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When to get tested for STDs

medcoi sti awareness


Who should get tested for STDs?

All unmarried polyamorous, polygamous, and even monogamous couples who have unprotected sex should get tested routinely at least once every 3-6 months.

Testing is advised after each sexual encounter if a couple is in an open relationship! Those who practice a form of consensual non-monogamy (CNM), like swinging, polyamory, open relationships, cuckolding fetishism, and cuckquean fetishism are considered high-risk partners

All sexually active women younger than 25 years should be tested once a year for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is advised to get tested 2-4 weeks after a risky exposure, often after a high-risk sexual behaviour. High-Risk Sexual Behavior includes:

  • Anyone who practices unprotected genital sex
  • Anyone who practices unprotected oral to genital sex
  • Anyone who practices unprotected anal sex
  • Those working in the sex industry, especially the female sex workers (prostitutes, call girls, and escorts)
  • Having unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners (MSP)
  • People who inject drugs (PWID), like heroin and cocaine
  • ... and many more
What are the most common STD symptoms?

Common types of STDs in females include human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and genital herpes.

The most common symptoms of an STI in females can include:

  • An unusual discharge and smell from the vagina, or anus.
  • Itchy genitals, vaginal burning, and itching +/- anal itching
  • Genital warts, itchy lumps or soft skin growths on the genitals
  • Blisters and sores around the vagina (genital herpes), anus, or mouth
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, spotting between periods, or bleeding during or after sex.
  • Urinary urgency and foul-smelling urine
  • Dysuria (painful urination or burning sensation when urinating)
  • Bowel movement with tenesmus
  • Chills (shivering), sweating and stomach pain (abdominal cramps and pain)
  • Genital rashes
  • Having to go to the bathroom more often (diarrhea)
  • Pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • ... and many more

In males, stds are generally acquired by sexual contact. Common types of STDs in men include gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and genital herpes.

The most common symptoms of an STI in males can include:

  • Penile discharge pain during sexual intercourse painful urination
  • Urinary retention due to swelling of the urethra
  • Anorectal discharge and pain associated with tenesmus
  • Vesical tenesmus, the feeling that you still have to pee, even when you can't pee anymore
  • Fever
  • Urinary Urgency, a compelling need to urinate
  • Stranguria, painful, frequent urination of small volumes
  • Redness, itching, and swelling of the head of the penis and foreskin (Balanitis)
  • Penile swelling
  • Itchy penis
  • Sores, ulcers, or bumps on the penis, mouth, or anus
  • Bowel movement with tenesmus
  • ... and many more
Do STDs smell?

Every woman has her own unique scent and every vagina has a different smell. In fact, vaginal scents are very normal, and odor alone is not a symptom of an STD.

The vagina and the area around it (groin skin, vulva and inside the vagina) has a unique fragrance. The vagina usually has only a mild, musky scent or sometimes no odor at all. However, excessive vaginal odor can be a sign of an STD.

STDs and infections that can cause genital odor:

  • Chlamydia, it is characterized by an unusual, strong-smelling yellow vaginal discharge. The majority of patients describe it as a strong, foul smelling discharge.
    Symptoms of Chlamydia infection include yellowish vaginal discharge that has a strong fishy smell, or similar to the smell of pus
    Most commonly, chlamydia is asymptomatic
  • Gonorrhea, symptoms of gonorrhea include yellowish-green discharge that has a Mushroom-like odor (putrid, like a dead organism), or similar to the smell of pus
  • Trichomonas, it is characterized by a yellow or yellowish-green discharge that has a strong fishy or foul smelling odor
  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV), is characterized by a grayish-white vaginal discharge that has a strong fishy odor, or the smell of rotten eggs
  • ... and many more

Other common causes of abnormal vaginal odor include:

  • Retained foreign bodies such as a tampon can lead to infection and cause smelly discharge. A forgotten tampon or another foreign object inside the vagina can produce a bad, rotting smell.
  • Poor hygiene, if you don't wash or change your underwear daily, you will experience odor problems due to an unbalanced growth of Bacteria and over sweating (hyperhidrosis). Just like your armpits, your crotch area (the groin and genitals) contains apocrine glands
  • Certain food, such as garlic and onion. Eating certain foods like onions, garlic, spices, and vinegar can change the smell of sweat, especially in the groin area. Sweat can combine with vaginal discharge to make the vagina smell like garlic or onion
    Consuming an excessive amount of meat, lacticinia (milk products), and alcohol can also make the vagina smell strong and sour
  • Sweating in the area around the vagina can produce a Musty Vaginal Odor. Excessive perspiration (hyperhidrosis) often leads to osmidrosis (ozochrotia, or bromhidrosis), especially associated with obesity.
    Obese and overweight women exhibit higher Nugent scores (≥ 8) and an increased prevalence of bacterial vaginosis (BV). High Nugent scores (≥ 3) are associated with higher epithelial cell numbers in vaginal fluid
  • Hormonal swings can cause heavier vaginal discharge or a vaginal odor, especially after menopause due to the vagina's changing acidity level &mdash also known as pH &mdash following a decline in estrogen levels. postmenopausal women may also notice that their vagina smells fermented. The change in odor is caused by lactobacilli, a beneficial bacteria
    Vaginal odor usually becomes more noticeable when there is an increased level of the hormone estrogen in the body.
  • ... and many more

When should you go to the doctor for vaginal odor?

