Concerned you might have a sexually transmitted infection? Let us help you know the truth by doing a screening.
- Types of STD's
- How STD's Spread?
- Do I Have STD?
- STD Protection
- STD Testing
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs), affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and from all walks of life. In the U.S. alone there are approximately 20 million new cases each year, half of which occur among youth ages 15-24 years.
While anyone who is sexually active is at risk for getting an STD, women, youth and people of color are more likely to become infected. They can also face more serious medical complications. Getting the facts about STDs/STIs and sexual health is important.
Types of STD's
Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria that infects your cervix or urethra. You may not have any symptoms, or you may have vaginal discharge, bleeding after intercourse, or frequent urination. If untreated, it can cause pelvic infections that can lead to infertility. If you are pregnant, chlamydia is associated with preterm birth and can cause eye or lung infections in your baby. It is treatable with antibiotics. Your partner must be treated as well.
Gonorrhea is caused by a bacteria that infects your cervix or urethra. You may have vaginal discharge, frequent urination, or you may have no symptoms. It can cause throat and skin infections in women and if untreated, can cause serious pelvic infections and infertility. It can also cause pregnancy complications like preterm birth and eye or throat infections in the baby. It is treated with antibiotics; it is important that your partner is treated as well.
Genital herpes is caused by a virus, either HSV 1 or HSV 2. It causes intermittent blisters and sores, which can vary from barely noticeable to very painful. You cannot cure the virus, but you can treat with antiviral medications to shorten or suppress herpes outbreaks. You should tell your partner if you have herpes.
Trichomonas is caused by a parasite that infects the vagina and cervix. It usually causes vaginal discharge and irritation, but you may have no symptoms. It is treatable with an antibiotic. It is important that your partner receives treatment as well.
Syphilis is caused by a bacteria that infects the skin of the vulva in its primary stage, causing a painless sore. If untreated, the sore will resolve but the bacteria will spread to the blood and can affect the skin, brain, heart, or many other organs in its secondary and tertiary stages. It can cause serious pregnancy complications. Syphilis is treatable with antibiotics.
HIV is a virus that infects your white blood cells. It usually causes flu-like symptoms but can by asymptomatic. It weakens your immune system and can cause serious complications like AIDS. There are medicines to control the HIV virus and decrease its levels in your blood. Everyone should be screened at least once for HIV.
HPV is a virus; there are high risk and low risk types of HPV. High risk HPV is sexually transmitted. It infects the cervix and causes abnormal pap smears. It can eventually cause cervical cancer. Low risk HPV types cause genital warts. Your immune system can sometimes clear the HPV virus if you are healthy, avoid smoking, and eat a healthy diet. You should tell your partner if you have HPV.
How do STD's spread?
STD's usually are spread through sex—vaginal, oral or anal. STD's can be spread through any type of sex: from a male to a female, a female to a male, a male to another male or a female to another female.
Some STD's can be spread through any contact between the penis, vagina, mouth or anus – even if there is no penetration. For example, genital herpes is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, and can be transmitted even if there is no penetration. Some STD's can be spread in other ways also. For example, HIV and hepatitis B are also spread through sharing needles for injecting drugs or medicines.
How do I know if I have an STD?
Some STDs will cause very obvious symptoms. But many STDs cause no symptoms or only mild symptoms, so you could not know you have an infection. In fact, most people who have an STD have no symptoms. A test may be the only sure way to tell if you are infected.
If you do have symptoms, they may appear right away, or they might not show up for weeks or even months. They might come and go. Even if the symptoms disappear, you may still have an STD.
How can I protect myself from STDs?
There are lots of ways to reduce your risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Of course, the best way to avoid STDs and unwanted pregnancy is not to have sex. For those who do choose to become sexually active, though, there are ways you can help reduce your risk of contracting an STD.
Limit Number of Partners
Learn More About Vaccines
Avoid Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Most people think they would know if they had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but unfortunately that is not always true.
The truth is many of STIs have no signs or symptoms in the majority of people infected. Or they have mild signs that can be easily overlooked. This is why the term “disease” (as in STD) is starting to be replaced by infection (or STI).
The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested.
How Do STI Tests Work?
Getting tested can be quick and easy. Depending on what you are being tested for, we may take a blood sample, a swab, or ask you to pee in a cup. Easy! Keep reading to get an idea of what to expect:
Swab of genital area or urine sample For chlamydia and gonorrhea: If you have had oral or anal sex, let your healthcare provider know this also. These sites may be infected, but vaginal or urine samples may not be positive
Swab of genital area or urine sample
Blood test or swab from inside of mouthConfidential and anonymous testing options are available in many clinics
Blood test, or sample taken from a soreThe CDC recommends all pregnant women be tested for syphilis.
Swab of infected area, physical exam or sample of discharge“Trich” is harder to detect in men than in women.
Genital Herpes (no symptoms)
Blood test (drawn from arm or a fingerstick)Be sure to ask for a type-specific IgG test (not an IgM test)
Genital herpes (with symptoms)
Swab of affected area; if at first negative for herpes, follow later with blood test to make sure. Must be done as soon as possible; “viral culture” test not as accurate after 48 hours. A negative culture does not mean that you do not have genital herpes.
HPV (genital warts)
Visual diagnosis. Warts can occur in both men and women.
HPV (cervical cancer)
Starting at age 21, women should be tested with a Pap test, which looks for cervical cell changes associated with “high-risk” types of HPV associated with cervical cancer. Starting at age 30, women should get a HPV test as well. No test available for men for these types of HPV.