Surveillance data from the CDC shows 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in the first six months of 2021. This represents a small fraction of the 20 million new STIs acquired in the U.S. annually. And with the numbers continuing to rise, getting tested and treated is critical to avert long-term severe health consequences.
Thankfully, if you’re sexually active, you can access a free STI test. Consider checking out the details at Pregnancy Resource Center website. Perhaps you’re also curious about the STI tests various centers commonly use. Here’s a brief overview of these tests:
1. Blood Test
A blood test for a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is a critical procedure used to identify the presence of various infections in an individual’s bloodstream. It also facilitates early detection and treatment.
Conducted by a medical professional, the test typically involves drawing a small sample of blood from the patient’s arm and analyzing it in a laboratory for signs of pathogens. The process screens for a diverse range of STIs, including syphilis, herpes HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, thus providing vital information on an individual’s sexual health.
Although patients experience minor discomfort during the needle insertion, they generally anticipate a relatively painless procedure. Following the test, medical professionals interpret the results and communicate necessary information, ensuring patients are well-equipped to manage their health.
Rapid testing for HIV is also available at some clinics. Typically, the physician pokes the patient’s finger and collects a sample of blood, which they then test. The results are available within 15 minutes, allowing physicians to diagnose the infection and provide immediate treatment. That said, you may require a confirmatory test to confirm the diagnosis before proceeding with treatment.
2. Swab Test
Diagnosis of chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes, and trichomoniasis often requires a swab test. The procedure involves the collection of a sample from the affected area, such as the genitals or anus, by utilizing a swab – a small, soft, and sterile instrument resembling a cotton swab. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for examination, helping to identify the specific infection.
Some clinics also mail self-test throat swab kits to patients. These are generally used to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea. The kits include instructions, a swab to collect the sample, and an envelope to mail to the laboratory or clinic. Proper test administration is vital to its accuracy, so if you opt for this approach, ensure you follow the instructions included in the package.
The accurate and timely detection of these infections helps individuals seek appropriate treatment and take necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of transmitting the infection to their partners. Likewise, swab tests help to confirm and monitor the efficacy of treatment plans.
Depending on a patient’s symptoms, a physician may recommend a urine test. For instance, abnormal discharge, testicular pain, painful urination, or lower abdominal pain could point to gonorrhea – a urine sample can help rule out or confirm the infection. Similarly, urine tests help diagnose trichomoniasis.
The test is conducted at a clinic and generally involves the collection of a urine sample in a sterile container and submission to the laboratory for analysis. Some clinics have simple dipstick tests that can detect sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, in minutes.
A urinalysis checks for bacteria in the urine and can also help diagnose certain urinary tract infections. Similarly, it detects elevated levels of white blood cells, which could suggest chlamydia. Even so, the low-sensitivity test may not be ideal for screening and confirmation of the infection.
4. Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap)
Although it’s not a typical test, a physician may recommend a spinal tap if they suspect a patient suffers from a neurological manifestation of herpes. Also, patients exhibiting symptoms of advanced syphilis, such as dementia, tumors, blindness, or paralysis, may also require a lumbar puncture.
During the procedure, a doctor administers anesthesia and inserts a thin needle into the spine near the lower back area to collect a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sample. This test helps identify the presence of the herpes virus in CSF, providing valuable information. Nonetheless, it’s an invasive test and requires strict adherence to medical instructions.
5. At-home Tests
Currently, a range of at-home tests is available for various STIs. The kits provide instructions to collect a sample – a swab, urine sample, or blood sample – depending on the type of infection tested (as pointed out in the urinalysis section). After collecting the sample, patients send it in the discreet envelope provided to the lab for analysis. Results are usually available within a few days.
Accurate and timely diagnosis is integral to managing infections regardless of the STI test you opt for. Talk to your physician about the ideal approach if you’re considering getting tested. While at it, know that prevention is better than cure, so practice safe sex and get tested regularly.