With any sexual activity, you are at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They are caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Aside from STIs, there are also vaginal infections. They will be talked about in the next post.
While some STIs have presentable symptoms, many others are asymptomatic, or have no visible symptoms. If you are sexually active, you should schedule a panel of tests every six months.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection spread by unprotected oral, anal, and vaginal sex as well as by an infected mother passing it to her child during pregnancy, labor, or breastfeeding. Sometimes burning during urination presents itself, but often there are no symptoms. It’s cured with antibiotics.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that can bring about infertility if left untreated. It can cause excessive vaginal discharge and some people feel pain in their lower abdomen or genitalia area. Gonorrhea is caused by unprotected oral, anal, and vaginal sex as well as by an infected mother through pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Treatment for gonorrhea is an antibiotic.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused by unprotected oral, anal, and vaginal sex as well as by unclean/shared needles and from a mother during pregnancy, labor, and nursing. Initially, a sore will be visible on the mouth or genitals, followed by a rash. Years later, internal organs are affected. It treatable with penicillin.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is caused by a number of strains of virus that can cause genital warts, lead to cervical cancer, and often have no symptoms while still enabling their partners to become infected. It is the most common STI. There is no cure, and it can go away within years or remain for life. Treatment for the warts may be applied. It is spread by having unsafe oral, anal, and vaginal sex as well as by a mother through pregnancy, labor, and nursing.
Genital Herpes is caused by a virus and causes painful sores and genital itching and pain. There is no cure, although antiviral medications are administered to manage outbreaks during the lifetime of an infected individual.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS) are a sexually transmitted disease that are caught by having unsafe oral, anal, and vaginal sex, through blood and needles, and by a mother passing it during pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding. In the beginning stages of HIV, flu-like symptoms can present and then no symptoms are visible until it progresses to AIDS. Once it is AIDS, complications with other illnesses may arise, as well as fatigue, weight loss, and fever or night sweats. There is no cure but with a strict antiretroviral regimen, the disease progression can be slowed while complications from other illnesses are prevented.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite from having unprotected oral, anal, and vaginal sex. The symptoms are foul-smelling vaginal discharge, itching, and painful urination. Men typically don’t show symptoms. It is cured by taking an antibiotic.
If you are concerned that you may have an STI, please consult your practitioner. If your test results come back positive, all partners since your last exam should be notified, tested, and treated.
For more information, read womenshealth.gov’s fact sheet on sexually transmitted infections.