STI Test using Genital Swabs


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Genital swabs are a method of obtaining a sample which can be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This test has some stigma as people worry that it might be painful, and this article addresses the question of whether genital swabs can be painful.

What is involved in a genital swab?

For men a genital swab is referred to as a penile swab, and involves the insertion of what is effectively a cotton bud into the penile opening to gain access to the urethra. The tip of the bud is then rotated as gently as possible before being removed. For women the swab is called the vaginal swab, and involves a similar technique of inserting the swab to get a sample.

Is the swab painful?

Generally speaking people report the swab as being uncomfortable, however some do find the process quite painful. Pain is more likely if there is severe inflammation of the urethra as the swabbing process can exacerbate the process.

When are genital swabs used?

Urine tests are used more predominantly than genital swabs, however this method is still used to test for some conditions like Gonorrhea. Genital swabs can be quite accurate as they involve taking a sample directly from an area of infection, and this is why they are still used despite the fact that some people find it painful.


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