Not all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) come with pain, itching, and obvious signs. In fact, some can show no signs at all. Yet even without symptoms, STIs can cause big health problems if left untreated. With so many infections going unnoticed, regular testing for STIs should be a part of any sexually-active person’s preventative care routine. Fortunately, testing is easy, painless and most tests are free under the Affordable Care Act. Here are a few silent STIs to know about and get tested for.
HPV is often known as the cause of genital warts, but this common virus has many types and not all strains will necessarily cause symptoms. This silent STI can cause problems down the line, since some strains can cause cervical cancer. Ask your doctor to test for this virus, and talk to your health care provider about getting the HPV vaccine to prevent any new HPV infections in the future.
Chlamydia is on the rise among young people in Montana, and it can lead to cervical cancer just like HPV can. Many people with chlamydia don’t experience symptoms, but those who have symptoms report pain while urinating, pain during sex, bleeding after sex, or pain in the pelivic area. Fortunately, chlamydia is easy to treat with antibiotics. Getting tested is the best way to find it early and get treated immediately..
Herpes is known for causing painful red blisters, but it sometimes shows no symptoms at all. More than one in six people in the US between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes. To avoid spreading it to future sexual partners, it’s a good idea to get tested. Treatment options can help manage symptoms and reduce the risk of spreading herpes to a partner.
Gonorrhea can cause discharge or the urge to urinate, but it sometimes shows no signs when someone has it. Fortunately, this bacterial infection is easy to treat with antibiotics. But you want to be sure to find it as soon as you can, since gonorrhea can cause infertility if left too long without treatment.
This incredibly common parasite can take up residence in your body without you knowing, especially since men often experience no symptoms, and women might have only itching and vaginal discharge, if anything. A single dose of an oral antibiotic is enough to stop trichomoniasis, so getting tested is key. A test includes just a quick swab (for females) or a urine sample (for males).
It’s pretty common for HIV to show flu-like symptoms shortly after exposure. But symptoms aren’t always a guarantee. HIV can lie dormant for years before turning into full-blown AIDS. But with medicine available today, it is much more easily treatable than it used to be. Detecting HIV early can give you a head start on keeping your health on track – get a quick blood test or a mouth swab to check.
The best way to prevent STIs is to practice safe sex, using barrier methods like diaphragms and condoms every time. The numbers speak for themselves: using condoms correctly is 90% effective in preventing STIs. Communication also helps prevent STIs, starting with open conversations with your partners about sexual history and any active infections. These talks can seem awkward, but they can let you both know when to take extra steps for safety.
Getting tested regularly can also help reduce your risks. Knowing your results can stop the spread of infection to others and let you get treatment right away if you test positive. STI tests range from blood tests to mouth or vaginal swabs, or even urine tests, and they are typically quick and painless. Most tests are free under the Affordable Care Act with a health insurance plan, so cost doesn’t need to affect your choice to get tested. You can ask your primary care provider about testing options in your annual wellness visit, or make an appointment at your local CHP clinic just for the test.
Testing for STIs should be an easy and affordable part of your preventive care. Make an appointment for testing in Bozeman, Belgrade, Livingston or West Yellowstone, and make sure you’re in the clear, even if you’re not having symptoms.