How to Detect and Treat STDs
An STD (also called an STI or sexually transmitted infection) is an infection contracted through sexual activity. Both heterosexuals and homosexuals can get STDs. Some STDs are caused by viruses, and others by bacteria. You can contract an STD by engaging in intimate sexual contact, such as vaginal or anal intercourse or oral sex with a person who is infected. A baby can also contract an STD from its mother either in utero or during the birth process, with potentially severe consequences.
Many STDs are easily treated, but some have no cure. Since the consequences can range from emotional and physical discomfort to severe illness and even death, anyone who is sexually active should learn how to practice safe sex. You must be able to recognize the signs of infection and seek medical care. If you think you might have an STD, or have any of the symptoms associated with the STDs listed below, see your doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment. If you are diagnosed with an STD, your sexual partner(s) must be treated, too.
Chlamydia can lead to
If left untreated, chlamydia can cause permanent damage to a woman's reproductive tract, resulting in
Gonorrhea is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which can infect the urinary tract, reproductive organs, rectum, and the throat (when oral sex is practiced). Symptoms of gonorrhea in men include a thick, pus-like discharge from the penis, and burning during urination or symptoms of sore throat. Women may have a cloudy vaginal discharge, lower abdominal discomfort, or burning while urinating. In both men and women, the symptoms may be mild enough to go unnoticed until complications develop.
Gonorrhea may appear mild at first, but if the condition goes untreated it can become chronic and cause damage to both the male and female reproductive organs. It can also spread throughout the bloodstream and infect other parts of the body, causing potentially permanent damage. Antibiotics are prescribed to treat gonorrhea.
People can carry the HIV virus and show no symptoms for ten years or more. Even without causing visible symptoms, the virus is still transmissible and others can be unknowingly infected through unprotected sexual activity. Although there is no known cure for an HIV infection, there are medicines given in combinations that have been effective in slowing the progress of the disease in many people.
Syphilis is a potentially serious STD that, fortunately, is not as common in developed countries. Initial symptoms may include painless ulcers on the genitals, rectum, tongue, or lips, and enlarged lymph nodes in the groin. Two to six weeks later, a rash may appear over any area of the body, but especially on the palms and soles. Mouth ulcers, fever, headache, soreness and aching in bones and joints, loss of appetite, and general malaise may also develop. When syphilis is left untreated, it can eventually attack the brain and other organs, resulting in paralysis, senility, insanity, blindness, and/or heart damage. Treatment with penicillin or other antibiotics usually cures syphilis.
The first sign of a
Genital herpes is mostly contagious during a flare-up. But, it is possible to spread the virus at any time, even when there is not active infection.
This STD is caused by the herpes simplex virus and is transmitted through any type of sexual contact, including anal, oral, and genital. Ways to prevent herpes include abstaining from sexual contact or using a
There is no cure, but there are medicines available to treat acute symptoms and also to decrease the frequency and severity of recurrent episodes.
Both men and women can get
The best defense against STDs is sexual abstinence. If you choose to have sex, use latex condoms to reduce your risk of getting an STD. If you suspect you may have contracted an STD, see your doctor immediately. Make certain that your partner(s) receives treatment, as well. Do not let embarrassment or ignorance keep you from seeking care.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
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Last reviewed May 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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