If you’re sexually active, getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases/infections (aka STDs or STIs) is crucial to your overall health. Teens and those under 25 are especially at risk for contracting STDs but anyone who is sexually active is at risk. What many people don’t know is that you’re not limited to specialty clinics for STD testing – in fact, you can just walk into most urgent care centers for STD testing at any time.
The statistics are shocking. It’s estimated that one in two sexually active people will contract an STD by age 25. And every year, 20 million new cases of STDs are reported every year in the US.
Looking at young people ages 15-24, they contract half of those annual cases, which is 10 million young adults every year... Even worse, only 12% of young adults surveyed will get tested.
7 Most Common STDs
So what’s the best thing you can do for your health if you’re sexually active?
First and foremost, always use protection.
And second, get tested!
Urgent Care STD Testing Procedure
Even if you don’t have any symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, it’s a good idea to get tested if you’ve had unprotected sex. Even if it is just a home test kit to start, before going in for a confidential test at GoHealth Urgent Care, knowledge is power.
Also, if you do use protection but have multiple partners, it’s a good idea to get tested as well, for the safety of you and your partners - and peace of mind.
STD testing at urgent care is just like getting tested in any other clinical setting. Your medical provider first evaluates you for symptoms that may suggest STD infection and then runs tests based on what he/she finds during his examination.
Usually, your provider will draw blood or take a urine sample. In other cases, the provider will use a swab to collect a sample from the affected area. In most cases, a physical exam is required, which will include a pelvic exam for females.
When is it a good idea to get tested for STDs at urgent care?
- Any time after you have unprotected sex, you should get tested 1-2 weeks after and then again 90 days later
- If you exhibit any symptoms of STDs (colored discharge, burning sensation while urinating, etc.)
- Annually if you’re a woman under 25 (specifically for chlamydia; during a well-woman visit)
- Annually if you’re sexually active and not in a mutually monogamous relationship
- Pregnant women, who may or may not be experiencing symptoms, should be tested for chlamydia and syphilis, regardless of their sexual history.
Cost of STD Testing at GoHealth Urgent Care
It’s hard to say exactly how much an STD test will cost, as your co-pay fluctuates depending on insurance. The total out-of-pocket cost will also be determined by how many tests you need based on the initial consultation.
On average, most pay between $50-100 for initial testing if your insurance is in-network with your medical provider.
Establishing a gynecologist for annual check-ups and screenings is highly recommended. They can help female patients look into birth control options, as well as provide STD testing that is typically covered by most insurance plans.
And don't think you are off the hook, gentlemen! You too should look into annual screenings, as well as doing check-ups between partners.
The 7 most common STDs vary in terms of seriousness and treatment options. Infections like Chlamydia and Trichomoniasis are easily taken care of by antibiotics, whereas an infection like genital herpes can be managed but never entirely cured.
Read on for more information about STD symptoms in men and women:
Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Without a doubt, HPV is the single most frequently occurring STD. It’s spread through oral, anal, and vaginal sex. It can also be spread by skin-to-skin contact, though the infection typically inhabits the genitals, mouth, or throat, however. Most of the time, women with HPV are unaware they have it - no symptoms are present in most cases.
HPV is especially common for women. Although the infection usually clears on its own within 2 years, this isn’t always the case. Major complications can arise if the body does not rid itself of the virus. Some strains can lead to problems like genital warts and cervical cancer.
The good news is that the dangerous strains of HPV can be prevented with a vaccine. It is recommended that both boys and girls get vaccinated for HPV at 11 years old. The vaccine should be administered twice, 6-12 months apart.
If the person was not vaccinated when they were younger, it’s ideal to get vaccinated if you’re under 26.
Similar to HPV, chlamydia is a highly prevalent STD that often doesn’t show any signs and symptoms. The infection develops about 1-3 weeks after the initial exposure, and it’s contracted through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. With only about 25% of women experiencing symptoms (while 50% of men report experiencing symptoms) making well-women visits is vital for prevention and limiting other exposure.
- Vaginal discharge
- Painful urination
- Rectal pain or discharge
- Inflamed eye
- Bleeding between menstrual cycles
- Pain during sex
- Abnormal discharge from the penis
- Painful urination
- Rectal pain or bleeding
- Inflamed eye
- Testicular pain and swelling
- Burning sensation in the penis
Chlamydia is easily treated with a 7-day course of antibiotics. If left untreated, it can lead to many reproductive problems for women. The infection can move upward to the uterus and fallopian tubes, possibly leading to infertility. Chlamydia is most prevalent in women ages 15- 24, so make sure to schedule an STD check annually if you fall within that age range.
An infection caused by a parasite, Trichomoniasis is a common STD that causes few symptoms to indicate infection. The infection is spread from a penis to a vagina or from a vagina to a vagina. It’s very rare for the infection to affect other body parts like the hands or mouth.
About 70% of infected people do not show any symptoms, but some symptoms do occur within 5-28 days after being infected.
- Itching or irritating inside the penis
- Burning after urinating
- Discharge originating from the penis
- Burning, soreness, or itching of the genitals
- Discomfort while urinating
- Colored vaginal discharge with an unusual smell
Luckily, Trichomoniasis is considered the most curable STD. Medical providers will write a prescription for antibiotics which should clear the infection. To relieve symptoms, an infected person can use a cold compress on the infected area.
Any sexually active person can contract gonorrhea by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person. It can also be passed on from a pregnant woman to her baby during birth.
Sometimes referred to as “the clap” or “the drip,” gonorrhea often, but not always shows symptoms. While symptoms for men are expected, many women with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms whatsoever. Or, if symptoms are present in infected women, they tend to be mild and can be mistaken for a UTI.