If you are experiencing prolonged abnormal vaginal odor, or odor accompanied by other symptoms and signs, such as abnormal discharge (color, consistency, and amount), burning and itching, UTI symptoms (Urinary urgency and frequency, and Dysuria), you should seek medical care.

A simple, pH test, urine test, or vaginal swab test can establish the diagnosis, and the underlying physical problem(s) can be treated.

How long does it take for an STD to show up on a test?

When Should I Get Tested for STDs?

Every STI has its own incubation period and during this period the body begins to produce antibodies by cells called B lymphocytes (B cells). During this period a significant number of individuals that are infected actually remain asymptomatic but few others show symptoms in as little as a few days

The time from exposure to when symptoms appear can range from a few days to a few months depending on the specific pathogen; however, all unmarried individuals who are sexually active should be screened for STDs at least once a year

How soon can STD tests be done? Which STI test do I need?

The median incubation period (the time from exposure to symptom onset) of symptomatic stds is between 2 and 14 days after exposure. However, it can take anywhere from a day to several months (1-16 weeks) after exposure to a sexually transmitted disease before clinical manifestations appear.

STI tests are selected individually depending on personal risk factors and circumstances. However, choosing the right STD test and getting tested at the earliest possible time is a priority to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and to ensure you and your partners stay healthy!

STD tests may not detect the pathogen early in an infection, before the end of the incubation period, meaning testing soon after your exposure could lead to a false-negative result, especially if you do not have symptoms. The probability of a false-negative test result in people who develop symptoms, depends on the O-T interval, the time from initial onset of symptoms to the date of testing/check-up.

So, it's important to conduct STD testing if you have symptoms at the earliest time, but if you do not have symptoms wait at least *(5 days) after your exposure before testing, *depending on the specific pathogen

Repeat std testing is important following a negative result to reduce the risk of STIs and to rule out the condition. A decision to Repeat std testing is recommended if clinical suspicion is high, especially when the initial test was negative.

This table shows the earliest testing time for various STDs, when the test can be done and possibly give a definitive test result, to rule out the possibility that the patient has the disease and, usually, no further testing is required

STD test type Method Earliest testing time
Chlamydia Urine or swab 7 days after exposure
Gonorrhea Urine or swab 3 days after exposure
Trichomoniasis Urine or swab 5 days after exposure
Herpes Blood (IgG) 2 days with symptoms or 3 weeks
without symptoms
HIV Blood (RNA PCR) 7 days after exposure
Hepatitis B Blood (Hep BsAg) 6 weeks after exposure
Hepatitis C Blood (Hep C Ab) 6 weeks after exposure
Syphilis RPR 3 weeks after exposure

Can STDs go away without treatment?

If STDs are left untreated, will they resolve on their own?

If left untreated, STDs can lead to many health complications, including PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), cervical cancer, recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL, recurrent miscarriage or habitual abortion), and infertility, among other things.

Besides, some STDs can increase the risk of pregnancy related complications, such as ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth and vertical transmission of infection (mother-baby transmission). RPL affects 2%–5% of couples!

The ability of the body to clear STD infections is limited, it fully depends on the immunity system of the affected body besides the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of the causative pathogen(s).

People seeking treatment for STIs or STD screening face numerous problems,including poor health-related quality of life (HRQOL), low-income households (poverty), illeteracy, limited resources, etc. Saying so, some of these patients are able to cure infection with alternative or home remedies, while others develop irreversible complications, as a result of not getting proper medical care/medications

Will an STD go away on its own?

Some STDs caused by a virus, such as hepatitis B and C (HBV and HCV) and HPV (human papillomavirus) can be cleared by the body's immune system eventually while other viral STDs, such as HIV and Herpes, stay in the patient's body for life (are not curable).

In 95% of HPV cases, HPV (warts) are cleared by the immune system within two years

In about 90% of people newly infected with HBV, the infection will clear without treatment and the liver will fully recover. Without treatment, 5%-10 % of cases develop lifelong hepatitis B (chronic hbv). Chronic hepatitis B can lead to serious health problems, including cirrhosis (liver damage), portal hypertension, liver failure, and liver cancer. Baby Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended at Birth for all newborns

An estimated 257 million people have chronic hepatitis B virus infection!

In about 20% of people newly infected with HCV, the infection will clear without treatment. If left untreated, about 80% of patients with HCV develop chronic hepatitis C (a silent infection) after six months. Chronic HCV can lead to serious, life-threatening health problems like cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer.

An estimated 58 million people are living with chronic HCV globally!!

It's very unlikely that STDs Caused by Bacteria, such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis will go away without treatment. Without treatment, infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea persist for months or even a lifetime. While Treponema pallidum can evade the immune system

STDs Caused by a Parasite, like Trichomonas vaginalis are less likely to clear without treatment. Trichomonas vaginalis can stay dormant for months or even years until the patient is treated.