:

    • Are under the age of 25. Sexually transmitted infections are particularly prevalent among young adults, so a yearly STD check is a sensible precaution to protect your own sexual health and that of your partner.
    • Have multiple sexual partners. As with any other STI, the more sexual partners you have, the more susceptible you are to gonorrhea if you don’t use condoms. However, even if you only have one partner, if they have had unprotected sex with someone else and you do not know their gonorrhea status, they may pass this or another infection on to you.
    • Already have another STD. If you have contracted one infection it is often the case that you may have been infected with another. A full STD screen is therefore advisable if you have symptoms that indicate a sexually transmitted disease.
    • A history of gonorrhea infection. This is usually the case if you did not fully comply with treatment or your partner didn’t also receive treatment, as undergoing treatment doesn’t protect you from re-infection.

    Women contemplating pregnancy should also seek gonorrhea testing, as this allows treatment prior to conception. However, women who are already pregnant should be tested for gonorrhea early in pregnancy so that if the infection is present it can be cleared before the birth of their baby.

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