Screening for STI’s Is Important Even without Symptoms

Contributed by Lisa Larkin, MD, FACP, NCMP 

ScreeningSexually transmitted infections (STI) are common in both men and women, and screening for STI’s are important for many sexually active women even if they do not have symptoms.

STIs are a serious health concern and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 20 million cases occur each year, with half of those cases in people ages 15 to 24 years. The most common STI’s are caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea. These bacteria can live in the cervix, urethra, rectum or throat and are transmitted person to person through sexual relations. Infected men and women are frequently asymptomatic making transmission easy and allowing for these infections to go undetected. Untreated STI’s can have long term serious consequences including pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain, infertility and cancer.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently issued recommendations on prevention and detection of STIs. All sexually active women 24 years and younger as well any women deemed to be at an increased risk for an STI should be screened even if they do not have symptoms.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also recommends screening women who develop new risk factors for chlamydia and gonorrhea since their last negative test result. They also recommend screening pregnant women who have tested positive for infection during their first trimester.

Vaccines

All parents know the importance of vaccinating their children, but many adults do not realize that they need to receive vaccines as adults as well. Updating your vaccines should be part of your wellness visits with your health care provider.

All adults should receive an annual flu vaccine. In addition, all adults, especially those who are in contact with young children, need to receive a pertussis booster (whooping cough) because protection from childhood vaccination fades over time. Some adults should be vaccinated against meningitis, human papilloma virus and others. You should discuss what vaccines you need with your health care provider. You can also take this simple quiz to determine which vaccines you need and create a printout to take to your next health care appointment.

Screening & Tests

Winter break is a great time for your college daughter’s annual gynecologic exam. These wellness visits are an important part of a young women’s preventative health care. They provide an opportunity to discuss contraception and safe sex practices, screen for STI’s and cervical cancer (if indicated) and discuss HPV vaccination.

  • A sexually active female of any age need screened for STDs and HIV.
  • Women ages 21 and older need an annual wellness visit with their OB/GYN regardless if they’re sexually active or not. Pap tests aren’t always performed on a yearly basis especially for women 30 and over. 
  • HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12 so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus. For young girls and women, the vaccine also helps prevent cervical cancer.

Don’t wait for a problem to make an appointment with a gynecologist. To schedule an appointment for your daughter or yourself please call (513) 475-UC4U.

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