Sexually transmitted diseases, called STDs or STIs by most, are primarily contracted when one sexual partner transfers the disease-causing agent to the other partner during intercourse. Although STDs are quite common, they are difficult to catch without sexual contact. Knowing how to prevent or treat STDs can help safeguard reproductive and overall health. The following are some of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.
Chlamydia is the most common STD. Many people who get this disease are asymptomatic or do not experience any symptoms for the first weeks or months. This delay in symptoms is likely why chlamydia spreads so easily; people are unaware they have it, so they do not take precautions. Both men and women can contract chlamydia. In women, the infection reaches the cervix and, if untreated, can damage the reproductive system, making pregnancy difficult. Symptoms include abnormal discharge and burning during urination. In men, chlamydia affects the penile urethra, causing symptoms such as pain or swelling in the testicles and discharge from the penis. Fortunately, chlamydia is curable with medication designed specifically to kill the infection, and condoms effectively reduce transmission.
Trichomoniasis is another common sexually transmitted disease. The infection occurs in both women and men, but it is curable. Men generally do not have symptoms, though in rare cases they may experience discharge or burning during urination. Women develop a strong vaginal odor and discharge. Trichomoniasis can also cause itching and pain during intercourse and urination. Often, women will mistake this STD for a bacterial or yeast infection. If one partner has this STD, the other should be screened and treated to prevent reinfection.
Gonorrhea, also known as the "clap," is a bacterial STD. Like chlamydia, infected people are often unaware they have gonorrhea, due to delayed symptoms or none at all. Common symptoms in men include discharge, painful urination, and pain or swelling of a testicle. Women experience pain during intercourse, increased vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, and pelvic pain. Gonorrhea, like all other STDs, can also affect other areas of the body, such as the throat and rectum, because oral and anal sex can also transmit the bacteria. If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to infertility in both men and women, as well as other complications. Antibiotics are the treatment for this STD.
Human papillomavirus or HPV is on the road to becoming less common thanks to the recent development of a vaccination. The virus is linked to cervical, mouth, and throat cancer, and can also cause genital warts. Some strains of the virus cause no symptoms at all. Medical professionals recommend both male and female 11 or 12-year-olds get vaccinated for the virus.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection spread by contact with syphilitic sores known as chancres. The sores can be painless and can occur on the genitals or in the mouth. Historically, syphilis was associated with serious or even life-threatening complications causing damage to the brain, heart, and other organs. Fortunately, the infection is now curable, especially in the early stage. One course of antibiotics is typically enough to stop the infection, but more progressed cases can require additional courses. The main symptom of syphilis is sores where the bacteria entered the body. Many people develop a single sore, though some have several. As the infection progresses, it may lead to a rash and discharge. Condom use can reduce the risk of a syphilis infection, but it's still possible to transmit the bacteria through contact with an exposed sore.
Although many people have never heard of mycoplasma genitalium, the STD is quickly surpassing gonorrhea in prevalence, especially in teenagers. Also referred to as MG, this bacterial infection can cause cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix) in women. The problem with this STD is that there is no FDA-approved diagnostic test, although the doctor may recommend a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) if he or she suspected the infection. Mycoplasma genitalium is treated with antibiotics. Left untreated, the infection can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women, which can make it difficult to get pregnant.
Michail_Petrov-96 / Getty Images Crabs are pubic lice that are typically spread by contact with infested clothing, towels, or bedding. Crabs are parasitic insects that infest the genital hair and are occasionally found on other coarse body hair such as the armpits or even eyebrows. The most common symptom of crabs is itching, and the bites of the tiny bugs can cause pale blue spots. Occasionally, secondary bacterial infection can occur from scratching of the skin. Over-the-counter creams can eradicate crabs, and prescription medications can address more stubborn cases.
HIV or human immunodeficiency virus can develop into AIDS. The virus is transmitted via bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions, and blood. HIV weakens the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to infection and disease. Some people with HIV develop AIDS, but not everyone. While there is currently no effective cure for HIV/AIDS, drugs can suppress the virus, allowing people to lead long, healthy lives.
Genital herpes is a common viral STD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that this virus affects roughly one in four or five American adults. Any sex can transmit the infection, and though it cannot be cured, medications can suppress outbreaks of the sores that are hallmarks of the condition. Initial symptoms of genital herpes include fever, genital sores, vaginal discharge in women, pain, itching, and lethargy. The primary phase of the disease and its symptoms tend to be more intense than subsequent outbreaks.
Although there are various forms of hepatitis, hepatitis B or HBV is the strain most associated with sexual transmission. HBV infections can damage the liver and lead to cirrhosis, cancer, and organ failure. Symptoms of HBV include fever, dark urine, joint pain, loss of appetite, jaundice, and fatigue. There is a vaccine for HBV, and condoms can also prevent transmission. People with hepatitis B infections have to see a doctor for further assessments and treatment; many people develop chronic HBV requiring life-long treatment.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.