An STD is a sexually transmitted disease, also known as an STI or sexually transmitted infection. These diseases or infections are spread via sexual contact from one partner to the next. This sexual contact can occur in many ways such as orally, vaginally, anally, or from hand to genital interaction. Our first line of defense against these STDs is to practice safe sex, using abstinence, condoms, and getting checked regularly. Unfortunately this is not always enough, so recognizing the symptoms of the most common STDs can get you treatment fast and stop further spreading to others.
Here’s what to you need to know:
1. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV sees over 3 million cases in the US per year. This makes this STD very common. It is contracted by skin-to-skin contact, meaning you don’t need to have sex to contract it. HPV causes genital warts, which are typically harmless but can increase the risk for both cervical and anal cancers. There is no cure for this virus, but the body will fight it off in time. Although there are currently vaccines like Guardasil that are meant to protect against HPV, these only protect against certain strains and the long term effects are still unknown. Look for raised or flat flesh colored warts, as these can be the only symptoms of HPV.
The CDC estimates that there are 700,000 new cases of Gonorrhea each year. This STD is also known by the nickname the “clap”. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that affects the cervix, male urethra, and throat. The most noticeable symptoms are those of burning urination, or yellowish discharge. Because the symptoms are rather non-specific they can be mistaken for urinary tract infections. When the infection progresses further, it can cause skin rashes or sepsis. This STD can be treated through a course of antibiotics. Untreated, gonorrhea can cause infertility.
Syphilis is rarer than other STDs, causing only 200,000 cases in the US yearly. It is caused by a bacteria known as Treponema Pallidum, which affects the genital tract. Symptoms like firm, round, painless sores in the genital area can be a sign of syphilis. Syphilis is spread by contact with this sore, but also be transmitted during pregnancy from an infected mother to her baby. As the infection progresses, sores can appear elsewhere on the body, fever and swollen glands can appear, and you might experience hair loss. This infection can also be cured by antibiotics. Untreated, syphilis can have serious health repercussions like brain damage, paralysis, and blindness.
Like gonorrhea, chlamydia affects the urethra and cervix, or genital tract of both sexes. Symptoms of this STD may not present themselves for months or years, making the infection very dangerous. Because it might not be diagnosed for a long period of time after contraction, the likelihood of spreading increases. Some symptoms to watch out for are dysuria, burning, itching and genital odor or discharge. Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics, and cured. Untreated, infertility can result.
Herpes can be grouped into two types: Herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2. Herpes simplex virus 2 is the most common form of herpes and causes genital herpes. This virus is contracted through sexual intercourse and can appear as small blisters or sores on the genitalia. There is no cure for herpes but antiviral drugs can help manage the virus and control the duration and frequency of blister outbreaks.