Most people don’t like to talk about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Frankly, it’s not the most comfortable topic to discuss. Even so, it’s crucial to talk about STDs and STIs and to be aware of what signs to look for.
You might be wondering, “Why should we increase awareness about STDs? I practice safe sex all the time.”
STDs and STIs are incredibly common. They’re so common that according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention nearly “20 million new sexually transmitted infections occur in the United States each year.”
At Metro OBGYN, we’re ready to eliminate the stigmas surrounding these diseases in an effort to increase awareness.
Your sexual health is essential. Here are some of the most common STDs, how you can treat them, and ways to prevent contracting an STD.
STD Awareness in April
April marks a month-long coalition for STD awareness. It’s important to bring awareness to STDs because roughly 1 million people around the world are infected each day with some form of STD or sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Many STDs don’t produce visible symptoms, so you may not know you have one. Anyone who has unprotected sex is at risk of being infected. Most STDs are spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
Some factors that place people at increased risk of contracting STDs or STIs include:
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Having sex with someone who has had multiple sexual partners
- Sharing needles
- Having unprotected sex (not using a condom)
- Lack of access to proper medical care
- Insufficient STD screening
STDs also impact your reproductive health. For that reason, awareness is crucial to help educate people who are sexually active about prevention methods and treatments for contractible diseases before infertility occurs.
The most common STDs
According to the World Health Organization, “More than 30 different types of bacteria, viruses, and parasites are known to be transmitted through sexual contact.” Of the 30 known STDs, eight are more prevalent throughout the world, and they are separated into two categories: curable and treatable.
1. Curable STDs
A curable STD can be treated and cured with specific medication. Once treatment is completed, the person will be free of that STD.
Chlamydia is the most common STD in America. Symptoms include vaginal or penile discharge, or a burning sensation during urination. Because chlamydia is caused by bacteria, treatment includes antibiotics.
Another common STD is gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is caused by bacteria and produces similar symptoms to chlamydia such as vaginal and penile discharge, a burning sensation when urinating, and itching and soreness around the genitals. It is very common to contract both gonorrhea and chlamydia at the same time. Treatment for gonorrhea includes the use of antibiotics.
Syphilis is a four-stage disease that starts seemingly harmlessly with a small sore that can imitate a cut, ingrown hair, or bump. The disease moves into the second stage producing a rash, with sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus. The third stage of syphilis is usually dormant and can last for years, while the last stage causes nerve and brain damage. Syphilis can be remedied using antibiotics.
Trichomoniasis, or “trich”, is a common STD caused by a parasite. Symptoms include soreness, itching, burning, or discharge from the vagina or penis. Trichomoniasis can be treated with the use of antibiotics.
A treatable STD is one for which there is no known cure. However, treatments like medication can help manage or alleviate symptoms.
There are two strains of the herpes virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both strains cause genital blisters in or around the penis, vagina, or anus. Herpes is highly contagious — all it takes to contract the disease is skin-to-skin contact. Unfortunately, once contracted, herpes is incurable; however, medication, like antivirals, can help manage symptoms.
Human immunodeficiency virus, more commonly known as “HIV”, is the virus that causes AIDS. It is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. Initially, symptoms resemble the flu, then the virus progressively destroys your immune system making it hard to fight off infections. Currently, there is no cure for HIV, but there are treatment options including antivirals.
While this virus is most commonly transmitted via blood and open sores, it can also be contracted through sexual contact. Symptoms include yellow eyes, abdominal pain, and dark-colored urine. There is no cure for Hepatitis B, but symptoms can be managed through medications and to prevent the spread of the disease.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Affecting 80% of those who are sexually active, HPV is by far the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Most people do not have obvious symptoms of this disease, which means someone may not know they have it at all. The most common physical symptom is genital warts, but HPV can also cause cancer in the cervix, penis, mouth, or throat. HPV can be prevented through a series of vaccines. There is no known cure for HPV, but there are medications that have proven to alleviate the symptoms. HPV may also go away on its own as reported by the FDA and CDC.
What happens when STDs or STIs are left untreated?
If STDs or STIs are left untreated, symptoms can include long-term pelvic pain, infertility, and an increased chance of contracting HIV.
There are three steps to helping prevent STDs from spreading. We discuss these prevention techniques below.
It’s important to talk openly and honestly about STDs with sexual partners and healthcare providers. By creating an open environment for discussing your sexual health, you’ll be able to get important educational information to prevent contracting an STD.
It’s essential to get tested as it’s the only way to know if you have an STD or STI. Not all medical check-ups will include STD screening, so you will most likely have to ask to be tested. If you’re in a monogamous sexually-active relationship, consider having an STD screening during your annual gynecological exam. If you’re sexually active with multiple partners, you should get tested for STDs every 3-6 months.
If you’re diagnosed with an STD or STI, it’s crucial to work with a healthcare provider to have it treated as soon as possible after diagnosis. All STDs can be treated, but not all of them are curable, so discuss treatment options with your provider to find the best solution for you.
Get tested at Metro OBGYN
This month, we encourage you to get checked for STDs. It’s one of the best things you can do to prioritize your health and help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
At Metro OBGYN we also provide a range of other health services. If you’re concerned you may have a sexually transmitted disease or are experiencing other gynecological health issues, consult with a provider today.