Not all sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), often referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), show symptoms in every infected person. It’s possible to have an STI with no symptoms, so many people don’t realize they’ve been infected. Among those who do experience symptoms, the most common include itching or burning in the genital area and changes in discharge, including changes to the odor, color, or consistency.
Testing for STIs
The only way to know for sure if you have a sexually transmitted infection is to be tested by a health care provider. If you are sexually active, you should be treated regularly and begin treatment immediately if your test comes back positive. Your provider can test for the most common STIs, such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, HPV, herpes, trichomoniasis, and syphilis. At-home STI testing is also available for certain infections through companies like Nurx.
Since some STIs can cause serious health concerns, it’s important to be tested regularly. For example, untreated gonorrhea and Chlamydia can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease. HIV and syphilis can cause damage to your cardiac and nervous systems.
Certain behaviors and sexual practices can increase your risk of contracting an STI. Some of the factors that impact how often you should get tested include:
- Your age
- The number of sexual partners you have
- How often you engage in unsafe sex
- Who you have sex with (for example, if you’re a man who has sex with men)
- If you use injectable drugs
STIs are extremely common, and you could have one without realizing it because you have no symptoms. The only way to know for sure whether you need to be treated for an STI is to be tested regularly.