An STD panel is a group of blood and urine tests conducted to detect the presence of sexually transmitted diseases. Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are probably the best-known of these diseases, but an STD panel typically tests for herpes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and hepatitis B and C as well. Some tests not routinely included in an STD panel are often recommended for women and certain at-risk groups.
STD symptoms like genital sores, an unusual genital discharge, or abdominal pain with fever often prompt the need for an STD panel. Some STDs have no symptoms, so physicians often advise their patients to seek testing if they fit into high-risk groups. Women aged 21 or older are usually tested for cervical cancer, which sometimes results from the human papillomavirus, with a Pap test. Sexually-active women under the age of 25 are generally advised to be tested for chlamydia even if no symptoms are evident. Sexually-active people, especially those with multiple or same-sex partners, are commonly advised to have routine checkups for STDs.
Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are assessed with a simple blood test. Untreated syphilis can become debilitating and life-threatening. Gonorrhea and chlamydia can lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease in women, and prostatitis in men. The risk of contracting HIV is two to five times higher when a person has one of these STDs.
A herpes simplex virus test is usually included in an STD panel. There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. The HSV-1 type refers to oral herpes, usually seen as cold sores or fever blisters on the lips and mouth. The HSV-2 type refers to genital herpes, lesions on the penis or vagina. There is no cure for these sexually transmitted viruses, but symptoms can be managed with proper nutrition, stress management, and medication.
HIV is typically part of an STD panel. HIV is contracted through sexual contact, from mother to unborn child, and from blood-to-blood contact with an infected person. It can be managed to some degree, but not cured. Catching HIV early with a complete STD panel typically decreases the risks of HIV becoming full-blown Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Hepatitis B and C can develop in several different ways. Sharing needles with infected intravenous drug users or receiving a blood transfusion from an infected person are two ways, but these serious liver conditions can also be contracted through unprotected sex. If left untreated, hepatitis B and C can progress to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. These conditions rarely have symptoms, so many cases are only caught through STD testing.