- Burning sensation during urination
- Colored discharge from the penis
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Bleeding between menstrual cycles
Usually, a urine sample is used when testing for gonorrhea. However, a swab may be used to collect samples from the throat or rectum if applicable. Gonorrhea is usually curable with antibiotics; however, drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea have increased in recent years.
Genital herpes is a common STD with about 1 in 5 Americans carrying the disease. Unfortunately, genital herpes is an incurable condition; however, it can be managed with antiviral treatments.
Up to 90% of people infected with the disease are unaware they have it. It can take as little as a few days after sexual contact to develop symptoms. There is no universal rule as to how fast herpes develops and progresses.
Typically, infected persons experience genital herpes in episodes. The initial outbreak is marked by sore, vesicles, or ulcers known as “lesions.” They look similar to zits or blisters. Some people experience lesions that are incredibly painful whereas others might experience lesions so mild it can be mistaken for a yeast infection or jock itch. In more extreme cases, an infected person may also experience flu-like symptoms like fever and headache.
After the first episode, the severity of symptoms tends to decrease. Lesions will become less pronounced and less painful with time. Since genital herpes specifically inhabits the nerves surrounding the spine, outbreaks will usually occur in upper thighs, buttocks, and genitals. Lesions will not occur on the face. Sometimes, factors like illness, stress, and friction will trigger outbreaks in an affected person.
Genital herpes is spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex with an infected person. The fluids found in herpes lesions carry the virus. Even with a condom, the disease can be spread by parts of the body that are left uncovered. Rarely, herpes can cause inflammation of the brain, liver, and other organs during the initial infection. If you suspect that you have contracted genital herpes, you should always get evaluated at the time of the rash to confirm the diagnosis and to ensure you are not having more serious complications.
Although syphilis is easily cured by antibiotics, it can lead to very serious health problems if left untreated. As syphilis affects the body in stages depending on how long it’s left untreated, certain damage cannot be reversed.
Any sexually active person can contract syphilis via vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It’s spread via sores that occur on or around the penis, vagina, anus, rectum, lips, or mouth. Also, it can be passed from mother to child during birth.
Here are the 4 stages of syphilis in adults:
- One or more sores are located where the disease entered your body. Usually, this stage is relatively painless and persists 3-6 weeks. The sore will heal, but that does not mean the disease is cured. This simply is the natural progression to the next stage.
- Secondary Stage – A red or reddish-brown rash starts in one or more areas of your body. Typically, the rash doesn’t itch, but other symptoms can include fever, sore throat, headaches, and weight loss. Without treatment, the symptoms will disappear and proceed to the next stages.
- If left untreated, syphilis will seemingly disappear and show no symptoms for a period of time. This stage can last for years until symptoms occur in the next stage.
- Tertiary Stage - At this stage, syphilis affects organ systems like the cardiovascular and nervous systems. The tertiary stage is incredibly serious, occurs approximately 10-30 years after the initial infection, and can result in death.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 90s terrified the world. Fortunately, new advances in medicine can allow people diagnosed with HIV to live long, productive lives; however, the disease is still not curable and if left untreated, can develop into AIDS. HIV and AIDS awareness is also more common these days than it was in the 90s, and there are many more resources around these days as well.
The best prevention method – aside from abstinence – is by properly using condoms whenever engaging in anal or vaginal sex. Keep in mind that oil-based lubricants can weaken condoms, so it’s best to stick to water-based lubricants. HIV is spread by bodily fluid contact, so transmitting the virus is most likely during sexual contact or when sharing needles to inject drugs. Women with HIV may pass the infection to the baby during childbirth.
HIV is a virus that destroys white blood cells, which are a critical part of the immune system. White blood cells fight off harmful viruses, so HIV harms the body by weakening a person’s immune system. When the immune system is compromised, other serious diseases can develop and jeopardize your health. After contracting HIV, the disease moves in stages if left untreated.
- One to four weeks after contracting the virus, many people experience flu-like symptoms like fever, swollen glands, headache, sore throat, and muscle pain.
- Asymptomatic Stage – After the initial stage, many people begin to feel better and can be symptom—free for 10-15 years. However, even if no symptoms are present, the disease can still cause damage to a person’s immune system.
- At this stage, a person is said to have acquired immune deficiency syndrome aka AIDS. The body is vulnerable to many types of infections that it could ordinarily fight off.
Early HIV signs and symptoms may include:
- Fever and chills
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph glands - usually one of the first signs of an HIV infection
Late-stage HIV infection symptoms include:
- Persistent fatigue
- Night sweats and chills
- Long fevers, sometimes lasting weeks with temperatures of more than 100.4° F (38° C)
- Chronic diarrhea
- Extremely swollen lymph nodes
- Persistent headaches and migraines
Wrapping It Up
The most important takeaway here is to use protection. Although STDs range in seriousness and treatability, taking the proper preventative measures is your best bet. Male and female condoms do not entirely eliminate the transmission of STDs, but they can greatly reduce the chances of all STDs.
If you experience any symptoms of an STD after a sexual encounter, you should abstain from sex until you can get tested. In addition, be sure to tell any past partners to prevent spreading STDs before your diagnosis. STD testing is easy and can usually be done at your local urgent care center, like GoHealth Urgent Care. Luckily, most STDs can be eliminated entirely or at least greatly reduced in severity with the right medication.
We can’t stress it enough: use protection to prevent STDs! And for more information regarding STD prevention or the risks of becoming infected, visit the CDC's website at: www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/.
To receive treatment, GoHealth Urgent Care offers STD tests with no appointment necessary. We are open every day with extended hours, making it easy for you to come in after work, on lunch, or whenever is convenient.