STD Testing

Sexually transmitted diseases are common in the U.S., with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating 19 million new infections among young people every year. If you are a sexually active person, it is vitally important to practice safer sex each and every time you are intimate. Going for STD testing when you decide to become intimate with someone new is also imperative to staying sexually healthy. To understand a bit more about what happens when you get a STD test, here is a helpful overview of the different tests done for the more common STDs.

Physical Exams

Human Papilloma Virus
Every year, about 6.2 million Americans are infected with the Human Papilloma Virus also known as genital warts. There are two types of HPV virus, the “low-risk” type and the “high-risk” type. People infected with low-risk HPV are more likely to develop genital warts, which can be treated but not cured. Those with a high-risk HPV infection are less likely to develop HPV symptoms but have a significant risk of developing cervical cancer or some other form of genital cancer.

People infected with HPV strains that lead to genital herpes may be able to have their infection diagnosed through a visual inspection. During your exam, your doctor will examine your genitals for any signs of genital warts. However, genital warts are not always visible to the naked eye. Therefore, your health care provider may also swab the area with acetic acid, which will help make small warts visible.

Because the HPV strains linked to cervical cancer typically do not produce symptoms, it is also important to have regular pap tests done, which will test your cervical cells for signs of HPV infection.

Crabs or Pubic Lice
Pubic lice, or crabs, are a common sexually transmitted disease. Some symptoms of pubic lice include itchiness of the infected area or visible lice. Crabs are diagnosed with a physical examination of the infected area. However, because of the intense itching that these parasites cause, you will likely be aware of the problem before you get yourself to a doctor.

Once at the doctors, she will do a visual examination of the area, looking for the actual lice as well as nits, which are clusters of lice eggs. Your doctor may also examine other areas of your body in order to assess whether the lice have migrated. Treatment of crabs is usually washing with over-the-counter or prescription shampoos.

Genital Herpes
There are two types of genital herpes, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). According to the CDC, most herpes infections are caused by HSV-2. Many people do not know when they are infected because there may be little to no symptoms of herpes present.

If you are experiencing a herpes outbreak, a visual examination of the area is sometimes enough to make a diagnosis. However, herpes sores can be mistaken for other types of infections or may not be present. Therefore, viral and blood tests are generally thought to be the most effective means of testing for herpes. While there is no cure for herpes, a variety of herpes treatment are available.

Blood, Urine or Cell Samples

Most STDs can be conclusively diagnosed through the use of blood, urine or cell testing.

It has been estimated that as much as 2.8 million Americans are infected with chlamydia while in 2004 alone, more than 900,000 chlamydia infections were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In women, symptoms of chlamydia are typically absent or mild, making it difficult to notice the signs right away.

To diagnose chlamydia in women, your health care provider will do a pelvic exam, during which time she will examine your genitals for signs of infection. Additionally, she will take a cervical swab, which is much like a pap smear. This swab will then be sent to a lab, where specialists will look for signs of the bacteria that cause chlamydia. If you are found to be infected, your doctor will prescribe an effective chlamydia treatment.

The CDC reports that every year more than 700,000 people are infected or re-infected with gonorrhea. Symptoms of gonorrhea include green or yellow discharge from the genitals as well as abdominal pain.

Gonorrhea is diagnosed through both a physical examination and a culture test. For the culture test, your health care provider will take a sample of any discharge that is present. This sample will then be sent to a lab and left to culture for two days. After this time, the sample will be examined under a microscope for the presence of bacteria.

It is also possible to perform a urine test for gonorrhea. However, this test is not as accurate as a culture test and is best used to rule out the infection. Once diagnosed, your doctor can prescribe the appropriate treatment.

In 2002, over 32,000 cases of syphilis were reported in the U.S. Although they may be not be immediately apparent, some of the signs of syphilis include sores, skin rashes and internal organ damage. Because syphilis occurs in stages, testing for the infection varies from stage to stage.

During the initial stages of the infection, a diagnosis will be made through both a physical exam, during which time your doctor will look for chancres, as well through a fluid sample from the chancres. However, it is necessary to have chancre sores visibly present on your body in order to perform this diagnosis.

Testing in the second stage of syphilis will involve your health care provider checking your lymph glands and for signs of a bodily rash. A blood test will also be ordered, which will look for antibodies to the syphilis bacteria. A positive diagnosis will be confirmed through a second test.

People in the late stages of syphilis infection will have the Cerebrospinal Fluid Test performed. For this test, a sample of your spinal fluid will be collected and assessed to determine the extent of your infection. Syphilis can be treated through the use of penicillin.

Caused by the Trichomonas Vaginalis parasite, trichomoniasis, or trich, is a common sexually transmitted disease. Many people infected have no trichomoniasis symptoms or they mistake their infection for a yeast infection. However some symptoms include lower abdominal pain or unusual discharge from the genitals.

To test for trich, your doctor will perform a pelvic exam, during which time he will feel for any sores on your cervix. Additionally, a cervical swab will be taken and this sample will be combined with a salt solution before being examined under a microscope to check for the presence of the parasite.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
A person infected with HIV may initially have no symptoms. Signs of HIV in the more advanced stages include rapid weight loss, recurring fevers, and unusual blemishes in the mouth or in the throat.

HIV can be tested by a blood sample test called the HIV antibody test. For this test, a sample of blood will be drawn and then sent to a lab, where specialists will look for the presence of HIV antibodies in your system. If antibodies are identified, you are considered to be HIV positive.

Because it can take up to three months for the HIV infection to become apparent in your system, it is often recommended to wait to test if you think you have been exposed. However, if you choose, you can be tested as soon as three weeks after exposure although you will need to be re-tested again three months later if you receive a negative test the first time around.

HIV can be treated through the use of antiretroviral drugs. There is no cure for HIV, though, and this infection almost always leads to the development of AIDS and is fatal. The best way to deal with HIV is to avoid it all together through abstinence or safe sexual practices.

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