How To Know If You Have An STD: 
A Definitive Guide

Written by: Angela Watson | Updated: December 28th, 2018

Sex is one of life's great pleasures and I hope our readers get as much of it as they need in their lives. Unfortunately, there's more than one way to get stung with the birds and the bees. What I'm referring to of course are sexually transmitted diseases. In recent years there has been a switch in nomenclature from  STDs to STIs or sexually transmitted infections since not all of these health conditions can be considered a disease, but both terms refer to the same thing. STDs are thought to contribute to over 125 million major bacteria or viral outbreaks every year.

Anyone who is sexually active is susceptible to getting an STD and the ramifications of becoming infected range from mild convenience to a lifelong condition that will need to be managed accordingly. Some STDs can even result in death if not treated properly. After a particularly risky sexual encounter most people begin to have fears about whether or not they picked up anything from their partner. Even people in committed relationships can fall prey to sexual infections if their partner didn't know they had something going into the relationship or if infidelity has reared its ugly head.

If you're worried you might have an STD, here's some things you should have in mind.

Many Of Those Infected Don't Show Symptoms

Most people only go get tested for sexually transmitted diseases once they've began to show symptoms, but this practice can be counterproductive. As far as chlamydia is concerned, 75% of women and 50% of men show no symptoms of the disease after contracting it. Even with other conditions, it could lie dormant for months or even years in the case of syphilis before any obvious symptoms are present. Research conducted by the World Health Organization based on statistics from 2005-2012 suggests that worldwide over one million curable infections of common sexually transmitted diseases occur every single day.

This can be an issue because asymptomatic infections are just as transmittable as symptomatic ones. Some people could have an infection their whole lives and not know simply because they didn't show any of the nasty symptoms. While the day to day symptoms might not be present, things like an increased risk of cancer or fertility problems can plague those who have been infected.

So please keep in mind that even without symptoms you could be carrying something.

Signs You Might Have An STD

While many carriers of sexually transmitted disease are asymptomatic, there are a few telltale signs you might have something:

  • Bumps or sores around the mouth, penis, or vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Odd colored discharge from your sexual organs
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Painful urination
  • Swelling or redness around the genitals
  • Severe itching of the genitalia
  • Genital bleeding

Any of the above symptoms can be the sign of an infection and you should immediately consult your doctor.

How To Tell If You Have An STD

At this point you're going to want to get yourself diagnosed through professional methods. There are a few ways of going about this.

Home Test

The at-home test for STDs is like most household tests in that you're going to have to spill some urine on it to get any meaningful results. A home test is best used if you're only somewhat worried you might have caught something and don't want to go into a doctor's office. The best test I've been able to find and recommend is the 10 panel test offered by It tests for herpes 1&2, HIV 1&2,  hepatitis A, hepatitis B,  hepatitis C, gonorrhea,  chlamydia, and syphilis. If you're going to buy an at-home STD test to rule out whether or not you're infected, you should spread as wide a net as possible so you aren't lulled into a false sense of security.

Even with an at-home test you should follow up with a doctor in case you weren't able to hit certain thresholds required for the test to turn positive.

See Your Doctor

You should see your doctor immediately after risky sexual contact if you are worried about sexually transmitted diseases. Your doctor will be able to most accurately diagnose your symptoms as well as possibly informing you that your symptoms are because of a different condition entirely, making it all the more worth the visit.

A doctor will do tests on your urine, blood, or even fluids from genital sores to confirm a diagnosis.

STD Treatment

After you've been positively diagnosed with an infection, most common STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are all treated relatively easily with a course of antibiotics. Be sure to take your entire course of antibiotics even after symptoms have gone away or else you risk a bacteria-resistant strain of the STD taking root in your system.

Others like HIV will require more intensive antiviral therapy to get the condition under control. HIV is a lifelong condition as there is currently no known cure. If Magic Johnson is any indication however, proper management of the condition can allow you to live a long and gainful life after diagnosis.

The herpes virus is another lifelong STD once it has taken root in the body. However, you can both take pills and apply creams to the area to keep outbreaks at bay. What most people don't know is that herpes is only transmissible when there are active sores (or residual fluids/tissue from sores) on the genitals. People can live with herpes their whole lives, get married, and have children all without their partners or children carrying the disease. Proper management of herpes can make it a minor and occasional inconvenience as opposed to a death sentence for your sex life.

How To Avoid STDs

As they say, prevention is always better than a cure. I hate saying this because it's not only obvious, it's dismissive of people's sexual needs, but complete abstinence is the only way to be 100% sure you won't come down with an STI. The real advice I'd like to give is that you always use a condom during sex and don't use it with anything other than water-based lubricants as other lubricants can break down the condom and impair it's ability to stop both STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

Otherwise, avoiding STDs is mainly down to being more discerning with your choice of partner. As tempting as it may be, risky sex with relative strangers is how most STDs are transmitted from one person to another. 

Being proactive with your own sexual health to stop the spread of STDs once you have one should be a prudent part of your sexual health. Getting an STD is stressful and can permanently change someone's life, get tested at least once a year for STDs so you don't give one to someone else, may I remind you that most people who are infected don't show any symptoms. 

Parting Words

Sex can be a lot of fun, STDs rarely are. Always make sure to vet your possible sexual partners and don't have sex with anyone you suspect might be carrying an STD. If you do begin to show symptoms, don't panic, but immediately seek medical intervention. The most common STDs are easily treated and don't severely impact the lives of the infected person for longer than a week or two if they have sought treatment.

Remember kids: no glove, no love.

About Angela Watson

I'm a sex therapist by day and a sex blogger by night. I love to crush the taboos surrounding sex toys and help people become more sexually liberated. There's no topic too risqué for me to cover and I hope to educate and inform my readers on all things sex. All things that concern the female anatomy or require a more clinical approach than my husband Don can provide is covered by me. Have any questions? You can contact me via email.

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