When is STD Testing Indicated?
By Sharon B. Diamond, MD
December 05, 2014
Tags: testing  

STD TestingAccording to US News, approximately 110 million Americans have an STD and nearly 20 million new infections are diagnosed each year. While some STDs may show mild or severe symptoms, there are some that are completely asymptomatic. Here are some of the most common STDS, their symptoms, and the indications for testing:
 
Chlamydia
This is one of the most common STDs in the United States. This bacterial infection may cause painful urination or vaginal discharge. If it is advanced, pelvic (lower abdominal pain) may also occur along with permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive organs.  However many women won’t ever exhibit symptoms, and so if you are concerned that you may have been infected, or a partner is having symptoms, testing is indicated immediately. You also may begin to notice problems several weeks after being exposed and so any of the above symptoms are also indications for immediate examination.  Screening for chlamydia should also be part of the routine gynecologic examination for most sexually active women.
 
Gonorrhea
This is another bacterial infection that causes symptoms that are similar to chlamydia. Women’s symptoms may be very subtle or mimic other non-sexually transmitted infections.  If you notice symptoms two to 14 days after contact with a partner, an examination and testing should be performed. Routine testing for gonorrhea should also be part of the regular gynecologic exam for appropriate women.
 
Hepatitis B
This form of hepatitis can be contracted through sexual contact or bodily fluids including blood, and can cause serious damage to the liver. Some people won’t experience symptoms while others will mistake it for the cold or flu. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Symptoms may appear at around six weeks and up to six months after exposure. Vaccination against this virus is now available.  Hepatitis C, although rarely transmitted through sexual contact, is another virus that may seriously damage the liver and so testing should also be performed because there are now effective treatments for the infection. There is no vaccine at the current time for Hepatitis C.
 
 
Syphilis
Syphilis goes through four different phases that all have their own unique symptoms. During the first phase you may notice a painful sore in the genital area as well as swollen lymph nodes around the sore. Over time, you may notice a non-itchy rash on your hands or feet, sore throat, and a headache. Symptoms usually appear 21 days after exposure but can range from 10 to 90 days.
If left untreated, syphilis can cause serious complications to the heart, brain, joints and other parts of the body.
 
Genital Herpes (HSV-2)
Genital herpes symptoms include burning or itching where painful blisters will then appear. Swollen or tender lymph nodes, fever, and malaise may also accompany an outbreak. The first attack of genital herpes is usually the most severe, with subsequent episodes being less intense. Symptoms can appear about two to 12 days after exposure and then recur episodically.  If you have ever had an outbreak and are pregnant, it is very important that you inform your obstetrician of your history because the virus if active at the time of delivery may be an indication for a cesarean section to avoid affecting the baby. 
 
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
This is one of the most common STDs and it is estimated that anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of women are or will be infected. Low-grade strains of HPV may cause genital warts (flat, fleshy bumps), which can appear weeks or even months after exposure.  More serious strains (high risk HPV) can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. The FDA has approved a vaccine, which can prevent some of the high-risk forms of HPV, and it should be given to women 26 years of age and younger. Women thirty years old and older should be tested for HPV at the time of their Pap test.  If one of the high risk strains is present, more frequent Paps or additional testing may be indicated.  Women in their twenties may carry the virus but since it so frequently resolves without intervention due to the strength of the young immune system, HPV is not routinely tested for in these women unless there is an abnormality on the Pap test. 

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Some people with HIV may first notice flu-like symptoms a month or two after exposure. However, this lifelong STD can cause a variety of symptoms including diarrhea, fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, rashes, thrush, or an enlarged spleen. Some may not even experience serious symptoms for up to 10 years or more. Those with HIV may also experience weight loss, chronic rashes, shingles, herpes outbreaks and short-term memory loss before the onset of AIDS.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of an STD, if you are due for screening or if you just want to get STD testing on the Upper East Side, then  call our office today- 212-876-2200. Get tested and give yourself the peace of mind you need.

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