Many people get STDs because they don’t know enough about them and don’t take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against them. Some diseases, such as HPV, can be prevented by getting vaccinated against them. But other diseases, such as HIV, cannot be cured and can only be managed with drugs. For this reason, it’s important to know the risks associated with different types of sexual activity and to use condoms and other barriers when necessary. It’s also important to get vaccinated against some diseases, such as HPV. Below is an overview into understanding STDs and how to protect yourself from them.
What are STDs?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are infections that can be spread through sexual contact. They can infect the genitals, rectum, and throat. STDs can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
The most common way to spread STDs is by having unprotected sex. This means having sex without using a condom or other barrier method. STDs can be spread through vaginal sex, oral sex, and anal sex.
Causes of STDs
There are many different causes of STDs. Some of the most common causes include having unprotected sex, having multiple partners, and using intravenous drugs. Some STDs, such as HPV, can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.
- Unprotected intercourse: People who have sex without using condoms are at high risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It makes no difference how many people the person has had sex with. Even if a person has only had one sexual partner, that partner could be infected.
- Multiple partners lead to an increased risk of STDs since the chances of getting infected are even higher if a person has unprotected sex with lots of different partners.
- Sharing needles: Sharing needles or syringes for drug use, ear piercing, tattooing, etc. can also expose you to infected fluids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sharing needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment puts people at risk of getting or transmitting HIV and other infections. This is due to the fact that the needles, syringes, or other injection equipment may contain blood, and blood can carry HIV. Depending on the temperature and other factors, HIV can survive in a used syringe for up to 42 days.
- Skin-to-skin contact: Oral and genital herpes, HPV, and syphilis are among the STIs spread through skin-to-skin contact. When an infected site of one person’s skin (for example, the genitals of a person infected with human papillomavirus, or HPV) comes into direct contact with a mucous membrane or lesion on an uninfected person’s body, this is referred to as skin-to-skin contact.
- Bodily fluids contact: Some STDs spread through body fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid, or blood. You may be exposed to infected body fluids and skin through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Anal sex can be riskier as it may cause bleeding which can increase your risk of getting an STI.
The risks of getting an STD
The risks of getting an STD are many and varied. Some STDs, such as HPV, can be prevented by getting vaccinated against them. But other diseases, such as HIV, cannot be cured and can only be managed with drugs. So, it’s important to know the risks and take precautions to protect yourself from these diseases.
One of the biggest risks of getting an STD is that the disease may not have any symptoms. This means that you may not even know that you have the disease, and it can spread to other people without you realizing it.
Another risk of getting an STD is that some diseases, such as HIV, can be deadly. And even if you do survive an infection with HIV or another STD, you may have to take expensive drugs for the rest of your life to manage the disease.
Finally, some STDs can cause infertility or even pregnancy complications. So, if you do get infected with an STD, it’s important to get treated right away to avoid serious health problems down the road.
The symptoms and complications of different STDs
Symptoms vary for each STI, but they include:
- infection of the genitals, rectum, or throat
- painful sores on the genitals
- itching or burning around the opening of the penis or vagina
- discharge from the penis or vagina-bleeding between periods or after sex
- pain during sex
- swelling in the pelvic area
- rash or lesions on the skin
- extreme fatigue
- nausea and vomiting
- weight loss
However, it is important to note that many STIs may not cause any symptoms.
- Organ damage
- Cancer such as HPV-associated cervical and rectal cancers
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is usually associated with with Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis
- Pregnancy complications
If you are sexually active, you should get tested for STDs regularly. Many STDs have no symptoms, so you may not know you are infected. The only way to know for sure is to get tested. There are several ways to get tested for STDs:
1. You can go to your doctor or health clinic and ask for a STD test.
2. You can buy a home testing kit from a drugstore or online.
3. You can go to a sexual health clinic or STD clinic.
4. You can get a blood test or urine test.
No matter which method you choose, it is important to be honest with your doctor or health care provider about your sexual history so that he or she can recommend the best test for you.
Frequency of STD testing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all sexually active people get tested for STDs at least once a year. If you have multiple partners or are at risk for other reasons (such as having unprotected sex), you may need to be tested more often.
