Common STDs and How to Avoid Them!
May 23, 2016
We wish we could say that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a thing of the past but, alas, they are not. In fact, as of 2014, the CDC reports there were actually increases in all the three nationally-reported STDs: chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. The other startling, but not surprising, news is that younger populations are the most at risk.
Those between the ages of 15-24 have the highest incidence of STD infections, and gay and bi-sexual men are in the highest risk bracket of all. If you are a parent of a teenager, please open the lines of communication, or schedule an appointment with their healthcare provider, so they can get the facts in a calm, clear and accurate manner.
What does this mean? It means that it has never been more important to:
- Use condoms, the only sure way to prevent the risk of contracting and/or spreading STDs.
- Be as conscientious as you can about who you’re having sex with, and be extra-cautious when having sexual intercourse with anyone who you suspect has a lifestyle more prone to contracting STDs (i.e. gay or bisexual, intravenous drug users, promiscuous).
- Get tested regularly if you are having non-monogamous sex, and/or sex without condoms. Get tested if you find out your partner ever had an STD, is exhibiting symptoms of an STD or if he/she has been unfaithful. Screening for STDs is available for free or at very low-cost to you and early detection is the key to successful treatment.
Burying your head in the sand will only make things worse, regardless of how embarrassed you are to speak to a healthcare professional. Here at Women’s Health Associates, we care most about your overall health and well-being. Contact us to schedule an appointment for an STD screening and we promise to provide confidential, compassionate and non-biased care.
Be Honest, Open & Real About STDs
Here are some honest, open and real facts about the five most common STDs and how you can avoid them.
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is the most common STD in the United States. As its name states, it is a virus and there are more than 40 types of HPV floating around. The experts say that almost anyone who has ever been sexually active has had HPV at one point or another, it’s just that some types are easier to fight off than others.
The problem is that HPV can wreak havoc without any symptoms, although some types cause genital warts or infections of the mouth or throat. It’s also one of the leading causes of cervical cancer, and it can also cause mouth and penis cancers. There are three different vaccinations available to prevent HPV and the types of HPV that cause these cancers ((Cevarix, Gardasil, Gardasil-9). The CDC recommends young women (ages 11 – 26) and young men (ages 11 – 21) get vaccinated to prevent the spread of HPV as well as potential cancers.
- Chlamydia. While HPV may be the most widespread STD, chlamydia is the most diagnosed and reported STD. It’s primarily spread by vaginal or anal sex, but can be contracted orally as well. Unfortunately, only 25% of women have symptoms, and only 50% of men do. Symptoms typically include an unusual discharge from your vagina or penis, and a burning/stinging sensation when you pee. Unfortunately, if it isn’t caught or treated in time, chlamydia can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women, which can lead to serious complications such as infertility and even death.
The good news: chlamydia is a bacterial infection and will be cleared up with a good dose of relevant antibiotics. Again, the sooner you know you have it, the better.
- Gonorrhea. This is another bacterial STD, contracted by vaginal, anal and oral sex. It is often transmitted along with chlamydia. It causes infections in the vagina, rectum and throat and is most common in the 15 – 24-year old population, although that shouldn’t fool you into complacency if you’re older than that. The symptoms are similar to that of chlamydia, although it can also include vaginal or rectal bleeding, anal itching and/or painful bowel movements.
- Syphilis. Syphilis is often called “the great imitator” because the first of the diseases four stages include sores that can look as mild as an ingrown hair or a benign bump. In the second stage, however, it causes a rash that is followed by sores in the mouth, vagina or anus. It goes asymptomatically dormant during the third stage and causes organ failure and death during the fourth.
Syphilis is another bacterial infection, spread via vaginal, anal or oral sex. Very unfortunately, syphilis can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby, which is why most healthcare professionals advise women to get screened for it – along with HIV, chlamydia, and hepatitis B, even if they don’t feel they aren’t at risk.
- Herpes. There are two different strains of the herpes virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. The latter is considered the STD. HSV-1 not typically considered an STD. It’s the strain that gives you fever blisters on your lips when you’re stressed, the immune system is down or you’ve been exposed to too much sun. The caveat is that having oral sex with someone when you have a fever blister on your mouth, nose or lips (HSV-1) can transmit the virus to their genitals – and then they can transmit herpes sexually.
In other words, all it takes is skin-to-skin contact to pass the virus, and while you are most contagious when you have a blister, you can be contagious just before or right afterwards too, so use caution. Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes. Some antiviral meds work to minimize flare-ups, but once you’ve contracted it, the virus cycles between dormant and active throughout your lifetime.
Bonus: We said we’d tell you about five. However, the sixth most common STD affects more women than men, so we want to let you know about it: Trichomoniasis.
Trichomoniasis. This STD is caused by a tiny parasite and is considered one of the most curable STDs (hooray!). It is passed between men and women via contact between the penis and vagina. Women can also pass it to one another through vagina-vagina contact.
Unfortunately, only about 30% of patients with trichomoniasis have any notable side-effects, which include itching, burning and/or sore genitals or a smelly, clear, whitish, yellowish or greenish discharge. It can also make you more vulnerable to contracting other STDs, including HIV. Pregnant women with trichomoniasis are at higher risk for pre-term labor, and their babies are at higher risk for low birth weights. Once you’ve been treated, via antibiotics, you need to be tested again in 3-months to make sure it is completely wiped out.
The only way to be 100% sure you won’t contract an STD is to remain abstinent. Of course, that is an unrealistic expectation for adults and teenagers in this day and age, especially since so many STDs can be spread by oral sex, not just penetration.
Always wear a condom and get screened regularly if you are sexually active. Contact WHA to schedule your annual STD screening or a pregnancy screening. It’s always better to be proactive when it comes to STD prevention, testing and treatment.