Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Testing and Treatment

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What is an STD?

An STD is an abbreviation for Sexually Transmitted Disease. STDs used to be called Venereal Disease and they are most often, but not exclusively spread by sexual intercourse. You can get a STD from vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The risk factors associated with contracting an STD include:

  • Having more than one sex partner
  • Having sex with someone who has had many partners
  • Not using a condom when having sex
  • Having numerous STIs (sexually transmitted infections)

Education and prevention of STDs is essential in maintaining good sexual and reproductive health. Some STDs like HIV, Genital Herpes and Hepatitis B can be transmitted to your baby during pregnancy or birth. STDs can complicate your pregnancy and may have serious effects on you and your developing baby. Some of these problems may be seen at birth; others may not be discovered until months or years later.

STDs are serious illnesses that require treatment. Some STDs, like HIV, cannot be cured and can be deadly. Through education, you can learn ways to protect yourself from the following most common STDs:

  • Genital herpes
  • Human papillomavirus/Genital warts
  • Hepatitis B
  • Chlamydia
  • Syphilis
  • Gonorrhea

What are Symptoms of STDs?

Sometimes, there are no symptoms of an STD. This is referred to as being asymptomatic. If you are asymptomatic, you can still transmit the disease to your sexual partner. If you do have symptoms of an STD, they will most likely resemble:

  • Bumps, sores, or warts near the mouth, anus, or vagina
  • Swelling or redness near the vagina
  • Skin rash
  • Painful urination
  • Weight loss, loose stools, night sweats
  • Aches, pains, fever, and chills
  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
  • Discharge from the vagina. Vaginal discharge may have an odor
  • Bleeding from the vagina other than during a monthly period
  • Painful sex
  • Severe itching near the vagina

These are some of the symptoms that can indicate you may have a sexually transmitted disease. To be certain, it is important to see your gynecological specialist and have tests performed to determine and diagnose the problem. At New River Women’s Health, we provide testing for STDs as well as treatment and management of symptoms.

Testing for STDs

When you see your gynecologist for your yearly wellness exam and Pap test, you will discuss your medical history and your sexual history. Together, you will determine if you need to be tested for STDs based on symptoms you may have. Your test may include:

  • Physical Exam – Your doctor may look at your genitals and/or your anus for obvious signs of an infection, like a rash, discharge, sores, or warts. This exam can be similar to a pelvic exam.
  • Blood Sample – Your provider may take a blood sample, either with a needle or by pricking the skin to draw drops of blood.
  • Urine Sample – You may be asked to urinate into a special cup.
  • Discharge, tissue, cell, or saliva sample – Your doctor will use a swab to collect samples that will be examined under a microscope.

Usually, a diagnosis can be made based on your symptoms and/or a physical exam. Treatment can be prescribed right away. Sometimes your healthcare provider may need to send a sample to a lab to be tested. In this case, the results may not be available for several days or weeks.

Treatment for STDs

Some STDs are caused by bacterial infections and some are caused by viruses. Viral STDs can be managed, but not always cured. Bacterial STDs can be treated with antibiotics. See a doctor immediately if you are pregnant and are experiencing symptoms of an STD. Treatments of STDs depend on your particular illness.

  • Antibiotics – A course of antibiotics may be prescribed to treat an STD caused by a bacterial infection. It is important to take your medication exactly as prescribed by your healthcare professional and to abstain from sexual intercourse during your treatment and until sores have healed.
  • Antiviral Medications – Antiviral medications are prescription drugs used for STDs caused by a viral infection like genital herpes. Antiviral medications can be prescribed to take daily to suppress symptoms of the virus. You will still have the virus and can spread the virus to partners, however medication can reduce the chance of outbreaks.   Antiviral drugs are used to treat HIV infections and can suppress HIV  for many years. But the virus persists and can still be transmitted, though the risk is lower.

As with all infections or diseases, early detection is the key to successful treatment. The sooner you start treatment, the more effective it is. Once you begin treatment and take your medications exactly as directed, it is possible to lower your virus count to nearly undetectable levels.

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