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I Think I Have an STD: What Now?

Regardless of your age, finding out that you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can be overwhelming and embarrassing. Knowing where to turn and what to do may seem daunting.

First, take a deep breath and understand that you are not alone, say the providers at Generations Family Practice in Cary, North Carolina. Sexually transmitted diseases are common and a vast majority of them are highly treatable. In this blog, we’ll take you step by step on what to do if you think you’ve been exposed.

What are sexually transmitted diseases?

Sexually transmitted diseases, sometimes referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are the umbrella term for highly contagious medical conditions that are caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites, which are passed from person to person through sexual or skin-to-skin contact. Every year about 374 million sexually transmitted infections occur around the world, including more than 20 million cases in the United States.

Remarkably, more than 30 different bacteria, viruses, and parasites are responsible for the transmission of STDs, although eight pathogens are connected to the majority of cases. Of these, four are currently curable: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. The other four are incurable viral infections: hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and human papillomavirus (HPV).

Some common STD symptoms include:

It’s important to note however that not all STD cases present obvious symptoms.

Get tested to know for sure

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease, don’t take a wait-and-see approach, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Contact our office right away to schedule STD testing. While you may be hesitant or embarrassed at first, taking this first step will ultimately result in less anxiety in the short term since you’ll know one way or the other.

Plus, if you do test positive, your provider can start treating you right away. Treatment plans for STDs are typically medications such as antibiotics or antivirals. If left untreated, curable STDs can be dangerous. For instance, untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea may make it difficult or impossible for a woman to get pregnant later in life. Also, untreated STDs increase the likelihood of getting HIV.

Let your partner know

If you do test positive, it’s important to contact your sexual partner(s) so that they too can get tested. We know that this step can be particularly emotionally charged. As difficult as it may seem, your partners must know there could be a problem so that they can get tested, and treated, if needed. Stopping the spread of infection and getting proper medical treatment are the overarching goals of this step.

Follow doctor’s orders

As is the case with any medication that your provider prescribes, it’s essential to follow their orders and complete your medication as directed. You may be tempted to stop taking your prescribed medication if you start to feel better, but don’t do it. Not finishing an antibiotic may prevent your STD from being effectively treated and puts you at a higher risk for effective treatment for any future STDs.

Essentially, when you stop taking the required course of antibiotics, that antibiotic’s effectiveness in fighting germs is greatly diminished because the germs develop immunity against the medication.

Add STD testing to your periodic health screenings

In addition to practicing safe sex, a great way to protect your health and the health of others is to get tested for STDs regularly. This is especially important since you may have an STD, but are asymptomatic. You may feel and look perfectly fine for years but could be transmitting the infection to others.

At Generations Family Practice, we perform STD testing as part of wellness exams. The way it works is your provider meets with you to address any concerns you may have and asks questions to help evaluate your risk for STD exposure. We’ll use this information to recommend the kind of STD testing best suited for you and how often you should get tested.

Our team typically performs STD testing for HPV, chlamydia, hepatitis C, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. While we don’t routinely test for herpes, if you have symptoms like blisters around your genital area, we can test for it.

If you think you may have been exposed to an STD, or if you’re ready for a preventive wellness exam that includes STD testing, contact our team at Generations Family Practice. Book an appointment online or over the phone with us today.

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