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How Doctors Test for STDs in Men

author image Adam Cloe Ph.D./M.D.
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
How Doctors Test for STDs in Men
Your doctor tests you for STDs in several ways.

Physical Exam

In many cases, the first test that a doctor will do to screen for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is a thorough physical exam. The physician will want to ask about the man's sexual history and practices, including if the patient has sex with males, females or both, as well as what sexual practices the man engages in and whether condoms are used. The doctor may also ask if the patient is experiencing any symptoms in the genital or oral area. Finally, the doctor may ask to examine the man's genital area, oral cavity and rectum. The goal of this portion of the exam is to assess how great the patient's risk of contracting an STD is and what STDs are likely. It also gives the physician an opportunity to educate the patient on sexual practices.

Genital Swabs

If the doctor finds any abnormalities on the genitalia, further testing may be required. Some sexually transmitted diseases cause the penis to secrete an abnormal discharge. Others cause sores or lesions to appear on the genitalia or mouth. In these cases, the doctor will want to get a sample of the tissue and fluid from these lesions and send them to a laboratory. The laboratory will look for microorganisms that can cause STDs in these samples (including both bacteria and viruses). The doctor may also stick a cotton swab up the urethra in an attempt to collect any microorganisms that live there.

Blood and Urine Tests

Other sexually transmitted diseases may not be detectable via genital examination. In these cases, blood and urine tests may be required. These tests are especially good at detecting viruses that can cause systemic effects, such as HIV or hepatitis. A urine sample may also be needed to test for syphilis. These tests may not be performed as part of a standard STD test unless the patient asks for them as they are typically more expensive.

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