Gynecology

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a major public health concern in the United States. STDs are infections caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses that are spread through sexual contact—contact that may be genital, oral or anal. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are approximately 19 million new STD infections every year— almost half of them among young people 15 to 24 years of age. While many STDSs can be treated with antibiotics, some STDs don’t have symptoms and often go undiagnosed and untreated, which may lead to severe health consequences, especially for women. Although condoms are highly effective for reducing transmission of STDs, individuals are still at risk of contracting an STD if they are sexually active.

If you think you have an STD, see your doctor. It’s important to be evaluated, and – if diagnosed with an STD – be treated. It’s also important to inform your sexual partner(s) so that they can also be evaluated and treated.

Common STDs

There are more than 20 types of STDs including:

  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Chancroid
  • Chlamydia
  • Genital Herpes/HSV
  • Genital HPV Infection
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Viral Hepatitis

Symptoms

You could have an STD and not even be aware that you have it because you don’t have any signs or symptoms. Even though you don’t have any signs or symptoms, you are still at risk of passing on the infection to your sex partner(s). That’s why it’s essential you visit your doctor on a regular basis for an STD screening, so you can identify a potential infection and get treated before you pass it on to someone else.

Symptoms of STDs include:

  • Bleeding or spotting after sexual intercourse
  • Discharge from the penis in men
  • Frequent urination
  • Irregular growths (warts) in the genital area
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating
  • Rash
  • Sores on or in the vagina, on the labia, on or around the anus or mouth
  • Testicular pain in men
  • Vaginal discharge (may be foul-smelling or discolored)
  • Vaginal itching or irritation

Preventing STDs

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most reliable ways to avoid becoming infected with or transmitting STDs are:

  • Abstaining from sexual intercourse (i.e., oral, vaginal or anal sex)
  • Being in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner

Latex male condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of some STDs, but no method is completely infallible.

Reducing Your Risk of STDs

Sexual partners should be tested for HIV and other STDs before initiating sexual intercourse. However, if you decide to be sexually active with a partner whose infection status is unknown or who is infected with HIV or another STD, you can reduce your risk of contracting an STD by:

  • Asking a new sex partner if he or she has an STD, has been exposed to one, or has any unexplained physical symptoms. Do not have unprotected sex if your partner has signs or symptoms of STDs, such as sores, rashes or discharge from the genital area. Many common STDs don’t have symptoms but can still be transmitted to a sexual partner. If your partner has recently had sexual relations with someone else, he or she may have an STD, even if he or she doesn’t have any symptoms.
  • Use a new condom for each act of intercourse. Correct and consistent use of latex condoms and other barriers can reduce the risk of transmission only when the infected area or site of potential exposure is protected.
  • Get regular checkups for STDs (even if you don’t have symptoms), and be familiar with the common symptoms. Most STDs can be treated, and the earlier treatment is sought and sex partners are notified, the less likely the disease will do irreversible harm.