There are a lot of things you can get out of an intimate relationship – human connection, understanding and love. But one thing you don’t want to get is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
STDs are caused by infections passed from one person to another through sexual contact and can be passed through oral, vaginal or anal sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 19 million new STD infections occur each year in the United States – almost half of them among young people 15-24 years of age. In addition to youth, women and minorities are also severely affected.
STDs are the most commonly reported infectious diseases in the United States. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most common reportable STDs and can result in infertility in women.
Chlamydia is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia is known as a "silent" disease because about three quarters of infected women and about half of infected men have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within one to three weeks after exposure. Women who have symptoms might have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. Men with signs or symptoms might have a discharge from their penis or a burning sensation when urinating.
If untreated, chlamydial infections can progress to serious reproductive and other health problems with both short-term and long-term consequences. In women, untreated infection can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which happens in up to 40 percent of women with untreated chlamydia. Complications among men are rare. Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics. A single dose of azithromycin or a week of doxycycline (twice daily) are the most commonly-used treatments.
Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacteria that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes in women, and in the urethra in women and men. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus.