How Soon Can You Get Tested for STDs?
If you have potentially been exposed to an STD, you may think that getting tested immediately is imperative. But in fact, getting tested too early may lead to inaccurate results. It takes time for your body to recognize and respond to the STD once you are exposed to it. If you get tested before your body has responded to the STD, it will be too early for the test to detect the STD in your system. How long does it take to get an STD? When should you get tested? Here’s what you need to know:
What Is An STD Incubation Period?
When to get tested for an STD is an important question. To determine when you should get tested, it’s important to understand how the body responds to STDs.
If you are exposed to an STD, your body will need time to recognize it in your system. Once the STD has been detected, your body will begin to produce antibodies to fight it. The time that it takes your body to identify the STD and produce these antibodies is known as the incubation period.
Most STD tests determine whether or not you have an STD by looking for the presence of specific types of antibodies in a sample of your blood, urine, or saliva. If these antibodies are present, you will test positive, but if they are not present in your sample, you will test negative.
Because STD tests look for the presence of antibodies, testing too early could lead to false negative results. If you take a test during the incubation period, your body may not have had enough time to produce antibodies yet, which means you could test negative even if you really are infected. That’s why it is so important to wait until the incubation period is over to get tested for STDs.
How Long Does It Take to Get An STD?
Each STD has a unique incubation period. For some STDs, the incubation period for testing can be as short as a week or two, and for other STDs, as long as a few months.
If you believe you have been exposed to a specific STD, it’s important to learn about its incubation period so you know how long you should wait to get tested.
How soon should I test for STDs after exposure?
Use the table below to determine when you should get tested following exposure to an STD. The first column lists some of the most common types of STDs. The second column has the earliest time that tests offered by myLAB Box could be positive after a potential exposure. Some of the times listed are estimates due to limited data; in other cases the window period is simply unknown. The third column tells you how long it could take following initial exposure to test positive for an STD.
For example, say you have been potentially exposed to genital herpes. If you look at the second column, it says you should take your first test 2 weeks from the date of exposure. This is the earliest that genital herpes will be detectable in your system. But according to the third column, it could take as long as 4 months, or 16 weeks, for genital herpes to become detectable in your system. In other words, the incubation period for genital herpes could be anywhere from 2 to 16 weeks following exposure.
This means if your results are negative when you get tested two weeks following exposure, you should get retested after 16 weeks. This way, you can confirm that it was not a false negative caused by testing before the STD was detectable.
|When to take your first test after exposure||How long can it take to have a positive test|
|Chlamydia||7 days||7 days or longer|
|Gonorrhea||7 days||7 days or longer|
|Genital Herpes (HSV-2)||2 weeks*||2-16 weeks (2 weeks to 4 months)
Most test positive by 8 weeks but it can take as long as 4 months to become positive
|Syphilis||2 weeks||2 weeks to 3 months. Average 3 weeks to become positive|
|HIV (4th generation, antibody and antigen)||19-21 days||19 days to 6-7 weeks|
|Hepatitis C||3 weeks||3 weeks to 6 months. Most test positive by 6-9 weeks|
|HPV (high risk types)||Testing done for women 30 years of age or older, usually test 2-3 years after last negative test||Unknown window period|
|Trich||7 days or when vaginal or urethral symptoms are present||1 – 4 weeks|
|BV (Bacterial Vaginosis)||Vaginal symptoms are present||Unknown window period|
|Yeast (Candida Vaginitis)||Vaginal symptoms are present||Unknown window period|
|M. genitalium||Vaginal symptoms are present||Unknown window period|
Why is Early Detection of STDs Important?
Taking an STD test as soon as the incubation period is over is crucial. Why? The sooner you get tested, the sooner you can find out if you have an STD so you can seek medical treatment right away.
Early detection and treatment of STDs is vital. Left untreated, STDs can lead to serious health complications, including:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Cervical cancer
- Pregnancy complications
- Birth defects
- Organ damage
Most of these health complications affect women, especially young women and adolescent girls. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that undiagnosed and untreated STDs cause infertility in at least 24,000 females every year in the United States.
The only way to avoid these health complications is to get tested as soon as the incubation period is over. Then, if you test positive, seek treatment from a healthcare provider right away to determine what steps you will need to take to protect your health.
How soon should I retest after treatment?
