STDs, or Sexually Transmitted Diseases, can lead to long-term health complications, including sterility, infertility, cancer, and blindness, if left untreated. People commonly assume that they do not have STIs because they’re not “that kind of person” or simply because they do not have any obvious symptoms. The fact is that anyone can get an STI, and furthermore, an STI can stay in a person’s system only to flare up without warning. The only way to be sure is to get tested regularly.
Another misconception people have about STDs is that doctor’s test for them during physical check-ups. The truth is that there is no “one size fits all” test when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases–each one requires its own specific test and often would not come up in a general exam. However, many patients are reluctant to reveal sensitive details about their sexual history, even with a trained medical professional. In such instances, the best resource would be to visit an online STD testing center.
Photo Credit: faststdtesting
The two most common tests for STDs rely on a small blood or urine sample. Tests for such STIs as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea require a urine sample, while tests for Hepatitis, Herpes, HIV and Syphilis require a blood sample. Extracting either sample is a painless and non-invasive procedure that usually takes as little as 15 minutes. If you are a sexually active woman, it is advisable that you have an annual Pap smear in order to test for the presence of cancerous cells or HPV (human papillomavirus).
In addition, a gynecological exam may test for gonorrhea or chlamydia by taking a test sample from the cervix. For patients who regularly engage in anal sex, it is typically recommended that they have biannual tests for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea since they may be particularly susceptible to those sexual infections. Finally, if you are sexually active and suspect that you may have contracted one or more STDs, you may want to consider the complete 10 test panel that will cover you for several STDs at once, including an HIV RNA early detection test.
There are approximately 20 different types of STDs and each of them ranges in severity and long-term consequences. Some of the more prevalent STDs include:
Chlamydia, a bacterial infection that affects the urethra in men and the upper reproductive organs in women, is the most common STD in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Individuals who contract chlamydia typically do not experience physical symptoms, yet it can lead to sterility in men and infertility in women if left untreated.
Commonly known as “the clap,” gonorrhea is often unaccompanied by any physical symptoms. However, on occasion, individuals who have contracted gonorrhea report pain during urination, anal itching/bleeding and abdominal discharge. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that targets the urethra, cervix, rectum, throat and pelvic organs, and can potentially lead to infertility or complications in cases of pregnancy.
A liver disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV), its symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and jaundice (the yellowing of the eyes and/or skin). Unlike most STDs, it is primarily contracted through the consumption of food and/or drink that has been contaminated with feces that includes the virus. While there is no treatment for HAV, the virus can only be contracted once and can be managed through rest and a balanced diet.
Much like Hepatitis A, the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) targets the liver. However, it is primarily contracted through intravenous (IV) drug use, specifically through the use of shared needles, as well as through the exchange of bodily fluids. Instances of Hepatitis B include flu-like symptoms, joint pain, skin rash and jaundice, and can lead to permanent liver damage if left untreated.
The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common blood-borne (meaning spread through blood contamination) in the United States. The main difference between the Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses is that the latter is more strongly associated with liver cancer. Symptoms include mild fatigue, abdominal pain and occasional discolored urine. Individuals typically contract HCV via shared needles or through exposure to contaminated blood, and the virus can lead to liver cancer if not detected early.
Herpes cases can be divided into two types: the first is oral herpes (HSV-1) and the second is genital herpes (HSV-2). Symptoms include visible skin blisters and sores. Once contracted, the HSV virus stays in your system for life, but antibiotics can reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms.
Short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV can ultimately develop into AIDS. HIV debilitates the body’s immune system so that it is unable to effectively fight off disease and infection. The virus is mainly contracted through unprotected sex and needle sharing. Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV at this time, although the disease can be managed with diet, exercise and medication. Using the HIV RNA test, the most advanced HIV test approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), doctors can detect the presence of the virus in the blood 9-11 days after initial exposure.
Syphilis comes from a bacterial infection known as Treponema pallidum. Its symptoms are often undetectable, but may include sores, fatigue and a low grade fever. In long-term cases, syphilis can lead to nerve, brain and heart damage and, in the worst case scenario, death. Fortunately, it can be treated quite easily with penicillin.
Early detection of an STD is very important. The CDC advises regular testing if you are sexually active, a man who engages in sex with other men (MSM), or have multiple sexual partners.
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