How Do Doctors Test for STDs?

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How Do Doctors Test for STDs?

How does a doctor test to see if you have STDs?
- Perry*

There are different tests for different sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The kind of test someone gets depends on the type of STD, symptoms (like sores, discharge, or pain), and the person's medical and sexual history.

A doctor or nurse practitioner will start by asking about a person's medical and sexual history things like how many partners the person has had. AFter that, the doctor or nurse will examine the person's genitals. For girls, who have symptoms of STDs this may include a pelvic exam. Girls who do not have symptoms and are just getting screened for STDs as part of a routine checkup will most likely not need a pelvic exam.

Based on what's learned from the interview and exam, the doctor or NP may take one or more of these samples:

  • a blood sample (from either a blood draw or a finger prick)
  • a urine sample
  • a swab of the inside of the mouth
  • a swab from the genitals, such as the urethra in guys or the cervix in girls
  • a swab of any discharge or sores

Sometimes, the sample can be tested right there in the health provider's office. Other times, the sample is sent to a lab and the results come later. It depends on the office and the type of infection doctors are testing for.

STDs can be sneaky. Often there are no signs that a person has one. That's not necessarily a good thing. These "hidden" STDs can still put people at risk for health problems. Anyone who is having sex (or has had sex in the past) should get tested.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: October 2013

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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