STD Testing: Is It Right for Me and How Often Should It Be Done?

Millions of new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur each year in the United States, but many STDs don’t present symptoms. That means thousands — and possibly millions — of people with STDs go without treatment each year. 

Because many STDs are symptomless, it can be tough to know if you have an STD. Dr. Mark J. Kelly explains STD testing, who should get tested for what, and symptoms to look out for. 

Who should get tested for STDs?

If you’re sexually active, a good rule of thumb is to get tested annually for the major STDs, even if you’ve had the same partner for a while. If you frequently switch sexual partners or have multiple partners at once, it’s even more critical that you get tested at least annually.

What STD tests should I get?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following STD testing guidelines:

Those guidelines generally serve all populations well, but it’s never a bad idea to get tested more often, especially if you suspect you might have an STD. 

STD symptoms to look out for

Though the majority of STDs don’t cause symptoms — or only cause symptoms so mild that you don’t realize you have an infection — you should be on the lookout for these eight symptoms if you’re sexually active: 

If you experience any of these, or other unusual and uncomfortable symptoms, contact your doctor right away for an evaluation.

Risks of untreated STDs

Like any disease or infection, a sexually transmitted disease gets worse if left untreated. If you don’t seek medical care for your STD, you put yourself and others at risk for long-term complications. If you’re on the fence about seeking treatment, consider these risks of untreated STDs:

Risk of infecting others: This is clearly a critical risk you should be aware of. Even if you practice safe sex and wear condoms, there’s no guarantee that you won’t pass your infection to your partner. 

Increasing your risk of HIV: An STD causes your genital area to become inflamed, which elicits a response from your immune system and, in a counterintuitive way, this actually increases your risk of contracting HIV. Additionally, some STDs leave open sores on your body, which also increases your risk of contracting the virus.

Other complications: Any untreated disease puts you at risk for related complications. With an STD, that might mean infertility, a complicated pregnancy, cancer, and organ damage. 

If you haven’t been tested for STDs in a while or think you may have an STD, call Dr. Kelly right away to schedule an appointment or use our online scheduling tool

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