Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Lab Test

Submitted on March 27, 2012

What are STD's?

STDs or sexually transmitted diseases are contagious infections that can be transmitted from one individual to another as a result of sexual activity. Most STDs have very few or no symptoms, therefore making it possible for the infection to spread from one person to another without either of them finding out. It is, therefore, all the more critical to regularly get screened for these infections, detect them early, and treat them immediately. Doctors recommend STD lab tests as a part of routine health checks especially for sexually active individuals, teenagers, and young adults in particular.

List of STD Lab Tests

STD lab tests are important because untreated venereal disease can have fatal, long term consequences for both sexes, sterility being one of them. For women, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Untreated STDs could cause complications during pregnancy.

Chlamydia Test

This is popularly referred to as a silent epidemic as this infection is quite common, but still goes unnoticed.

A Chlamydia lab test will require you to use a swab or brush to collect the secretion or cell sample from the infected area, i.e. the cervix, urethra, penis, or anus. In some cases, urine samples are also acceptable.

Gonorrhea Test

This is another bacterial infection that doesn’t have any symptoms, particularly in women, but can cause disastrous consequences like sterility if not treated.

Testing for gonorrhea also requires a swab with the secretion or discharge collected from the infected area. The affected area could be the penis, anus, urethra, cervix, or even the throat. Urine samples will also suffice, but in this case doctors might collect swabs from more than one area to increase the possibility of finding the bacteria.

Syphilis Lab Test

Syphilis is also an easy to miss bacterial infection. However, in this case, the first sign in an infected person is almost always a painless chancre in the area exposed (the genital region). This chancre disappears in a few days, but it is critical to diagnose this infection, because if it is left untreated, it could even cause organ damage.Lab tests for this infection involve different methods depending on the stage of the disease.

If the infection is new, the doctor will take a scraping of the chancre from the affected area (cervix, penis, or anus). If the infection is in the last stages with suspected neurosyphilis (brain involvement), then a spinal tap is conducted to check the cerebrospinal fluid for infection. At times, a blood test is also ordered for diagnosis.

HPV Test or Human Pappillomavirus Test

This is caused by a virus that infects the genital area resulting in genital blisters or warts. It has been known to result in cervical cancer; however, there is a vaccine available to prevent HPV among women.

Sample collection for HPV requires sampling of cells from the cervical area; the sample can be collected using a wooden spatula, brush, or swab. If the doctor wants to conduct an HPV DNA test, then this sample is placed in a special liquid preservative. For men, an anal swab is used for sample collection.

Urine samples are not acceptable, and it is recommended that you empty your bladder before the test.

Genital Herpes Test

This virus causes sores and blisters in the genital area, as well as on other parts of the body, sometimes for life.

Lab testing for this STD requires a scraping or swab of a blister in the genital region. If the doctor suspects meningitis or encephalitis, the lab technician will also collect a sample of CSF (cerebrospinal fluid). Furthermore, blood tests are conducted to detect antibodies.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus Test (HIV)

This deadly virus causes AIDS. This sexually transmitted virus destroys the white blood cells in a person's body, thereby weakening the immune system. As the number of cells diminishes, so does the body's capability to fight infections. While there is no cure yet, detecting it early will allow for the use of anti-retroviral therapies that prolong life.

Most often, a blood test is conducted to detect this disease. At times, an oral sample may also be collected using a small device with a flat pad at one end (like a spatula). The flat pad is placed above the teeth on the outer gums, and is swabbed thoroughly around the upper and lower gums.

It is recommended that before conducting a lab test for STD, you refrain from touching any water or from taking a tub bath. Women should reschedule their tests if they are menstruating.

Also, if you suspect that you have an STD, it's best to refrain from sexual activity until you conduct appropriate screening tests that can confirm or deny your suspicions.