Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) aren’t the same things, despite popular belief.
It usually starts with an infection that happens when bacteria and other viruses and parasites attack the body. This is called an “infection.”
While an infection may not show any signs, a disease almost always comes with warning signs.
Now that you know the difference, here’s the lowdown on the various types of STDs that exist today, how to cure them, and most importantly, how to avoid them.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are spread from one person to another through sexual contact. Testing can help make sex safer and guarantee that people with STIs get the treatment they need.
The time it takes for symptoms to manifest in an STI is known as the incubation period. An STI can take months to show up on tests in some situations. In some circumstances, it could just take a few days.
The incubation periods of several STIs are discussed on this page, as well as how quickly people may be tested and the value of testing.
The incubation period for STIs
The time it takes for symptoms to manifest following exposure is known as the incubation period. The “window period” refers to the time it takes to achieve a positive infection test result following exposure. These times are frequently intertwined.
The following are some general signs that a person may have an STI:
Bad smells coming from or around the genital area, a new discharge, or bumps and growths on or near them are all signs of genital war.
However, some STIs do not develop symptoms for years, even if a positive test result might still be obtained. This is why it’s critical to rely on testing rather than symptoms.
How quickly can someone be tested?
An STI test can usually be obtained within a few weeks of exposure. If a person has a treatable STI like chlamydia or gonorrhea, a retest may be required following therapy.
Even if a negative result is obtained, people who are at high risk of specific STIs should request a retest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual HIV testing for people who are at risk, such as those who share needles or have HIV-positive relationships.
A nucleic acid test looks for HIV in a blood sample. It can give you a good result 10–33 days after you’ve been exposed. Antigen/antibody testing, which is also a blood test, is used to screen for HIV antibodies. It also looks for an antigen produced by the body prior to the emergence of antibodies. It can give you outcomes 18–45 days after you’ve been exposed to it.
The antibody test looks for HIV antibodies in a blood or saliva sample. At 23–90 days following exposure, it takes the longest time to achieve a solid result. If a person gets a negative test during the window period and has no subsequent contact with someone who potentially has HIV, they can be sure they don’t have the virus.
A clinician can check for chlamydia by swabbing the vaginal, cervix, rectum, or throat with a swab or obtaining a urine sample. Symptoms usually develop seven to twenty-one days after exposure. Within 1–2 weeks of exposure, a test can usually detect chlamydia.
A urine sample can be used to test for gonorrhea. To get a more accurate answer, they may also swab the urethra, anus, throat, or cervix.
Within 5 to 2 weeks of exposure, most tests can detect the virus. If a test comes back negative soon after an exposure, a doctor may want to retest it two weeks later, especially if the person is having problems.
Symptoms of gonorrhea usually occur 1 to 2 weeks after exposure.
Symptoms of herpes usually arise fast. They appear 4 days after exposure on average, with a normal range of 2–12 days. Symptoms can, however, be so subtle that they go unnoticed in some circumstances.
A herpes diagnosis can be confirmed with a blood test. It could be positive in a month, and blood tests can usually pick up most cases in four months.
Males can transfer the human papillomavirus (HPV) to their partners, but the CDC has not approved a male test. Instead, doctors may look for signs and symptoms of HPV-related cancers, such as penile cancer, when they see people.
HPV rarely produces symptoms in women. If there are any signs, they may not develop for months or years. A Pap smear, which includes swabbing the cervix, is the most reliable test. With this test, HPV can be detected 3 weeks to a few months after exposure.
Hepatitis C Virus
Hepatitis B and C can go for years without causing any noticeable symptoms. Symptoms of hepatitis B usually show up in 6 weeks to 6 months if they do. Hepatitis C symptoms can develop as early as 2–6 weeks, but they can also take up to 6 months to appear.
Both kinds of hepatitis can be detected with a blood test. The diagnostic window for hepatitis B is 3–6 weeks, while the testing window for hepatitis C is 2–6 months. Because two-month testing may not pick up on some problems, a doctor may want to retest at six months.
A swab of the rectum, penis, or vagina can be used to test for trichomoniasis. Many people experience no symptoms, but between 5–28 days of contact, some people may detect a discharge or a burning sensation. A positive test can be done in a week, but some people may have to wait up to a month.
Syphilis commonly starts with a chancre, a sore on the genitals. Within 1–2 weeks after the chancre emerges, blood testing can reveal the bacteria. Because chancres are usually painless and show up in three weeks, the overall testing window is about four weeks.
Because syphilis progresses differently from person to person, doctors often recommend that people get checked again three months after they were exposed.
STIs that have gone dormant
Some STIs can survive in the body for years without causing symptoms. If they don’t show up, doctors may call them “latent,” which implies that they can’t be diagnosed based on symptoms alone.
This also means that if a person is untested, they may spread a dormant STI to a sexual partner without realizing it.
These are some examples of STIs that can stay dormant. HIV, herpes, hepatitis C, chlamydia, syphilis, and HPV are just a few of them.
According to the CDC, people who are sexually active and have a lot of new or short-term partners should get checked for most STIs at least once a year.
What are the benefits of being tested?
Even for incurable illnesses, STI testing can save lives. It also helps to prevent the spread of STIs. Some of the advantages of testing are as follows
Some STIs are easier to treat if caught early by a clinician.
Early detection of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can help people avoid infecting their partners.
An STI can be present without the individual being aware of it.
Some STIs, if left untreated, can lead to major health problems like cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease.
A person’s medical history, sexual history, risk of exposure, and previous STI test results all play a role in STI testing.
People should test for STIs on a frequent basis, especially if they have sex with several partners.
Early detection can help with therapy and potentially avert significant health problems. People can also adopt safer sex techniques, such as using a condom, to lower their risk of STIs.