A sexually transmitted disease, also known as an STD, is a type of infection that is transmitted from one person to another through sexual activities. STD infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites, making treatment necessary when diagnosed with an STD. These activities consist of any type of sexual contact that includes the vagina, the anus, the mouth and/or bodily fluids, i.e. semen, vaginal fluids, blood. The fact that an STD can be transmitted through blood makes it a good idea for people not to borrow other people's razors or anything else that can come into contact with their blood or bodily fluids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are approximately 19 million new STD infections every year with almost half of them among young people 15 to 24 years of age.
How are STDs transmitted?
A sexually transmitted disease is transmitted from one person to another via sexual acts. This means anyone who is sexually active could potentially have a sexually transmitted disease. Risk factors that increase a woman's chances of being diagnosed with one or more STDs include having unprotected sex and having more than one sexual partner. The fact that an STD will often not exhibit any signs or symptoms makes it essential for those who are sexually active to get regularly tested so they do not pass it on to their sexual partners.
How to prevent an STD diagnosis
Using the right type of protection is an essential part of a woman's ability to protect herself from getting a sexually transmitted disease. There are different types of condoms available nowadays, including female condoms, male condoms and dental dams.
Common STD symptoms
While it is possible for someone to not experience any symptoms when they have a sexually transmitted disease, there is a list of common STD symptoms that can appear when someone is living with a sexually transmitted disease. These symptoms include the following:
- A vaginal discharge that is gray, green or dark yellow in color
- A vaginal discharge that is giving off a foul odor
- Experiencing any type of pain when urinating
- Experiencing any type of discomfort or pain when having sexual intercourse
- Experiencing pain in the lower abdominal area
- A low-grade fever
- Bleeding in between one’s menstrual cycle
- Having stores located in or around the vagina, in or around the anus or in or around the mouth
- General genital itching
Most common STDs among women
There are more than 20 different types of STDs that a woman can be diagnosed with nowadays, of which all can be treated and most can be cured.
- HPV: The human papillomavirus is the most commonly diagnosed STD in women and is the number one cause of cervical cancer
- Gonorrhea: A common bacteria-based STD
- Genital herpes: Both strains of herpes – HSV-1, HSV-2 – can lead to a genital herpes diagnosis
- Chlamydia: This STD stems from a bacterial infection and is the most reported STD in the United States
- Syphilis: This sexually transmitted disease includes four different stages, with the first stage causing sores in the vagina, anus or mouth
- Trichomoniasis: This STD is caused by a parasite, with only about one out of three women experiencing any symptoms
- HIV or AIDS: A very serious sexually transmitted disease that will eventually destroy the immune system
Current recommendations are that a woman should get a pap smear every three to five years. The amount of time in between pap smears is based on each individual woman's particular situation and is, therefore, a decision that is made between her and her medical professional. While it may not always be an easy discussion for some women to have with their medical professional, it is always a good idea for them to be completely open and honest about their sexual activities. The discussion will never leave the room.
Once a diagnosis has been made, it is important to start any treatment prescribed by the medical professional as soon as absolutely possible. It is necessary for those diagnosed to refrain from any sexual activities until their infection is completely cured. For viral infections and bacterial infections, it is necessary for both partners to be treated and cured before resuming sexual activities.
How are STDs treated?
It is often easier to treat a bacterial STD, as STDs that are caused by a virus will often need to be managed as they are not always able to be cured.
Treatment options for STDs include taking prescription antibiotics, which may include taking just one dose. If antibiotics need to be taken in more than one dose then it is essential to complete the entire antibiotic treatment or it will simply not work. Treatment can also involve taking prescription antiviral drugs, which although helps to suppress the infection will not cure the infection.
Do you need STD testing?
We invite you to come to see us at our office if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above or it has been more than one year since you have been tested for sexually transmitted diseases. It is possible that an STD can cause you to be infertile, and it can also increase your chances of experiencing any complications if you are thinking about getting pregnant.