The Lowdown on STD Symptoms and Testing

As if dealing with STDs wasn’t uncomfortable enough, the situation is made even more ambiguous when there are no signs that you’ve even been infected. The truth is, many STDs have no symptoms at all—tricky little buggers—which means many people may have them and be passing them on without knowing. So even you’ve been in a monogamous relationship for years and have been 100% faithful to each other, there’s still a chance one or both of you could have an STD if you haven’t been tested.

That brings us to tip numero uno: Get tested. Even if you haven’t knocked boots in nine months, it’s a good idea to get tested for common, symptomless infections, especially before you become sexually active again.

Chlamydia, is the most common STD and you can become infected through oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Condoms do a good job at preventing the spread of Chlamydia, but even if you use a condom every time, it’s still a good idea to get tested because oftentimes you won’t show any symptoms at all. Luckily, Chlamydia testing is done with a simple urine sample or self-collected vaginal swab, so you don’t even have to get a pelvic exam. The Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) recommends annual Chlamydia testing for all sexually active women aged 14-25, even if you’ve had the same partner for many years or haven’t had sex in awhile. Chlamydia is the only test that is routinely recommended for all sexually active young women, but even doctors need a reminder sometimes. Make an appointment to see your provider (or find one in our health center finder), and get yourself tested.

It’s also a good idea to test for gonorrhea because it can be done from the same sample as your Chlamydia test. One trip to the bathroom, two tests. How simple is that? Gonorrhea is another common infection that often goes undetected and can cause some serious issues if left untreated. And then of course there’s HPV (human papilloma virus), which can be detected from your annual pap smear. If you stay up on your lady-part exams, you’re good to go on that one.

There are some other, more rare STDs that you may want to consider being tested for. The CDC recommends that all sexually active people have an HIV test at least once, but not regularly unless there are other risk factors (like many different partners, partners who use IV drugs, or men who have sex with men). Similar deal with hepatitis and syphilis: only recommended for folks at risk. Testing for herpes is not recommended unless you think you may have it (painful sores are the key indicator) or because you know your partner has it.

To get more details on STD symptoms, treatment, testing and tips for protection, check out our Uncovering STDs tool or make an appointment at your local health center.