Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that affect the genitals, anus, or mouth. They often do not have any symptoms, making STD tests one of the most important methods of detection. However, how long it takes to get results can vary.
Some tests may offer results on the same day, whereas others may take weeks. To provide some guidance, we have outlined different testing methods for some common STDs, including estimates of how long it will take to get results back.
When Should You Get Tested for an STD?
In general, it is recommended to receive regular STD screenings if you are sexually active. This helps you stay on top of your sexual health and should be done even if you do not have symptoms or don’t think you have been exposed. Since STDs usually don’t have symptoms, these regular screenings are the only way to know if you have the infection.
In addition to these regular screenings, though, it is always recommended to get tested for an STD if you think you have been exposed or if you have any concerning symptoms.
However, it is possible to get tested too soon for an STD. Most tests can detect an STD within five days to 2 weeks of exposure, but if you received a negative response and took the test shortly after exposure, your doctor may recommend another test two weeks later.
If you’re unsure when you should get tested, discuss it with your doctor.
What Are Some Common STD Symptoms?
The symptoms caused by an STD will depend on the specific type of STD.
However, there are some common symptoms of STDs, including:
- unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
- pain or burning when urinating
- abnormal vaginal bleeding
- pain during sexual intercourse
- itching or burning in the vaginal area
- sores or bumps
- pain in the lower abdominal or pelvic region
It is important to note, though, that many STDs may not have any symptoms.
How Long Does STD Testing Take?
Receiving an STD test is easy, quick, and usually pain-free.
Within just a few minutes, your doctor can complete the test.
There are various STD tests which you doctor may choose to do based on your symptoms:
- urine tests
- blood tests
- cheek swab
- physical exam
- discharge swab
- sore or blister swab
How Long Does It Take to Get STD Test Results?
For some tests, your doctor can provide your results immediately, while others need to be sent to a lab, where results might not come back for days or weeks.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can be diagnosed using a cheek swab or blood test. Results from these tests may take a few days or weeks to come back.
There are rapid tests for HIV that can offer results in just 30 minutes. However, the accuracy of these tests can vary based on how long it has been since initial exposure, so a second test is often recommended.
The more accurate test for gonorrhea is a genital swab, although a urine test may also be used. For those who have had oral or anal sex, your doctor may instead take a sample from your throat or rectum using a swab. Results for these tests are typically provided within 2 to 3 days.
Chlamydia is often diagnosed using a urine test or swab test of the woman’s cervix or urethra. Results for this test are usually ready in a day, and some rapid chlamydia tests can give results in just 90 minutes.
The two screening tests for syphilis include a type of blood test called a rapid plasma reagin (RPR) or a venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL) test, which is completed using spinal fluid or blood. Both of these tests look for syphilis antibodies, and their results are often provided within 7 to 10 days.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) can be tested for using a blood test, swab test, or lumbar puncture. The swab tests collect fluid and cells from a sore, and lumbar punctures, also known as spinal taps, are only performed if the healthcare provider suspects a spinal cord or brain infection. The results for these tests may take anywhere from 1 to 14 days.
A healthcare provider often starts with a physical exam for trichomoniasis, looking for patchy red spots. In women, they will also take a discharge sample and/or cells from the vagina using a swab. Both men and women may also receive a urine test. These tests are looking for parasites, and results are typically available in 1-3 days.
There is no test to determine your HPV status or find HPV in the mouth or throat. However, there are HPV tests that screen for cervical cancer and high-risk HPV types by collecting a sample of cells from the cervix, and results are often provided within 1 to 3 weeks.
Otherwise, low-risk HPV is typically diagnosed with a physical examination of genital warts.
Hepatitis can be screened for using a hepatitis panel, which is a group of blood tests. The hepatitis panel can detect if you currently have a hepatitis infection or if you have had one in the past.
Hepatitis panels are also available as at-home testing kits for hepatitis B and C and require a finger prick to collect blood that is then sent to a lab for testing.
Hepatitis test results may take a few days or weeks to come back, although there are rapid anti-HCV tests that can provide results in only 20 to 30 minutes.
How Can DrHouse Help?
If you think you have been exposed to an STD, it is best to act sooner than later. With DrHouse, you can meet with a board-certified doctor to discuss why you believe you have been exposed or what symptoms you have. Your online doctor can then guide you on whether or not a diagnostic test is needed and when you should receive it.
Sometimes, false negatives can occur if you receive an STD test too close to when you were exposed. Your doctor can help determine when you should receive testing to ensure an accurate result.
Many STDs are relatively common infections of the genitals, anus, or mouth, making screening and testing for them all the more important. While regular screening is recommended, it is also best to receive testing after potential exposure.
Some tests used to diagnose STDs include blood tests, urine tests, and swabs of the cheek, vagina, or blisters and sores. These tests also have different timelines, with some offering results on the same day, while others may take weeks.
If you suspect you have an STD, it is recommended to talk to your doctor. They can suggest an STD test and help you figure out what your next steps should be.
- Gonorrhea: Basic Fact Sheet. (2022). https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea.htm
- Hinkle J, Cheever K. Brunner & Suddarth’s Handbook of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. 2nd Ed, Kindle. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; c2014. Chlamydia trachomatis Culture. 152–3 p.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2021 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines: Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/screening-recommendations.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Syphilis: CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis-detailed.htm
- Herpes (HSV) Test: MedlinePlus Medical Test. (2020). Retrieved 30 August 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/herpes-hsv-test/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Trichomoniasis: CDC Fact Sheet;. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test: MedlinePlus Medical Test. (2021). Retrieved 30 August 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/human-papillomavirus-hpv-test/
- Viral Hepatitis. (2020). https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/HepatitisCTesting.htm
- Hepatitis Panel: MedlinePlus Medical Test. (2020). Retrieved 30 August 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/hepatitis-panel/
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