SafeMotherhood
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How to examine yourself for STDs

It is important to be able to recognize whether you have a sexually transmitted disease or not. First of all, if you have never had sex with another person, then you will not have an STD. If you have ever had sex with anyone, then it is possible that you got an STD. The more sexual partners that you have had in your life, the better chance you have of having gotten an STD. You should check yourself out for STDs if you have ever had sex with another person.

Remember that you are not a doctor and there are many conditions that can look like an STD but are not. If you see anything that you are not sure of, have it checked out by a health provider.

How should men check themselves?


First of all, it is important that you review the normal anatomy of yourself (see anatomy and physiology section). We will begin at the head of the penis. You may begin by looking into the urinary opening. A common symptom is a discharge coming out of this opening and sometimes it is a heavy discharge and sometimes it is very light. It may sometimes just cause a bit of staining on your underwear. If you are uncircumcised, you should pull the foreskin back so you can see the head of the penis. Look carefully at the head of the penis for any sores or bumps or change in color. Try to examine yourself in a way that starts at one point and continue around the shaft of the penis in a regular way so that no part of the penis is missed. An STD may be in any part of the penis so be sure to examine the underside too. After checking the penis, look carefully in the pubic area under your pubic hair. Again look for any lumps or sores or pimples. The pubic area is where pubic lice or crabs(see that section) may be.

All young men should get into the habit of examining their testicles whether they are sexually active or not. A swollen testicle or a lump or tenderness may be a sign of an STD but it also may be a sign of cancer of the testicle. Testicular cancer is not an STD but it is something that all young men should be on the lookout for. This kind of cancer is not common but it the most common cancer in men between 15 and 35. Just as we try to get women to examine themselves for breast cancer, men should be examining their balls every couple of weeks for testicular cancer. If you notice any sores or any of the other symptoms that are talked about here, have it checked out by a health provider as soon as possible. Examine the scrotum and the skin around the genitals for any sores, rash, redness or discoloration.

You should remember that you can have almost any of the different STDs with little or no symptoms and if you think you may have come in contact with a sexually transmitted disease, have yourself checked by a health provider as soon as possible. He or she may be able to do other tests to help diagnose the disease. You may also not have any symptoms of the STD until long after your sexual contact and you may want to consider getting checked out on a regular basis.


How should women examine themselves?

Women may have a harder time examining themselves than men because their sex organs are mostly inside their bodies but they can still check the parts that are outside. Review the normal outside anatomy before going on with this section. You may want to use a mirror to examine yourself.

Its easiest to begin in the pubic hair area. Using your fingers to spread apart the hair, look for any sores, lumps, rash, redness or discoloration. You may also see crabs (pubic lice) in this area.

Next you should spread apart the labia or lips and look over this entire area for sores, lumps, or discoloration. If you get in the habit of examining yourself, you will become familiar with what your body normally looks like and will be better able to see if there has been any change. Check the vaginal opening for any unusual discharge that is coming out. It is normal to have some vaginal discharge and it is important to check yourself to be able to recognize this. That way, you could more easily tell if any discharge is different. An abnormal discharge may also have an odor and it may be thick white or yellow.

When should you get checked by a health provider for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

A person should certainly be examined in a clinic or health providers office if he or she feels they have any symptoms that could possibly be an STD. The symptoms may be very strong or they may be very slight. If you have any doubt, get yourself checked. A well known doctor in Boston advises her teenage patients to get a routine STD exam any time they have a new sexual partner. This is a good idea since so many STDs do not have visible symptoms.

Are there any other things a Gay man should look for?

Besides having a STD on or around the penis, a gay man may have an STD in the mouth or in the rectum if he practices oral or anal sex. Any unusual sores or discomfort may be a sign of an STD if you feel you may have been exposed.