Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections caused by bacteria, parasites, yeast and viruses. Sometimes they are referred to as sexually transmitted infections, or STIs. Some STDs are very serious and need immediate medical attention.
STDs can affect both men and women, but the resulting health problems can be more severe for women. They are primarily passed through sexual contact. Some, including HPV and HIV/AIDS, can be transferred through contact with an infected person’s blood.
If you think you have an STD, it is important to see a healthcare provider for testing. Some of the most common STDs are:
- Genital herpes
Urinary tract infections (UTIs), including bladder infections, are not STDs. However, sexual activity raises your risk for UTIs. Make sure you ask a healthcare provider to be sure you have a UTI and not an STD.
What are the symptoms of STDs?
The symptoms of STDs can be subtle. You may not even realize you have one. Chlamydia symptoms are particularly difficult to detect. If left untreated, though, you can pass STDs to your sexual partners and increase your own risk of getting another. Untreated STDs can become life-threatening. If you are at risk for STDs, visit a healthcare provider for regular STD testing.
Symptoms of STDs may include:
- Painful or burning urination
- Lower abdominal pain
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Penile discharge
- Pain during intercourse
- Bleeding between periods
- Testicular pain or swelling
- Mouth or genital sores (in the case of herpes)
- Painful bowel movements
- Itching or irritation of your genitals or anus
- Flu-like symptoms
What are treatments for STDs?
If you think you might have an STD, get tested right away. If left untreated, STDs can have serious and sometimes life-threatening consequences. Antibiotics can treat STDs caused by bacteria, yeast and parasites. STDs caused by viruses do not have a cure, but symptoms can often be controlled with medicine.
HPV and hepatitis B can be prevented with vaccines. You can also lower your risk by reducing your number of sexual partners, abstaining or practicing mutual monogamy.
Seek medical attention if you think you may have an STD, even if you aren’t showing any symptoms. Visit your nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic for diagnosis and treatment. You can minimize your wait time with our Web Check-In®.
Commonly known as an STD or STI, CareNow® Urgent Care can help treat sexually transmitted diseases or transmitted infections.
Unfortunately, STDs are a significant health challenge in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are nearly 20 million new cases of STI’s annually.
As a result, this costs almost $16 billion each year. What’s worse, many cases of STI’s, such as human papillomavirus and herpes simplex virus, go undiagnosed and unreported to the CDC.
If these numbers prove anything, it’s that you should stay educated on what causes STI’s and how they can be prevented. Be sure to find a CareNow Urgent Care location near you for help if you think you’re experiencing STD symptoms.
Sexually transmitted infections vs diseases
The difference between STDs and STIs has become confusing for many people. The term STD is normally used to identify a collection of medical infections that are spread via sexual contact.
However, some people who are infected don’t necessarily experience symptoms (or even contract a disease), making STDs more of a dated term.
STI is a term that’s become more commonly used to clarify that not all infections become diseases. For example, in many instances HPV (human papillomavirus) will clear up within two years of contraction, never developing in cervical cancer.
What causes STDs?
STI’s can be spread from vaginal, anal or oral sex. In very rare instances, you can contract an STI called trichomoniasis through contact with damp or moist objects like towels, wet clothing or toilet seats.
If you currently have more than one sexual partner, you are at a higher risk of getting an STI. Also, if you are not using condoms when you have sex, share needles when injecting intravenous drugs or are having sex with someone who has multiple partners, your chance of getting an STI is significantly higher.
It’s also important to note that anyone with a history of STI’s is more likely to get another sexually transmitted infection.
Signs and symptoms of STDs
Sexually transmitted diseases and infections can have a number of signs and symptoms, including no symptoms at all. Because of this, many people remain unaware they have an STI until they start to experience complications.
Typically, symptoms will begin to occur within a few days of exposure; however, in some instances it may take years before there are any signs.
- Sores or bumps on the genitals or in the oral or rectal area
- Painful or burning urination
- Discharge from the penis
- Unusual or odd-smelling vaginal discharge
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Pain during sex
- Sore, swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the groin but sometimes more widespread
- Lower abdominal pain
- Rash over the trunk, hands or feet
If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms above, it’s important that you seek medical attention immediately to avoid complications or spreading the infection.
There are several ways a sexually transmitted infection can be diagnosed. Blood tests are typically the best way to confirm the diagnosis of an STI. In some instances, a provider may take a urine sample or fluid sample.
Even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms of an STI, you may want to be screened if:
- You are between the ages of 13 and 63 and have never been tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS.
- You were born between 1945 and 1965 when there was a high incidence of hepatitis C.
- You are pregnant: most women are screened for HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis at the first prenatal visit. Gonorrhea and hepatitis C screening tests are also recommended for pregnant women.
- You are over the age of 21. Providers suggest that every woman over the age of 21 should receive an annual Pap test to screen for cervical abnormalities, including inflammation, precancerous changes and cancer.
- You are a homosexual man. Men who have sex with men are at a greater risk of exposure to an STI. Because of this, providers recommend that homosexual men receive annual (or at least more frequent) screenings for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- You have HIV. Those who suffer from HIV are at a heightened risk of catching another STI, specifically syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes.
If you are struggling with the fact that you’ve been diagnosed with an STI, find several great coping and support tips here.
Typically an STI that is caused by bacteria is easier to treat than a viral infection. If you have been diagnosed with an STI, a provider will likely prescribe you an antibiotic, depending on the infection.
Antibiotics are normally prescribed for gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. Antivirals drugs are the best way to avoid herpes recurrences when taken with suppressive daily therapy.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an STI, you need to contact any sexual partners you’ve had within the past year. Some states require that certain STI’s be reported to the local or state health department.
How to prevent STDs
Make sure you communicate with your partner about practicing safe sex. While the best way to prevent getting a sexually transmitted infection is by abstaining from sex, here are some other tips for preventative care:
- If you are sexually active, you should stay with one uninfected partner.
- Before you and your partner have sex, you should both get tested to ensure neither of you is suffering from an STI.
- Whether having sex orally, vaginally or anally, it is crucial that you use condoms consistently and correctly.
- You should also avoid excessive use of drugs and alcohol. When you’re under the influence, you are at a greater risk of participating in unprotected sex.
You should also remember that, while condoms do minimize your risk if getting an STI, you may still be at risk of human papillomavirus or herpes (STIs that are caused by exposure to genital sores).
CareNow® can provide diagnosis and treatment
If you believe you are suffering from a sexually transmitted infection, consider visiting your local CareNow®. Since dealing with STD’s aren’t something most people like to make known, CareNow® makes testing easy, efficient and discreet.
Our independent practitioners provide a full range of primary and urgent care services. Be sure to use our Web Check-In® online to avoid any wait times!
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.