Health Encyclopedia

 

Health Encyclopedia Home



What You Need to Know About STDs

What You Need to Know About STDs

When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), you may not have any warning signs. If you are sexually active, find out the facts about STDs, and learn how to protect yourself.

Myth: If you or your partner had an STD, you would see signs.

Fact: Many STDs have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, especially in women. Some STDs may have symptoms that go away for a while but then come back. STDs can damage your body, and you can spread them to your partner even if you have no symptoms.

Myth: STD symptoms may be bothersome, but most STDs do not have serious consequences.

Fact: Left untreated, most STDs can lead to serious conditions. They can cause infertility, urinary tract problems, and cancers of the vulva, cervix, vagina, penis, and anus. Some STDs, including syphilis and AIDS, can cause death. No STD is harmless.

Myth: You can catch an STD from a toilet seat, telephone or other object used by an infected person.

Fact: STDs are transmitted by vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Some STDs may spread to a baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Herpes can be transmitted by kissing, if herpes blisters are in the mouth or around the lips. Hepatitis B, syphilis, and HIV, the AIDS virus, can be spread by sharing needles or other objects contaminated by blood, as well as through sexual contact. STDs are not spread by handshakes, hugs, toilet seats, towels, dishes, telephone receivers, or insect bites.

Myth: If you think you may have been exposed to an STD, you should wait to see if symptoms develop.

Fact: If you think you may have been exposed, see your doctor right away. He or she can often tell with a simple lab test if you have been infected. Also, let your partner or partners know that they are at risk and should be tested, too. All STDs require professional medical treatment.

Myth: You can't get an STD more than once.

Fact: With the exception of hepatitis B, your body does not build immunity to any STD. If your partner is infected, the two of you may pass the STD back and forth unless you both get treated and get a clean bill of health before having sex again. Also, once you've had one STD, you may be more likely to get another.

Know the signs, protect yourself

Many STDs have no symptoms. See your doctor, however, if you have any of the following signs, which could be caused by an STD:

  • Problems in the anal or genital area, such as a sore, a rash, warts, unusual discharge, swelling, redness, or pain

  • Painful urination

  • Vaginal bleeding when it is not time for your period

  • Pelvic pain

  • A sore in the mouth

  • A sore in the rectum

  • Persistent, unexplained flulike symptoms or swollen lymph glands

The only sure way to protect yourself from STDs is not to have sex. If you do have sex, here is how you can lower your risk:

  • Use (consistently and correctly) a male latex or female polyurethane condom and topical microbicides.

  • Have regular checkups for HIV and STDs.

  • Limit your partners. The more partners you have, the higher your risk for STDs.

  • Have a mutually monogamous sexual relationship with an uninfected partner.

  • Delay having sexual relationships as long as possible. The younger a person is when he or she begins having sex, the more susceptible the person becomes to developing an STD.

  • Avoid anal intercourse, or use a male latex condom and topical microbicides.

  • Sexual intercourse during menstruation can still make you susceptible to developing some kinds of STDs, so take precautions, such as using condoms.

  • Avoid douching.

  • Get to know your partner first. Has your partner ever had sex without a latex condom? How many previous partners has he or she had? Has your partner ever had an STD, and if so, has it been cured?

  • If your partner has any STD warning signs, or has had sex without a condom, don't have sex until he or she has been checked by a doctor. If you have had sex already, see your doctor, too.

 
Related Items
Content Type 167
  Chlamydia Trachomatis (Swab)
  Chlamydia Trachomatis (Urine)
  Gonorrhea (Urine)
  Mycoplasma (Genital)
Quizzes
  Sexually Transmitted Disease Quiz
Daily News Feed
  Single Men Show Higher Risk of Cancer-Linked Oral HPV
  Too Few Girls Getting HPV Vaccine: CDC
  Young Homeless People With Friends at Lower Risk for STDs: Study
  Chlamydia, Gonorrhea Tied to Higher Risk of Pregnancy Complications
  Researchers Tie Increased Throat Cancer Cases to HPV Infection
  Meds That Prevent HIV Infection Don't Spur Risky Behavior: Study
  U.S. Teens More Vulnerable to Genital Herpes, Study Suggests
  How a Routine Pap Smear Ends Up Costing $1,000
  Counseling With HIV Testing May Not Help Prevent Future STDs
  HPV Vaccine Rates Lagging in Southern U.S., Study Finds
  Talking to Partners About STDs Often Awkward: Survey
  Unprotected Sex On the Rise Among U.S. Gay Men, CDC Says
  Taking Drug to Prevent HIV Doesn't Seem to Encourage Risk-Taking
  Abused Women Vulnerable to Unsafe Sex Practices
  Dog Cancer Dates Back 11,000 Years, Scientists Say
  HPV Shot Doesn't Encourage Sexual Activity in Young Girls: Study
  Only 1 in 3 HIV-Infected Black Americans Gets Effective Treatment: Study
  President's Panel Calls for More Girls, Boys to Get HPV Vaccine
  Partial HPV Vaccine Series May Help Prevent Genital Warts in Girls
  STD Education Must Start Long Before Kids Engage in Sex
  Head, Throat Cancer Survival May Be Longer if Tumor Caused by HPV: Study
  Long-Acting HIV Drug May Offer Better Protection Against Infection
  Vaginal Gel Might Prevent HIV Hours After Exposure
  HPV-Linked Throat Cancer May Have Telltale First Symptoms
  More STD Screening on Horizon for Women?
  HPV-Linked Oral Cancers May Not Be 'Contagious'
  Syphilis Cases Climbing Among Gay Men: CDC
  Two-Thirds of U.S. Adults May Carry HPV
  Many STDs May Go Undiagnosed, U.S. Report Finds
  HIV Prevention Drug Truvada Might Lower Genital Herpes Risk, Too
  HIV Patients Less Likely to Get Cancer Treatment: Study
  Cervical Cancer Vaccine Doesn't Boost Clot Risk: Study
  AIDS Epidemic May Be Subsiding: Report
  Many Sexually Active U.S. Teens Not Tested for HIV: CDC
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Safer Sex Guidelines
  Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Pediatric Diseases and Conditions
  Safer Sex Guidelines for Adolescents
  Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Adolescents
  Adolescent (13 to 18 Years)