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STD Symptoms and Detection Timeline

admin STD, STI, Women's Health

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) should never be underestimated, but we understand that it can be hard not to underestimate something you don’t understand. Most women and men don’t feel comfortable discussing STDs, especially the possibility of them having one. It’s a sensitive subject. 

At OGA, we want to empower you with the knowledge you need to make healthy decisions for your life and body, which is why we wanted to give you a timeline for when you can expect symptoms and how to detect sexually transmitted diseases (see an overview of sexually transmitted diseases here). Like we said, it’s one of those topics that most people don’t feel comfortable discussing, so we’re making it easy for you to learn about it without the discomfort. If you have questions though, don’t hesitate to ask us during your appointment! Although these topics may be uncomfortable for you to discuss, they aren’t uncomfortable for us, and we’d gladly discuss more in detail with you if that would help you.

In this blog, we’ll cover incubation periods for common STDs, the importance of getting an early diagnosis and treatment, as well as recommendations for testing and retesting.

The Incubation Period for STDs

Being sexually active, it’s important that you know about STDs so that you can have optimal sexual health. You should be especially aware and knowledgeable if you were recently exposed to an STD after having unprotected sex. There is a typical timeframe, known as an incubation period, before you will likely start experiencing symptoms (although not all STDs exhibit symptoms) or before you’ll receive a result from an STD test. 

Knowing an incubation period for an STD is important so that you get the timing for testing right. It takes time for your body to recognize an STD in your system. The time it takes for your body to recognize it and begin producing antibodies is known as the incubation period. The antibodies are what triggers a positive STD result. If you test too early, your risk getting a false negative. It’s important to wait until the incubation period is over before you get tested for an STD. 

The incubation period for common STDs and the recommended retesting time period are as follows:

  • Chlamydia: A bacterial infection that has a 7-21 day incubation period and should be retested for 3 months after initial testing and treatment.
  • Genital Herpes: A viral infection that has a 2-12 day incubation period and does not have a retesting period because it is a lifelong, incurable virus.
  • Gonorrhea: A bacterial infection that has a 1-14 day incubation period and should be retested for 3 months after initial testing and treatment.
  • Hepatitis A: A viral infection that has a 15-50 day incubation period and does not have a retesting period because it is a lifelong, incurable virus.
  • Hepatitis B: A viral infection that has a 8-22 week incubation period and does not have a retesting period because it is a lifelong, incurable virus.
  • Hepatitis C: A viral infection that has a 2-26 week incubation period and does not have a retesting period because it is a lifelong, incurable virus.
  • HIV: A viral infection that has a 2-4 week incubation period and does not have a retesting period because it is a lifelong, incurable virus.
  • HPV: A viral infection that has a 1 month to 10 year incubation period (depending on the type) and does not have a retesting period because it is a lifelong, incurable virus.
  • Oral Herpes: A viral infection that has a 2-12 day incubation period and does not have a retesting period because it is a lifelong, incurable virus.
  • Syphilis: A bacterial infection that has a 3 week to 20 year incubation period (depending on the type) and should be retested for 4 weeks after initial testing and treatment.
  • Trichomoniasis: A parasitic infection that has a 5-28 day incubation period and should be retested for 2 weeks after initial testing and treatment. 

Obviously, in the case of some of these where it may take years to show symptoms, it doesn’t make sense to wait that long for testing, so you should talk with your doctor about the timing that’s right for you. 

STD Symptoms You Should Be Aware Of

Visit a provider right away to get tested if you experience any of the following symptoms (especially if you are exhibiting more than one):

  • Bumps or sores on your genitals, or your mouth or rectal area
  • Burning or painful urination
  • Genital itching
  • Odd-smelling or unusual discharge from your vagina
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Pain or discomfort with sex
  • Sore or swollen lymph nodes in your groin
  • Pain in your lower abdomen
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Unexplained rashes
  • Fever accompanying any of the above symptoms

Certain STDs can be asymptomatic or lie dormant in your body. To ensure that you aren’t undiagnosed to the point of having long-term complications, the CDC recommends that every sexually active adult who is seeing new or multiple sexual partners receive yearly STD screenings. Individuals who are having sex without condoms or other barrier methods are also encouraged to receive STD testing more frequently. 

Early Detection and Treatment of STDS

There are potential risks involved with untreated STDs, including:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Cervical cancer
  • Pregnancy and birth-related risks
  • Organ damage
  • Dementia
  • Paralysis
  • and even Death

Early detection and treatment are important if you are to avoid these risks and take care of your long-term sexual health. 

If you suspect that you may have an STD, you should stop engaging in any sexual activity and schedule an appointment with your provider. STDs can be fatal, and you want to ensure that you aren’t passing them on. 

Call us to schedule an appointment if you are in need of advice, an examination, or testing for an STD. Our team will take good care of you and be sure to answer all of your questions.