The simple fact is that all sexually active humans are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and they can happen to anyone at any age. So, does that mean that everyone should be getting tested for STDs all the time?
Of course not. But some people run a higher risk than others and can benefit from regular STD screenings. Dr. Farah Khan and our team here at Millennium Park Medical Associates offer discreet and thorough STD screenings to our at-risk patients.
With two locations in The Loop and Lakeview communities of Chicago, Illinois, getting tested is convenient and quick, so there’s no reason not to be safe. Here’s a rundown on the most common STDs and how to determine if you should get tested for them.
Beginning as a sore in your mouth or on your genitals, syphilis can easily spread to others via contact with the sores. The infection can lie dormant in you for years without symptoms, and can also harm unborn babies if the mother is infected. Get tested for syphilis if you’re pregnant or you’re a sexually active gay or bisexual man.
While there’s no syphilis vaccination, you can prevent the spread of this infection using condoms and avoiding contact with syphilis sores.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
HIV is a virus that’s spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. It attacks your immune system, making it hard for you to fight off diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age 13 and older get screened for HIV at least once.
You should get yearly HIV tests if you:
- Are a gay or bisexual man
- Self-inject drugs
- Share needles for drug use
- Have anal intercourse
The HIV virus destroys your white blood cells and severely weakens your immune system, which is how it transitions into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Chlamydia and gonorrhea
Up to 4 million Americans suffered from chlamydia in 2018, making it one of the most prevalent STDs. It’s transmitted through sexual contact, but doesn’t require intercourse or ejaculation to spread. It affects more women than men and is also common among men who have sex with men. The chlamydia virus can infect the genitals, eyes, mouth, throat, or anus.
Gonorrhea is another common STD, and its symptoms are similar to those of chlamydia, namely:
- Burning sensation during urination
- Penile or vaginal discharge
- Rectal pain or bleeding
Chlamydia symptoms may appear within a few weeks of infection, and gonorrhea symptoms may not appear for weeks or months.
Get screened annually for both chlamydia and gonorrhea if you are a:
- Sexually active woman under age 25
- Sexually active woman over age 25 with multiple partners
- Man who has sex with men
A swab or urine test can detect the presence of these STDs, and treatments are available. If you ignore the symptoms, women may risk complications, such as a spread of the infection into the uterus and fallopian tubes, leading to fertility issues. These infections can also infect men’s testicles.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
The HPV virus can cause genital warts or cervical cancer, although many infected people never develop symptoms at all, and the infection may resolve on its own within a couple of years.
For women over age 30, testing for the HPV virus can be done at an annual well-woman visit along with a Pap smear to check for cervical cancer. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, HPV testing is recommended every five years.
If you’re a sexually active man or woman and have genital warts, we can test those for the presence of the virus.
The CDC recommends HPV vaccinations for all children at age 11-12, and up to age 26 for adults who have not yet been vaccinated.
A very common type of STD, genital herpes is another infection that can be present without any symptoms. In fact, the reason it’s so prevalent is because you can pass it to others without knowing you have it. There’s no cure for genital herpes, but the symptoms can be treated and mitigated.
You can get genital herpes through contact with:
- The saliva of an infected person
- Genital secretions of an infected person
- A herpes sore
Genital herpes can be spread through vaiginal, oral, or anal sex. We can test your blood for herpes antibodies to find out if you’re infected or test your sores if you have them. We can prescribe medications to shorten your outbreaks and lessen their severity.
The bottom line is that all sexually active people are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, at least to some degree. The more partners you have and the more risk factors that apply to you, the more important it is to get tested regularly.
Fortunately, getting tested is discreet and easy here at Millennium Park Medical Associates. To schedule an appointment, simply call us at either office or book your appointment online today.