What to expect during an STD test?
Before the test, your doctor or health care provider will ask about your sexual history and symptoms, if any. He or she will then do a physical exam. This may involve looking at your genitals or taking a swab of discharge from your vagina, penis, or rectum. Depending on which STD you are being tested for, you may also have blood tests.
After the test, your doctor or health care provider will call you with your results. If you have a positive result, he or she will recommend treatment.
What are the different types of STDs?
There are many different types of STDs, some of which are more serious than others. The most common STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV, HPV, and syphilis.
Chlamydia: Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that is most commonly spread through sexual contact. It can cause serious health problems if left untreated, including infertility in women. Sexually active people can contract chlamydia through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a chlamydia-infected partner. Sexually active young people are more likely to contract chlamydia. This is due to common behaviors and biological factors among youths. Because chlamydia can spread through oral and anal sex, gay and bisexual men are also at risk.
Gonorrhea: Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is also most commonly spread through sexual contact and can cause infection in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is very common, especially among young people ages 15-24 years. this infection can cause serious health problems if left untreated, including damaging the reproductive organs in both men and women.
Herpes: genital herpes is a viral infection that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact or sexual contact. There are two types of herpes viruses: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is the most common type of herpes and usually causes sores around the mouth mainly known as oral herpes which can manifest as cold sores or fever blisters on or around the mouth. Oral herpes caused by HSV-1 can spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. On the other hand, HSV-2 is the most common type of herpes that causes genital herpes. The majority of people with genital herpes have no or very mild symptoms. Mild symptoms may go unnoticed or be misdiagnosed as another skin condition, such as a pimple or an ingrown hair. As a result, most people are unaware they have a herpes infection.
HIV/AIDS: HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and can eventually lead to AIDS. HIV can damage the immune system and increase the risk of contracting other viruses or bacteria and developing certain cancers. With today’s treatments, many people with HIV live long, healthy lives. AIDS, on the other hand, is a serious illness that can be fatal if left untreated. This STD cannot be cured. It can be managed with medication, but there is no cure. If you have an STD, you are more likely to contract HIV than if you are STD-free. This is because the same behaviors and circumstances that put you at risk for an STD can also put you at risk for HIV. Furthermore, having a sore or break in the skin from an STD may allow HIV to enter your body more easily. You can also get HIV if you have anal sex with someone who has HIV without using protection (like condoms or medicine to treat or prevent HIV). Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex for getting or transmitting HIV. If you are sexually active, get tested for STDs and HIV regularly, even if you don’t have symptoms.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): HPV is the most common STI. It is a virus that can cause cervical cancer in women. It can also cause other types of cancer, such as anal cancer and throat cancer. There are multiple types of HPV. Some of which can cause health issues, such as genital warts and cancer. However, due to medical advancements, there are now vaccines that can prevent these health issues from occurring.
Syphilis: Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be spread through sexual contact. If left untreated, it can cause serious health problems, including blindness, paralysis, and even death. Infection develops in stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary). Each stage can have different signs and symptoms. Syphilis can be contracted through direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, from a mother with syphilis to her unborn baby, or through casual contact with objects, such as toilet seats, swimming pools, hot tubs, and even sharing clothing or eating utensils.
Other types of STDs include:
- Hepatitis B: This STD is caused by a virus and can lead to liver damage.
- Trichomoniasis: This STD is caused by a parasite and often has no symptoms. If left untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, which can cause infertility.
- Chancroid: This STD is caused by bacteria and often causes ulcers on the genitals. It can also lead to PID in women.
Treatment for STDs
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for STDs, as the treatment will vary depending on the disease. However, there are a few treatments that are common to most STDs.
Antibiotics are often used to treat STDs caused by bacteria, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. These antibiotics can be taken orally or applied topically. If you are infected with HIV, AIDS, or another virus, you will likely need to take medication for the rest of your life. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but medications can help control the virus and extend your life. Other treatment options might include oral or topical medications, surgery, or laser.
