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STD Lab Testing: Understanding Blood vs. Urine vs. Swab Tests

STDs are by no means a new thing in human history. In fact, they may be as old as mankind itself.

Luckily, medicine and technology have advanced for us to be able to detect and treat them.

With that, we’re able to stay safe and healthy. Now, bacterial STDs can be cured and all STDs can be treated.

To seek proper treatment, you have to find out whether or not you have something to treat.

This requires STD lab testing in the form of a urine, blood, or swab test. Keep reading to find out how each of these work so you can stay informed and healthy.

How Does STD Lab Testing Work?

It’s helpful to understand how tests work before you get one.

Each of the various tests takes samples that are then analyzed in a lab. STDs are microorganisms known as antigens.

In each sample, lab technicians look for antibodies, which are the proteins our bodies produce to fight the STD antigens.

These tests are crucial as many STDs are asymptomatic, meaning there won’t be any signs that you have it.

If you are sexually active, you should plan to get regular tests. The frequency in which you should get tested depends on each person’s activity.

In the case that you do have symptoms, you can get STD-specific tests done. This requires consulting with professionals about your symptoms to indicate which infection you may have.

Additionally, a consultation can let you know more about how long you need to wait after suspected transmission until you get a test. It takes your body time to create antibodies, so testing at the right time is essential for accurate results.

After the appropriate waiting period, you’ll be directed to either get blood, urine, or swab samples from a professional.

STD Blood Test

The first and most inclusive of testing methods is the blood test.

Professionals take a small vial of blood from your arm. Don’t worry — it’s nowhere near the amount you would have taken for something like a blood donation.

In some cases, you may be able to have blood taken from a small prick on your finger.

Blood tests can detect the following STDs:

  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Herpes
  • HIV
  • Syphilis

For herpes, a blood test can provide early detection.

STD Urine Test

In a urine test, you will urinate into a small container that then gets sent to the lab to be analyzed.

This test is less invasive compared to having blood taken but it looks for different STDs.

These include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Trichomoniasis

Some labs look for other STDs in urine samples but the accuracy may vary.

Speaking of accuracy, it’s important to note that in all tests, false negatives are a possibility. This is why regular testing and re-testing when you think you may have something is a good practice.

STD Swab Test

The final method of testing is STD swab testing.

Here, a professional will take a sterilized q-tip and rub it on the cervix, vagina, penis, throat, or anus.

This method can feel invasive for some.

This is why we choose to forego swab tests, as urine and blood samples are sufficient methods.

Swab testing is important for STDs that cause symptoms of sores, however. In these cases, a professional must get a swab of the sore to accurately diagnose what’s causing these symptoms.

This may be the case for herpes, syphilis, and HPV (genital warts).

You can get a pelvic exam and swab test at your annual gynecologist appointment. This won’t necessarily be accurate due to the testing windows and the fact that many STDs are asymptomatic.

It’s better to seek out a comprehensive test that can give you clear results.

Testing Results

For many labs, it may take weeks to get the results of the tests. This is unfortunate, as the idea of having an STD creates unease for many people.

We try to combat that by providing results within 3 days.

When getting a test or waiting for results, remind yourself that STDs are a normal occurrence. There’s a lot of stigma around them but in reality, anybody can get them.

It isn’t related to the type of sexual behavior you engage in. You can get an STD from only having one partner while still wearing protection.

You can rest easy, however, knowing that you can get treatment if the results come back showing that you have an STD.

Treatment

For bacterial infections, treatment involves antibiotics through oral pills or through injection.

For this to work effectively, the STD needs to be detected earlier rather than later. This emphasizes the importance of regular testing.

Bacterial infections include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis

Viral infections aren’t curable but the symptoms can be treated with medications.

These include:

  • Herpes
  • HIV
  • HPV (human papillomavirus)

Aside from viral or bacterial, an STD can be protozoan. This is the case for trichomoniasis.

Side effects from STDs may include a fungal infection like candidiasis (a yeast infection). These can be treated with medication as well.

Take Care of Your Health

Even if the idea of STD lab testing is intimidating to you, it’s a normal and essential part of maintaining physical and emotional health.

You should try to have open communication with your sexual partner(s) about getting regular STD testing. This will ensure peace of mind and can stop the infection from worsening.

Plus, this will build stronger communication and trust between you and your partner(s). It’s something that’s not talked about enough but all it takes is one conversation to open the doors.

Consider getting our comprehensive 10-panel test to check for the most common infections.

In the meantime, keep reading our blog so that you can use education to live your best life.