My friend is worried she might have an STD. How do you tell?
I am going to resist the natural sardonic urge of every paramedic to say, “Sure, your ‘FRIEND’ has an STD…WINK WINK.”
Ok, so I gave in. Congrats to your friend for getting lucky enough to where this is a concern. However, despite my joking around, this is no joking matter.
The short and simple answer is this:
GO SEE A DOCTOR YOU TRUST!
Ok, now that the face-palm moment is over, allow me to explain why this is the only safe answer…
STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are just diseases that have a stigma of being associated with sex. They can be bacterial, parasitic, fungal, or viral in origin. And you can also get almost all of them through other, non-sexual means. For example, if you were a healthcare worker who (for some unknown reason) forgot to wear gloves or wash your hands, and touched something with an active herpes virus on it, and then for further unfathomable reasons scratched your eye or sucked your thumb… you could get herpes of the eye or mouth, all without the benefit of dinner and a movie.
STDs do not always, or even often, involve blisters, rashes, yucky drainage from you-know-where, or painful urination (which is called dysuria, in case you wondered). True STDs can be invisible until the late stages, and often involve body systems that have nothing to do with the genitalia or sex. For example, syphilis can have profound neurological consequences if left untreated, and those can manifest years after the initial “yucky” stages pass.
An STD can be dormant for months or years, and suddenly rear its ugly head.
STDs, when untreated, can cause sterility, and even life-threatening septic shock, as is the case with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
And here is the kicker…. a whole bunch of non-STDs can do the same thing.
So invariably the question arises, can your friend treat this with some home remedy that will keep her nether regions safely tucked away?
Until you KNOW what the offending organism is, there is no way to treat it effectively. And frankly, many young lady has quite literally died of embarrassment because she didn’t seek knowledgeable medical evaluation and treatment.
Now, when we consider that STDs are really like any other disease, complex and varied, you can see why there is no safe answer to this question. Your friend must RIGHT NOW go see a doctor. Assuming she is in a safe environment/situation to do so, and to see one she can trust.
If she is in an unsafe situation, such as domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, or some other horrible circumstance… here are the main national groups that can give more information, or help finding a discreet doctor. .
In the United States:
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a national hotline and website to assist you in connecting with local resources:
Website: CDC National STD Hotline (and in Spanish)
Toll-free: 1-800-232-4636 (24 hrs. in English and Spanish)
TTY: 1-888-232-6348 (in English and Spanish)
A more complete state by state list can be found here:
Canadian HIV/AIDS Information Centre
Centro Nacional para la Prevención y Control del VIH/SIDA
In the UK:
England 0845 122 8690
Northern Ireland 0845 122 8687
Scotland 08454 24 24 24
Wales 0845 45 47
In Australia and New Zealand: 1-800-003-707
If these fail, she can email me privately here at the LON with the location and situation and I will see what I can find in the way of resources.
Most countries and physicians have ethical requirements to keep private about matters of… well… the privates. Keep in mind there are some specific exceptions for a few (not many) communicable diseases, but most STDs do not fall into that category. Your friend doesn’t have rabies, does she?
The Paramedics Nerd
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 Syphilis – CDC Fact Sheet. (2014, July 8). Retrieved September 14, 2014.