Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that pass from one person to another during sexual contact. They may also be called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs. Some of the more common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, crab lice, syphilis, HPV and genital warts, trichomonas, HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), and hepatitis A, B, and C. Some of these diseases are more dangerous than others. Some can be prevented with vaccines or cured with antibiotics, but for others, like herpes or HIV, there is no cure. Some can make you very sick or cause death.
You can have one of these diseases and not know it because you don't have any symptoms and don't feel sick. You can then spread the disease to sexual partners. Or you may know that you have an STD but are too embarrassed to talk about it with your sexual partner. Sexual partners can get the disease if you don’t practice safe sex every time.
STDs can make it hard or impossible for a woman to get pregnant. They can also increase the risk that a woman will have a tubal pregnancy, which can be very dangerous. Some infections may increase the risk for early labor and premature birth. STDs can spread from a pregnant mother to her baby and cause the baby to have birth defects or die.
Males can also become infertile from gonorrhea or chlamydia infections.
Bacteria, viruses, and parasites cause STDs. They are usually passed between partners during sex. This includes vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral sex, skin-to-skin contact in the genital area, kissing, and the use of sex toys, such as vibrators. Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV can also spread through IV drug use.
The symptoms depend on the type of STD. Some STDs may not cause symptoms until years after you are infected. Others may start within a few days. Symptoms may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You may have tests, such as blood or urine tests.
Some STDs can be cured with antibiotic medicine, especially when they are diagnosed and treated early. There is no cure for STDs caused by a virus, like herpes, HIV, HPV, and genital warts. However, treatment of these infections can help decrease discomfort and help avoid complications. If you cannot afford to pay for treatment, most communities have an STD clinic or county health department where visits are free of charge or cost a very small amount.
You can get the same STD again, even if you have had it once and have been treated.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Ask your healthcare provider:
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
Some STDs can be prevented by a vaccine.
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