Sexually transmitted disease can affect both men and women, but women can have more difficulty figuring out if they even have an STD. And, untreated, the STD can cause other long-term problems such as infertility, or may even be passed to an unborn child if a woman is pregnant when she develops the infection.
Here are six ways STDs affect women and men differently:
1) Women may not have observable symptoms as compared to men.
Women may not develop symptoms of STDs such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, or the symptoms may go away, even though the infection is still there.
Women may also not see genital ulcers from herpes or syphilis if they develop deeper inside their vaginas. Men can readily see sores that appear on their penises.
2) Women may confuse symptoms of a vaginal infection with being something else, or they may think it's an infection they can self-treat.
Woman often think a vaginal discharge is normal, or that any itching and burning is related to a yeast infection, so they may use an over-the-counter medication to self-treat — but it's the wrong infection. Men do not have a discharge normally from their penis, so they are more likely to seek medical care if a discharge occurs.
3) Women are anatomically more susceptible to STDs than men.
The tissue that lines the vagina is thinner and more delicate than the skin that covers the penis so bacteria or viruses have an easier time getting a foothold. Also, because the vagina is warm and moist, it is a more inviting place for STDs to grow.
4) Woman can develop infertility from a STD and other complications.
Untreated, an STD can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which may lead to infertility and increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
According to the CDC, “each year untreated STDs cause infertility in at least 24,000 women and untreated syphilis in a pregnant women results in infant death in up to 40 percent of cases.”
5) Women, if pregnant, may pass their STDs to their new babies.Read more in Gender Differences in Health