STIs, or sexually transmitted infections, are fairly common among people who are sexually active. While they can range from merely annoying to life-threatening, it’s important to get tested regularly if you’re sexually active because they can play a huge part in your overall health and well-being. Here’s what you need to know.
The Importance of STI Testing for Your Health
STIs are not always as obvious as you might think. You could contract one and never know it because symptoms are either mild, or never appear at all. This is what makes them tough to spot: sometimes the person you got it from doesn’t even know they have it either. It’s important to note that STIs are not just passed during vaginal intercourse – they can be passed during other kinds of sexual encounters, too, such as oral sex or anal sex.
Regular testing is the best way to be sure of your current state of health, but if you’ve had sexual contact with another person and notice any signs of an STI, you should talk to your doctor or nurse about getting tested. Sometimes symptoms can come and go, but that doesn’t mean the STI is gone.
Here are some potential symptoms to watch out for:
- sores or bumps on and around your genitals, thighs, or buttocks
- abnormal discharge from your vagina or penis
- burning when you pee and/or having to pee a lot
- itching, pain, irritation and/or swelling in your penis, vagina, vulva, or anus
- flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, swollen glands, and fatigue
While many of these symptoms could be caused by other health issues, the only way to know for sure if it’s an STI is to get tested.
It’s especially important to get tested if you think you have an STI, because some STIs can cause serious health problems if you don’t treat them. If you do have an STI, it’s best to find out as soon as possible. Some STIs can cause serious damage to your body and health over time, even if you feel totally fine right now. STIs can also spread to other people you have sexual contact with, whether or not you have any symptoms.
What happens during a test for STIs?
It’s important to note that STI testing isn’t usually included in regular medical exams. You need to ask for it if you want to get tested. That being said, getting tested for STIs is generally quick, painless, and sometimes free.
If you’re not sure what to get tested for, your nurse or doctor can help you figure it out based on your symptoms and sexual history. Be open and honest with your medical team – they’re not there to judge you, they are there to make sure you’re as safe and as healthy as you can be!
Depending on what STI you’re getting tested for (there isn’t one test for all STIs), you may do the following:
- Urinate into a cup
- A blood test
- A physical exam (the nurse or doctor will examine your genital area to check for warts, sores, rashes, irritation, or discharge)
- Test your sores (if you have them, they may do a quick swab for testing)
- Use a swab to gently take discharge or cell samples from any of the following areas:
In some cases, your doctor may be able to tell right away if you have an STI, but in others you may have to wait a few days to get your test results.
If you have tested positive, you’re not alone! And it’s going to be okay. Your doctor will counsel you on a treatment plan and you’ll need to let any sexual partners know the results. It can be a difficult conversation, but it’s important and overall, it’s the right thing for your health and theirs.
Where can I get tested for STIs?
You can easily get tested for STIs at an OB/Gyn clinic (like Copperstate) either during a regular well woman exam (if you request it) or at another time. All you’ll need to do is make an appointment.
STI testing can be a difficult thing to face, but it’s the best way to make sure you’re taking care of YOU.
Having an STI doesn’t make you a “bad person” – they’re extremely common and many people are either living with them or have had one in the past. The most important thing is to ensure that your health is taken care of, no matter what. That’s why we recommend STI testing if you’re a sexually active human – your health and wellbeing are truly important! If you think it’s time for a check-up, contact us today to make an appointment to get tested.
Are you looking for an OB/Gyn you can trust? Do you live in the Tucson area? Let us partner with you to help you achieve true health. Book an appointment today!