[bt_quote style="box" width="0"] The organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids. [/bt_quote] [bt_accordion width="0" active_first="yes" icon="plus-square-1"] [bt_spoiler title="Definition" icon="list"] Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are generally acquired by sexual contact. The organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids.
Sometimes these infections can be transmitted nonsexually, such as from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth, or through blood transfusions or shared needles.
It's possible to contract sexually transmitted diseases from people who seem perfectly healthy, and who may not even be aware of the infection. STDs don't always cause symptoms, which is one of the reasons experts prefer the term "sexually transmitted infections" to "sexually transmitted diseases." [/bt_spoiler] [bt_spoiler title=" Symptoms" icon="list"] Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can have a range of signs and symptoms, including no symptoms. That's why they may go unnoticed until complications occur or a partner is diagnosed. Signs and symptoms that might indicate an STI include:
-- Sores or bumps on the genitals or in the oral or rectal area.
-- Painful or burning urination.
-- Discharge from the penis.
-- Unusual or odd-smelling vaginal discharge
-- Unusual vaginal bleeding
-- Pain during sex
-- Sore, swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the groin but sometimes more widespread
-- Lower abdominal pain
-- Rash over the trunk, hands or feet
Signs and symptoms may appear a few days after exposure, or it may take years before you have any noticeable problems, depending on the organism. [/bt_spoiler] [bt_spoiler title=" Causes" icon="list"] Sexually transmitted infections can be caused by:
-- Bacteria (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia)
-- Parasites (trichomoniasis)
-- Viruses (human papillomavirus, genital herpes, HIV)
Sexual activity plays a role in spreading many other infectious agents, although it's possible to be infected without sexual contact. Examples include the hepatitis A, B and C viruses, shigella, and Giardia intestinalis [/bt_spoiler] [bt_spoiler title="Risk Factors" icon="list"] Anyone who is sexually active risks exposure to a sexually transmitted infection to some degree. Factors that may increase that risk include:
Having unprotected sex. Vaginal or anal penetration by an infected partner who isn't wearing a latex condom significantly increases the risk of getting an STI. Improper or inconsistent use of condoms can also increase your risk. Oral sex may be less risky, but infections can still be transmitted without a latex condom or dental dam. Dental dams — thin, square pieces of rubber made with latex or silicone — prevent skin-to-skin contact.
Having sexual contact with multiple partners. The more people you have sexual contact with, the greater your risk. This is true for concurrent partners as well as monogamous consecutive relationships.
Having a history of STIs. Having one STI makes it much easier for another STI to take hold.
Anyone forced to have sexual intercourse or sexual activity.Dealing with rape or assault can be difficult, but it's important to be seen as soon as possible. Screening, treatment and emotional support can be offered.
Abusing alcohol or using recreational drugs. Substance abuse can inhibit your judgment, making you more willing to participate in risky behaviors. Injecting drugs. Needle sharing spreads many serious infections, including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Being young. Half of STIs occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Men who request prescriptions for drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. Men who ask their doctors for prescriptions for certain drugs — such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra) — have higher rates of STIs. Be sure you are up to date on safe sex practices if you ask your doctor for one of these medications. [/bt_spoiler] [bt_spoiler title="When to see a doctor" icon="list"] See a doctor immediately if:
-- You are sexually active and may have been exposed to an STI.
-- You have signs and symptoms of an STI.
Make an appointment with a doctor:
-- When you consider becoming sexually active or when you're 21 — whichever comes first.
-- Before you start having sex with a new partner. [/bt_spoiler] [bt_spoiler title="Diagnosis" icon="list"] If your sexual history and current signs and symptoms suggest that you have an STI, laboratory tests can identify the cause and detect coinfections you might have contracted.
Blood tests. Blood tests can confirm the diagnosis of HIV or later stages of syphilis.
Urine samples. Some STIs can be confirmed with a urine sample.
Fluid samples. If you have active genital sores, testing fluid and samples from the sores may be done to diagnose the type of infection. Laboratory tests of material from a genital sore or discharge are used to diagnose some STIs.
[/bt_spoiler] [bt_spoiler title="Screening" icon="list"] Testing for a disease in someone who doesn't have symptoms is called screening. Most of the time, STI screening is not a routine part of health care, but there are exceptions:
Everyone. The one STI screening test suggested for everyone ages 13 to 64 is a blood or saliva test for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS.
Everyone born between 1945 and 1965. There's a high incidence of hepatitis C in people born between 1945 and 1965. Since the disease often causes no symptoms until it's advanced, experts recommend that everyone in that age group be screened for hepatitis C.
Pregnant women. Screening for HIV, hepatitis B, chlamydia and syphilis generally takes place at the first prenatal visit for all pregnant women. Gonorrhea and hepatitis C screening tests are recommended at least once during pregnancy for women at high risk of these infections.
Women age 21 and older. The Pap test screens for cervical abnormalities, including inflammation, precancerous changes and cancer, which is often caused by certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). Experts recommend that starting at age 21, women should have a Pap test at least every three years. After age 30, women are advised to have an HPV DNA test and a Pap test every five years or a Pap test every three years.
Women under age 25 who are sexually active. All sexually active women under age 25 should be tested for chlamydia infection. The chlamydia test uses a sample of urine or vaginal fluid you can collect yourself. Some experts recommend repeating the chlamydia test three months after you've had a positive test and been treated.
The second test is needed to confirm that the infection is cured as reinfection by an untreated or undertreated partner is common. A bout of chlamydia doesn't protect you from future exposures. You can catch the infection again and again, so get retested if you have a new partner.
Screening for gonorrhea also is recommended in sexually active women under age 25.
Men who have sex with men. Compared with other groups, men who have sex with men run a higher risk of acquiring STIs. Many public health groups recommend annual or more frequent STI screening for these men. Regular tests for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea are particularly important. Evaluation for hepatitis B also may be recommended.
People with HIV. If you have HIV, it dramatically raises your risk of catching other STIs. Experts recommend immediate testing for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes after being diagnosed with HIV. People with HIV should also be screened for hepatitis C.
Women with HIV may develop aggressive cervical cancer, so they should have a Pap test within a year of being diagnosed with HIV, and then again six months later. People who have a new partner. Before having vaginal or anal intercourse with new partners, be sure you've both been tested for STIs. Keep in mind that human papillomavirus (HPV) screening isn't available for men. No good screening test exists for genital herpes for either sex, so you may not be aware you're infected until you have symptoms.
It's also possible to be infected with an STI yet still test negative, particularly if you've recently been infected. [/bt_spoiler] [/bt_accordion]
The organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids.