For anyone who is sexually active, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are an important thing to think about.
Getting regular STD tests is an important way to protect yourself and any sexual partners you have.
Luckily for most people, getting tested is relatively quick and painless and can be done separately or alongside a regular check up.
There are several types of tests performed to diagnose STDs including swab samples, physical exams, and urine and blood tests.
Depending on the test, it can take hours, days, or weeks to get results.
STDs are infections passed from one person to another through sexual activity, including oral, anal, or genital contact.
While different types of STDs result in different symptoms, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Changes in urination including pain or burning sensation
- Unusual discharge from the penis
- Abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding
- Burning or itching in the vaginal area
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bumps or sores
- Pain in the pelvic or lower abdominal region
How Long Does An STD Screening Take?
STD testing is quick, easy, and typically pain-free.
In fact, most screenings can be done in a matter of minutes. Your doctor may be able to tell right away if you have an STD, but some tests take a few days or weeks to come back from a lab.
How does STD testing work?
STD testing isn’t always part of your regular checkup or gynecologist exam so it’s important to ask for one occasionally even if you’re not experiencing symptoms.
If you think you have been exposed to an STD, have an honest conversation with your provider about the symptoms you’re experiencing and your sexual activity.
Depending on your symptoms, your provider may want to do one or several of the following tests:
- Urine sample: You will be asked to pee into a cup.
- Cheek swab: A soft swab is rubbed on the inside of the cheek to test for HIV.
- Blood test: Blood is drawn from the arm or the finger is pricked.
- Physical exam: Doctor, APP, or nurse examines the genital area to check for warts, sores, rashes, irritation, or discharge.
- Testing Sores: Doctor, APP, or nurse takes a sample of fluid from any sores or blisters with a swab.
- Discharge Swab: A soft swab is used to collect discharge or cell samples from your penis, vagina, urethra, cervix, anus, or throat.
How Long Does It Take To Get STD Test Results?
A urine test can be used to diagnose gonorrhea, but in some cases a genital swab may be used to collect a sample instead, as this can be more accurate. Results are usually available in 2-3 days.
A urine test or swab are two methods used to diagnose chlamydia. For a swab test, the health care professional will take a cell sample from the cervix or the urethra. Results are usually available in 2-3 days.
There are two primary tests used to diagnose syphilis. The first is called a Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR), a blood test that looks for antibodies to the syphilis bacteria. The second is a Venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL) test, which also checks for syphilis antibodies. A VDRL test can be done on blood or spinal fluid. Results are usually available in 7-10 days.
Many providers can diagnose herpes by performing a physical exam of the lesions. To confirm the diagnosis, a swab is used to take a fluid sample from the sores. If you don’t have any sores, a blood test may be performed to determine if the virus is present. Depending on the type of test performed, results are usually available in 1-14 days.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is typically diagnosed by either a blood test or a swab sample from the inside of the cheek. Results of an HIV test can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. There are also rapid tests available that can produce results in 30 minutes or less. All of these tests can have varying results depending on how long it’s been since the initial exposure, which is why a second test is often recommended.
To diagnose human papillomavirus (HPV), a health care professional uses a special tool to gently scrape or brush the cervix to remove cells for testing. Results are usually available in 1-3 weeks.
A test for trichomoniasis requires a health care professional to take a swab sample from the vagina or penis. A urine test can also be used for men. Results are usually available in 1-3 days.
Who Should Undergo a Screening?
The short answer is, anyone who is sexually active should have regular STD screenings regardless of if they think they have been exposed or show symptoms.
There are some groups in particular who have a higher risk of contracting an STD and should get tested regularly—they include:
- Sexually active woman under age 25
- Women older than 25 and at risk of STIs
- Gay or bisexual men
- People with HIV
The groups above are not the only people who should get tested. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide a list of screening recommendations for each of the most common STDS.
How to Get an STD Test?
You can get an STD test at your doctor’s office, a community health clinic, or your local health department.
STD testing isn’t always part of a regular checkup or gynecologist exam, but all you have to do is ask your provider.
Be honest with them about your sex life, so they can help you figure out which tests are best for you.
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K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases. (2017).
STD Tests. (2021).
Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources. (2021).
Get Tested. (2021).