Follow-up testing can be very helpful and give you peace of mind. In most cases, it is important to retest after treatment to be sure you are no longer infected. For example, if you test positive for gonorrhea or chlamydia, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat these STDs. Retesting after completing the course of antibiotics is an effective way to ensure the treatment was successful. If you are still testing positive, you will need to discuss additional treatment options with your healthcare provider.
An exception is HSV-2 (genital herpes) which is a lifetime infection. Retesting after testing positive for HSV-2 is not needed. Individuals testing positive for HIV and HPV often require additional testing during or following treatment. This type of testing is best done by the clinical provider treating you.
There is disagreement among major medical and public health organizations about retesting time schedules. In many cases, there is limited data or even no data to make an evidence-based recommendation. Given the current state of knowledge, our recommendations for retesting emphasize staying healthy and disease free. Retesting is especially important when sex partners do not receive treatment, individuals have sex with new infected partners, or sex occurs without using condoms.
|Retesting after treatment||Retesting after testing negative*|
|Chlamydia||3 weeks after end of treatment||Every 3 months|
|Gonorrhea||3 weeks after end of treatment||Every 3 months|
|Genital Herpes (HSV-2)||No retesting needed||Every 6-12 months or if symptoms are present|
|Syphilis||6 weeks-6 months**||Every 3-6 months|
|HIV (4th generation, antibody and antigen)||Additional testing done by clinical provider||Every 3-6 months|
|Hepatitis C||Additional testing done by clinical provider||Every 6-12 months|
|HPV (high risk types)||Additional testing done by clinical provider||Every 2-3 years|
|Trich||3 weeks after end of treatment||Vaginal or urethral symptoms are present, but Trich can be present without symptoms|
|BV (Bacterial Vaginosis)||Retest is symptoms persist||Vaginal symptoms are present|
|Yeast (Candida Vaginitis)||Retest is symptoms persist||Vaginal symptoms are present|
|M. genitalium||1 month after end of treatment||Unknown|
What Are the First Signs of An STD?
It’s important to know how to spot the signs of an STD so you can seek medical attention as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many STDs are asymptomatic, which means they do not have noticeable signs or symptoms. These STDs are impossible to spot on your own, which is why STD testing is so important.
- Painful urination
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Abnormal discharge
- Itching, redness, or irritation on or inside the vagina or penis
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Flu-like symptoms
If you spot any of these early signs of STDs, get tested right away.
Can STD Symptoms Appear the Next Day?
It is possible to experience STD symptoms the day after being exposed, but it is rare. The time that it takes symptoms to appear will depend on the type of STD. Symptoms usually appear within these timeframes:
- Chlamydia: 1-3 weeks
- Gonorrhea: 2-14 days
- Trichomoniasis: 4 weeks
- Syphilis: 2-3 weeks
- Genital Herpes: 2-14 days
- HIV: 2-6 weeks
Every case is unique, so your symptoms may appear outside of these timeframes. Furthermore, some STDs are asymptomatic, so you may not experience any symptoms even if you are infected.
Do STDs Show Up In Routine Blood Tests?
Routine blood tests include complete blood counts (CBC), complete metabolic panels (CMP), lipid panels, thyroid panels, and enzyme markers. These tests can identify a wide range of health conditions, but they are not designed to test for STDs.
Routine blood tests may reveal signs of an STD, such as an elevated white blood cell count. But, an elevated white blood cell count can be caused by countless other conditions, so this is not a reliable way to test for STDs.
Do not assume that your physician is testing you for STDs simply because they have ordered a blood test. STD testing is not included in these routine tests. The best—and only—way to test for STDs is with an STD test.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I TEST POSITIVE?
If you test positive, instruction will be provided on how to obtain a free telemedicine consultation with a physician in your state. This physician may be able to prescribe treatment for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea or Trich. Depending on the infection, you may also need to retest after treatment to confirm the infection is gone.
It is crucial that you inform your sexual partners of your test results, whether they’re positive or negative. Sharing this information will help stop the spread of any infection and will allow your partners to seek testing and treatment immediately if necessary.
Keep testing. Just because you’ve tested once does not mean that you shouldn’t test again. In fact, it’s common to get infected with certain STDs, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, multiple times. myLAB Box recommends that you test every few months, especially if you’ve received a positive result in the past.
Reviewed by Luis Ferdinand M. Papa, MD, MHA