For many of us this may be an uncomfortable and embarrassing question. I know many of my patients will tell the staff they are coming in for a different reason, and only when they are finally in the exam room with me they are comfortable enough to share their concerns about possible STDs.
Some of them have just discovered that their partner has been cheating on them, and are emotionally devastated. Maybe you or someone close to you has recently experienced this and can understand how scary it can be not knowing if you might have contracted something serious from an unfaithful partner. Even if you are single and dating and are careful to use condoms everytime, the worry is still there as condoms don’t protect from all STDs.
Testing for STDs should begin when you become sexually active or have symptoms that make you worry that something may be wrong. Symptoms like vaginal bumps, blisters or open sores should be shared with your OB/Gyn.
So should vaginal discharge that is odorous, itchy, bloody, or higher volume than normal. If the infection gets to your kidneys or fallopian tubes and into the pelvis, it can cause fevers, severe pain and possibly PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes and eventually infertility. I would never want to think that any of you or my patients would suffer from this and try to self- treat because they were too embarrassed to see their doctor. We are here to help you and want to see you get better.
The home tests that you can get from the drug store can be used, but will often read positive when no infection is present at all. So a follow-up with your doctor is still a good idea.
The best time to screen for STDs & STIs is during your annual exam. It is also a good time to ask questions and get information on prevention.
Some STDs (like HIV, Hep B, & Herpes or syphilis) may not show up right away on initial testing and take a few months to pick up on a blood test, so follow-up in 6 months to confirm that tests are truly negative.
I hope this helps. I know a lot of my patients ask me if douching helps get rid STDs and I have told them that it can actually force the infection up further through the cervix and into the uterus and fallopian tubes. This in itself can cause PID as discussed above.
A much better way to clean out your vagina is to use the WaterWorks Vaginal Cleansing system. It will rinse out excess discharge and infection-causing bacteria. [Note: this will not cure any STD or prevent an STD]. WaterWorks uses only fresh water (no chemicals!) and is FDA cleared. It does not use a shooting action so will not push the infection further up into the uterus or fallopian tubes. It may help you heal faster along with taking the prescribed medications. Don't share your WaterWorks with anyone else!