If you are diagnosed with an STD, it is important to notify all of your sexual partners so that they can get tested and treated if necessary. You can also ask your doctor for a list of anonymous testing centers in your area. It is also advisable to make lifestyle alterations, such as abstaining from sex until treatment is complete.
How to protect yourself from STDs?
There are many ways to protect yourself from STDs, but the most important is to be aware of the risks and take precautions. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:
- Use condoms every time you have sex, especially during vaginal, anal, and oral sex to help prevent STIs that spread through fluids. Condoms protect against most STDs. Dental dams can also provide protection during oral sex.
- Avoid having sex with anyone who has an STD.
- Get tested for STDs regularly, especially if you have multiple partners or a new partner. Ask any partners to do the same.
- If you think you might have an STD, see a doctor right away. In some cases, patients who are at a higher risk of contracting HIV might be offered Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP by their physician as a way to prevent the development of HIV.
- Keep your immune system strong by eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise.
- Practice safe sex at all times.
- If you are HIV-positive, take medication to control the virus and prevent transmission to others.
- Do not share needles or other injecting equipment.
- Consider getting vaccinated for HPV and hepatitis B.
STDs and pregnancy
There is a link between STDs and pregnancy. Some STDs, such as HPV, can cause cervical cancer, which can lead to infertility. Other STDs, such as HIV, can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth. So, it’s important for women who are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant to get tested for STDs and to take precautions to protect themselves from these diseases.
Some STDs can be passed on to a fetus or a newborn during pregnancy or childbirth. However, this is not true for all STDs. Syphilis, for example, can be transmitted to an unborn child, resulting in a severe infection, miscarriage, or stillbirth. Genital warts can also be passed on to a child, but this is extremely rare. PID can also have an impact on future pregnancies by increasing the likelihood of an ectopic pregnancy and causing infertility in one out of every ten people.
Other things to consider:
- Get tested for STIs, such as HIV and syphilis, to avoid complications and ensure that any infection is detected and treated.
- If you have an STD, consult a healthcare professional. They may need to double-check that a medication is safe for you to take or postpone treatment if necessary.
- It should be noted that a cesarean delivery may be required, especially if genital warts make stretching the vagina difficult.
If you think you may have an STD, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible. Many STDs can be treated with antibiotics, but some, such as HIV and AIDS, cannot be cured. The sooner you get diagnosed and treated, the better your chances are of avoiding serious health complications. Always remember little protection goes a long way!
Common FAQs about STDs
What are the most common STDs?
The most common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes. These three diseases are very prevalent, and they can cause a lot of damage if they are not treated.
What are the symptoms of STDs?
Symptoms of STDs can vary depending on the disease. However, many STDs cause pain, swelling, and irritation in the affected area. In some cases, there may be sores or lesions present. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor right away.
What is the difference between an STD and a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
An STD is a disease that is transmitted through sexual contact, while an STI is an infection that may or may not lead to the development of a disease. The main difference between the two is that an STD always involves the presence of symptoms, while an STI does not necessarily cause symptoms.
How do you get STDs?
STDs can be spread through sexual contact with an infected person. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Some STDs can also be transmitted through sharing needles or contact with infected blood.
Can STDs be cured?
Most STDs can be cured with antibiotics or other medications. However, some infections, such as herpes, cannot be cured. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but treatment can prolong life expectancy.
What should you do if you think you have an STD?
If you think you may have an STD, it is important to see a doctor right away. Do not try to diagnose yourself; only a professional can provide accurate information about your health. Prompt treatment is essential for preventing further damage and reducing the risk of transmission to others.
Do all sexually active people have to get tested for STDs?
All sexually active people should get tested for STDs at least once a year. However, if you are having sex with multiple partners or if you think you may have been exposed to an STD, you should get tested more often. It’s also a good idea to get tested before you start having sex with a new partner.
How can you prevent STDs?
The best way to prevent STDs is to abstain from sexual contact or to have protected sex using condoms. It is also important to get tested regularly for STDs, especially if you are sexually active. You should also avoid having sex with anyone who has an STD. If you think you may have an STD, it is important to see a doctor or healthcare provider as soon as possible.