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What Are the Most Common STDs?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be transmitted via oral, anal, and vaginal sex. Some of the most common STDs include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Human Papillomavirus
  • Herpes

The best prevention against STDs is safer sex practices and routine screening.

What Is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs with 1.7 million new cases reported per year in the U.S. The bacterial infection is completely curable with antibiotics. Chlamydia can infect the penis, vagina, cervix, urethra, anus, eyes, and throat. Although not everyone who has this infection will experience symptoms, some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Pain during sex
  • Discharge
  • Burning or pain during urination.

If untreated, it can cause more serious health conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and ectopic pregnancy.

A healthcare provider can diagnose chlamydia through a urine sample or swab of your genitals. If you test positive, the provider will prescribe antibiotics, which you will either take as a one-time dose or daily for seven days. You can pass the infection to your sexual partners while you are being treated, so you should wait at least seven days before having sex. You can also get re-infected with chlamydia, so it’s important to get tested often. It can be prevented through the use of latex condoms.

What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that can affect the cervix, urethra, throat, and rectum. According to the CDC, an average of over 800,000 new cases per year are reported in the U.S. Some people with gonorrhea have no symptoms, so it is important to be checked regularly if you are at risk of exposure. Those who do experience symptoms may have:

  • Painful urination
  • Changes in vaginal or penile discharge
  • Pain during sex
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Bleeding between periods or after sex.

If gonorrhea impacts other parts of the body, it may cause rectal bleeding, eye pain or discharge, a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, or painful, red, or swollen joints. Untreated gonorrhea can lead to complications, including infections that spread to your joints, increased risk of HIV, and infertility. Since gonorrhea can be passed from a mother to her baby during childbirth, it is important to be tested during pregnancy. In a newborn baby, gonorrhea can cause sores on the scalp, blindness, and infections.

The treatment for gonorrhea is a round of antibiotics, which can be taken orally or given as an injection. Your sexual partners should also be treated if you test positive for the STD, and you should wait to have sex until you have completed your treatment.

What Is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that you can contract through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. On average, over 100,000 cases of syphilis are reported each year in the U.S. Syphilis is treatable, although it can lead to serious problems with the nervous system, heart, and other organs if it is not properly treated. It starts as a sore that appears on the genitals, mouth, or rectum and usually isn’t painful. After you are initially exposed, the bacteria can remain in your body before it becomes active. Syphilis progresses in stages, so the symptoms vary based on the stage. Some people don’t experience any symptoms, although the most common include:

  • A painless sore on the body, called a chancre
  • A rash that begins on the trunk and spreads across the body
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Unusual discharge

Blood and spinal fluid can confirm the presence of the bacteria that causes syphilis. When diagnosed early, it is easy to treat, often by a single injection of penicillin. Those who are allergic to penicillin can be treated with another antibiotic. If your treatment begins more than a year after exposure to the STD, you may need additional doses of antibiotics.

What Is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis, also called trich, is an easily curable STD that tends to affect women more than men. Even though an average of 3.7 million people in the US have trichomoniasis, only around 30% report symptoms. It is commonly mistaken for a yeast infection because of similar symptoms, such as:

  • Strong vaginal odor
  • Change in vaginal discharge
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Itching
  • Irritation.

Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite that spreads during sexual activity and can affect the lower genital tract in women and the penis in men. It can also infect other body parts, although this doesn’t happen very often. If not treated in a pregnant woman, trichomoniasis can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight in babies. The treatment is an oral medication, and you should wait at least 7-10 days to have sex after finishing your medication.

What Is HPV?

Also known as HPV, human papillomavirus affects a large part of the population at some point in their lives. Over 79 million have already been infected in the U.S. This virus spreads through oral, anal, or vaginal sex, and those who have it rarely have symptoms. Certain strains can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. Although it is not curable, vaccines are now available that help to prevent HPV.

HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, not just sexual intercourse. Since symptoms are rare, many people who have it don’t realize they’ve been infected. It’s important to get tested regularly to be aware of changes to the cervical cells that could develop into cancer. Regular Pap screens help women know whether they have any changes in their cervical cells, and problem areas can be monitored and treated by healthcare providers.

Genital warts are also caused by certain strains of HPV, which can develop on the vulva, cervix, vagina, penis, anus, or scrotum. When HPV causes genital warts, it is considered to be low-risk because it is not the strain that leads to cancer. Warts can be spread to others during skin-to-skin contact.

What Is Herpes?

Herpes is an infection that can impact the mouth, genitalia, anus, and skin in other parts of the body. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), and two strains exist. HSV-1 causes oral herpes, which shows up as cold sores around the mouth, while HSV-2 causes genital herpes. Symptoms of herpes include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Changes in vaginal discharge
  • Ulcers, blisters, or cold sores.

When someone has a herpes outbreak, the risk of contracting it through skin-to-skin contact is higher. A person with a cold sore can also give their sexual partner genital herpes by giving oral sex. The virus that causes herpes remains in the body forever, although it remains dormant for much of the time. Certain triggers may cause outbreaks to occur, such as:

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Surgery
  • Sun exposure
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Menstruation.

Although no cure is available for herpes, the sores can be managed through oral medication and topical treatments.

STDs are common and impact a large portion of the population. Many are easily treatable, especially when treatment begins right away. You can reduce your risk of contracting an STD by following safer sex practices and getting tested regularly.

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