How Do They Test for STDs? How Much Do Tests Cost? Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

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Chlamydia

Definition: Chlamydia is a curable bacterial infection and one of the most commonly reported infectious diseases in the United States. It can be transmitted during vaginal, oral or and anal sex.  In 2006, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1,030,911 chlamydia infections in the US.

Symptoms: Known as the “silent epidemic”, there are often no symptoms. Women can have painful urination, vagina discharge, bleeding between periods, and lower abdominal pain. Men can have discharge from the penis, painful urination, burning or itching around the penis.Testing: Urine test.Treatment: Antibiotics. No sexual contact until treatment is completed. For more information, please ask your doctor.

If Left Untreated: In women, untreated infections can lead to chronic pelvic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, and potentially deadly tubal pregnancy. It can also cause prenatal problems for the unborn baby including pneumonia. Women infected with chlamydia are at a higher risk for HIV if exposed to it.  In men, untreated infection can spread to other parts of the penis and testicles and cause pain.

Gonorrhea

Definition: Gonorrhea is a curable STD caused by a bacterial infection. Gonorrhea is spread through contact with the penis, vagina, anus or mouth.  In 2006, the CDC estimated there were over 700,000 Gonorrhea infections in the US.

Symptoms: Similar to chlamydia, gonorrhea can have no or somewhat delayed symptoms in men and women. Women can experience painful urination, vaginal discharge and or vaginal bleeding between periods. In females, gonorrhea may have non-specific symptoms that are often confused with bladder infections. Men can experience burning sensation when urinating discharge from the penis and sometimes painful or swollen testicles.  Rectal symptoms in both men and women include anal soreness, bleeding, painful bowel movements and anal itching.

Testing: Urine test.

Treatment: Antibiotics. No sexual contact until treatment is completed. For more information, please ask your doctor.

If Left Untreated:In women, untreated gonorrhea infections can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to chronic pelvic pain, internal abscesses and possibly infertility. In men, untreated gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the ducts attached to the testicles that may lead to infertility

Syphilis

Definition: Syphilis is a curable STD caused by a bacterial infection.  Syphilis is spread through direct contact with syphilis sores that occur mainly on male and female genitals and anal areas. In 2006, the CDC estimated there were 36,000 syphilis infections in the US.

Symptoms: In both men and women, syphilis symptoms can lay dormant for years. Syphilis is known to have three stages that if not treated can lead to progressively worse health and possibly death. Symptoms can start with small, round painless sores that last for an average of 21 days and lead to larger skin rashes and mucous membrane lesions in one or more areas of the body.

Testing: Urine test.

Treatment: Antibiotics. No sexual contact until treatment is completed. For more information, please ask your doctor.

If Left Untreated: If left untreated, later stages of syphilis can lead to serious damage to many internal organs for both men and women. Signs of this late stage include dementia, paralysis, and gradual blindness among other symptoms.

Genital Herpes

Definition: Herpes is an incurable STD caused by the herpes simplex virus. There are two kinds of herpes, HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-2, also known as genital herpes, is usually spread during sexual contact with someone who has genital herpes. It should be noted that HSV 1 can cause genital herpes during oral sex. Genital herpes, one of the most common STDs, affects one out of five adolescents and adults according to the CDC.

Symptoms: Most men and women with genital herpes (HSV-2) are not aware of thier infection. When symptoms are noticed—usually the first outbreak is the most pronounced—symptoms can include genital sores and  a flu like feeling (fever and swollen glands). Common symptoms for HSV-1 include sores on the mouth and lips, also known as “Fever blisters.”

Testing: Blood Test to detect the antibodies to HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection.

Treatment: There is no cure for herpes. However, antiviral medications have been proven to shorten and prevent herpes outbreaks. For more information, ask your doctor.If Left Untreated:There are no serious long term threats to herpes. For pregnant women, genital herpes can lead to potentially fatal infections in babies. Women should avoid contracting herpes in later stages of pregnancy because it poses a greater risk of transmission to the baby. Since there is no cure, the severity of herpes breakouts can minimized by antiviral treatment, but not cured.

Hepatitis B

Definition: Hepatitis B is a liver diseases caused by a virus (also known as HBV).  The disease is spread through sexual contact with an infected person and exposure to infected blood.  According to the CDC, one out of 20 people in the United States have been infected with Hepatitis B at some point in their life.

Symptoms: Like other STDs, people infected hepatitis B may not have any symptoms.  When symptoms are present, they may be mild or severe.  Common symptoms of HBV include: yellow skin, yellowing around the eyes, nausea, excessive tiredness, abdominal pains, dark urine, grey-colored bowel movements and or joint pain. HBV can cause chronic, lifelong infections, which increase an infected persons chance at getting liver cancer and cirrhosis.

Testing: Blood Test.

Treatment: There is no available cure for HBV infections. For the treatment of chronic HBV infection there are antiviral drugs. The hepatitis B vaccine is the best prevention against hepatitis B. For more information, be sure to ask your doctor.

If Left Untreated:If left untreated, Hepatitis B can become chronic, causing serious liver disease. The CDC reports that roughly 5,000 people die each year from HBV related causes.

Hepatitis C

Definition: Hepatitis C is a liver diseases caused by the hepatitis virus (also known as HCV).  The disease is spread through sexual contact with an infected person and exposure to infected blood. According to the CDC, “HCV infection is the most common blood borne infection in the United States.”

Symptoms: People recently infected with Hepatitis C do not have always have symptoms. Common symptoms of HCV include: yellow skin, yellowing around the eyes, nausea, excessive tiredness, abdominal pains, dark urine, grey-colored bowel movements and or joint pain According to the CDC, “Of 100 HCV-infected people, 75 to 85 will develop chronic (long-lasting) infection and 70 people will eventually develop chronic liver disease. Although less than 3% of chronically infected persons die as a result of their infection, hepatitis C remains the leading indication for liver transplantation.”

Testing: Blood Test.

Treatment: There is no available cure for HCV infections. For the treatment of chronic HCV infection there are antiviral drugs. No vaccine for hepatitis C is available. For more information, please ask your doctor.

If Left Untreated: Similar to hepatitis B, if left untreated, HCV can become a chronic illness, causing serious liver disease and possible death.

HIV

Definition: HIV, short for human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). AIDS, attacks the body’s immune system leaving a person prone to infections. The virus can be spread when a non-infected person’s broken skin or mucous membranes comes into contact with blood, semen, or vaginal secretions from a infected person. A mucous membrane is soft tissue found in the mouth, eyes, nose, vagina, rectum, and opening of the penis.

Symptoms: According to the CDC, “The only way to know if you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected.” The CDC reports, the following conditions may be warning signs of advanced HIV infection:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Dry cough
  • Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
  • Profound and unexplained fatigue
  • Swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
  • White spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat
  • Pneumonia
  • Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
  • Memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders

    These symptoms may be related to other illnesses, and the only way to be sure is to get tested.Testing:Blood Test.Treatment:There is no cure for HIV. Through early detection, treatment can slow or stop the progress of the HIV infection. For more information, please ask your doctor.If Left Untreated:If left untreated, HIV and AIDS is fatal. The time it takes HIV to become AIDS is different for everyone. There are new drugs that have slowed the progression time between HIV infection and the development of AIDS.

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