Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

What is STD?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are passed from one person to another through intimate physical contact – such as heavy petting –  and from sexual activity including vaginal, oral, and anal sex. STDs are very common. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 20 million new infections occur every year in the United States. STDs can mostly be prevented by not having sex. If you do have sex, you can lower your risk by using condoms and being in a sexual relationship with a partner who does not have an STD. STDs do not always cause symptoms, so it is possible to have an infection and not know it. That is why it is important to get tested if you are having sex. If you are diagnosed with an STD, know that all can be treated with medicine and some can be cured entirely.

Who’s at risk?

Any sexually active person is at risk.

How are STDs spread?

You can get an STD by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has an STD. Anyone who is sexually active can get an STD. You don’t even have to “go all the way” (have anal or vaginal sex) to get an STD. This is because some STDs, like herpes and HPV, are spread by skin-to-skin contact.

Diseases and related condition

Bacterial Vaginosis

Any woman can get bacterial vaginosis. Having bacterial vaginosis can increase your chance of getting an STD. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition that happens when there are too much of a certain bacteria in the vagina. This changes the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. The infection typically occurs in sexually active women. BV is linked to an imbalance of “good” and “harmful” bacteria that are normally found in a woman’s vagina. Having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners, as well as douching, can upset the balance of bacteria in the vagina.
Many women with BV do not have symptoms. Though the symptoms may include:

  • A thin white or gray vaginal discharge;
  • Pain, itching, or burning in the vagina;
  • A strong fish-like odor, especially after sex;
  • Burning when urinating;
  • Itching around the outside of the vagina.


Chlamydia is a common STD that can infect both men and women. It can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system. If left untreated, chlamydia can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant.  Chlamydia can also cause a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (the pregnancy that occurs outside the womb).
You can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia. If your sex partner is male you can still get chlamydia even if he does not ejaculate (cum).If you’ve had chlamydia and were treated in the past, you can still get infected again. This can happen if you have unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia.
Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner. Even when chlamydia causes no symptoms, it can still damage your reproductive system.
Symptoms in women can include: 

  • An abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • A burning sensation when urinating.

Symptoms in men can include:

  • A discharge from their penis.
  • A burning sensation when urinating.
  • Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common).

Men and women can also get infected with chlamydia in their rectum. This happens either by having receptive anal sex or by spreading from another infected site (such as the vagina). While these infections often cause no symptoms, they can cause:

  • Rectal pain.
  • Discharge.
  • Bleeding.

Chlamydia can be cured with the right treatment. It is important that you take all of the medication your doctor prescribes to cure your infection. When taken properly, it will stop the infection and could decrease your chances of having complications later on. You should not share medication for chlamydia with anyone. Repeat infection with chlamydia is common. You should be tested again about three months after you are treated, even if your sex partner(s) was treated.


Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can infect both men and women. It can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people ages 15-24 years.
Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea. Gonorrhea can cause very serious complications when not treated but can be cured with the right medication.
You can get gonorrhea by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can give the infection to her baby during childbirth.
Most women with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. Even when a woman has symptoms, they are often mild and can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Women with gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
Symptoms in women can include:

  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating.
  • Increased vaginal discharge.
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods.

Some men with gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all. However, men who do have symptoms may have:

  • A burning sensation when urinating.
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis.
  • Painful or swollen testicles (although this is less common).

Rectal infections may either cause no symptoms or cause symptoms in both men and women that may include:

  • Discharge.
  • Anal itching.
  • Soreness.
  • Bleeding.
  • Painful bowel movements.

You should be examined by your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD, such as an unusual sore, a smelly discharge, burning when urinating, or bleeding between periods.


Hepatitis is a disease characterized by inflammation of the liver. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. There is three major type of Hepatitis, all of them affected your liver and although some of the symptoms are similar the treatment is different.
In general, the early symptom of Hepatitis are include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Fever.
  • Dark yellow urine.
  • Gray, clay or pale colored stool.
  • Joint pain.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice.

Hepatitis A

In the United States, hepatitis A has become relatively uncommon. Since the hepatitis A vaccine became available in 1995, the rate of hepatitis A infections has declined by 95 percent in the United States. Hepatitis A is more common in developing countries where sanitation is poor and access to clean water is limited. Hepatitis A is more common in parts of Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe than it is in the United States.
People more likely to get hepatitis A are those who:

  • Travel to developing countries.
  • Have sex with an infected person.
  • Are men who have sex with men.
  • Use illegal drugs, including drugs that are not injected.
  • Live with or care for someone who has hepatitis A.

Some people have symptoms 2 to 6 weeks after they come in contact with the virus. People with hepatitis A typically get better without treatment after a few weeks. In some cases, symptoms can last up to 6 months.

Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B virus can cause an acute or chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis B is a long-lasting infection, It occurs when your body isn’t able to fight off the virus and the virus does not go away.
Your chances of developing chronic hepatitis B are greater if you are infected with the virus as a young child. People are more likely to get hepatitis B if they are born to a mother who has hepatitis B. The virus can spread from mother to child during birth. For this reason, people are more likely to have hepatitis B if they were born in a part of the world where hepatitis is more common.
People are also more likely to have hepatitis B if they:

  • Are infected with HIV, because hepatitis B and HIV spread in similar ways.
  • Have lived with or had sex with someone who has hepatitis B.
  • Have had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months or have a history of the sexually transmitted disease.
  • Are men who have sex with men.
  • Are injection drug users.
  • Work in a field, such as healthcare, in which there is a chance of having contact with blood, needles, or body fluids at work.
  • Have lived in or travel often to parts of the world where hepatitis B is common.
  • Have been on kidney dialysis.
  • Are taking medicines that weaken the immune system, such as steroids or chemotherapy medicines.
  • Have worked or lived in a prison.
  • Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before the mid-1980s.

According to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDIK), in the United States, sexual contact is the most common way that hepatitis B spreads among adults. Injection drug use is another prominent way that hepatitis B spreads. Since 2009, the number of acute hepatitis B infections has risen in some Appalachian states, especially among adults who inject drugs.
Some people infected with hepatitis B have no symptoms. Some people have symptoms of acute hepatitis B within 2 to 5 months after they come in contact with the virus. You can take steps to protect yourself from hepatitis B, including getting the hepatitis B vaccine. If you have hepatitis B, you can take steps to prevent spreading hepatitis B to others.

Hepatitis C

Chronic hepatitis C is a long-lasting infection. Chronic hepatitis C occurs when your body isn’t able to fight off the virus. Early diagnosis and treatment of chronic hepatitis C can prevent liver damage. Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can cause chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer.
In the United States, hepatitis C is the most common chronic viral infection found in blood and spread through contact with blood. According to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDIK), since 2006, the number of new hepatitis C infections has been rising, especially among people younger than age 30 who inject heroin or misuse prescription opioids and inject them.
People more likely to get hepatitis C are those who:

  • Have injected drugs.
  • Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992.
  • Have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987.
  • Have been on kidney dialysis.
  • Have been in contact with blood or infected needles at work.
  • Have had tattoos or body piercings.
  • Have worked or lived in a prison.
  • Were born to a mother with hepatitis C.
  • Are infected with HIV.
  • Have had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months or have a history of the sexually transmitted disease.
  • Are men who have or had sex with men.

If you have chronic hepatitis C, you most likely will have no symptoms until complications develop, which could be decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a common STD in the United States. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes. Most people with genital herpes infection do not know they have it. Genital herpes is caused by two types of viruses, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
HSV-1 is a virus that caused oral herpes and can result in cold sores or fever blisters on or around the mouth. However, most people do not have any symptoms. Most people with oral herpes were infected during childhood or young adulthood from non-sexual contact with saliva. Oral herpes caused by HSV-1 can be spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. This is why some cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-1.
You can get genital herpes by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the disease. If you do not have herpes, you can get infected if you come into contact with the herpes virus in:

  • A herpes sore.
  • Saliva (if your partner has an oral herpes infection) or genital secretions (if your partner has a genital herpes infection).
  • Skin in the oral area if your partner has an oral herpes infection, or skin in the genital area if your partner has a genital herpes infection.
  • You can get herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or who may not know he or she is infected.
  • It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a sex partner who has oral herpes.

The link between Genital Herpes and HIV

Herpes infection can cause sores or breaks in the skin or lining of the mouth, vagina, and rectum. This provides a way for HIV to enter the body. Even without visible sores, having genital herpes increases the number of CD4 cells (the cells that HIV targets for entry into the body) found in the lining of the genitals. When a person has both HIV and genital herpes, the chances are higher that HIV will be spread to an HIV-uninfected sex partner during sexual contact with their partner’s mouth, vagina, or rectum.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV is a different virus than HIV and HSV (herpes). 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. There are many different types of HPV. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.A woman with a persistent HPV infection is at greater risk of developing cervical cell abnormalities and cancer than a woman whose infection resolves on its own.
You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. You also can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected, making it hard to know when you first became infected.

HPV and some health effects caused by HPV can be prevented with vaccines and routine screening for cervical cancer. Routine screening for women aged 21 to 65 years old can identify and help prevent cervical cancer. HPV vaccine is safe and effective. All boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years should get vaccinated. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for boys and men through age 21 and for girls and women through age 26 if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger.
The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual men (or any man who has sex with a man) through age 26. It is also recommended for men and women with compromised immune systems (including those living with HIV/AIDS) through age 26 if they did not get fully vaccinated when they were younger.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

The pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs. It is a complication often caused by some STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other infections that are not sexually transmitted can also cause PID. When PID is diagnosed early, it can be treated. However, treatment won’t undo any damage that has already happened to your reproductive system, as it can lead to serious consequences including infertility. The longer you wait to get treated, the more likely it is that you will have complications from PID.
You are more likely to get PID if you are:

  • Sexually active and are age 25 or younger.
  • Have an untreated STD.
  • Have more than one sex partner.
  • Have a sex partner who has sex partners other than you.
  • Have had PID before.

Regular douching and use of intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control, can increase your chance to get PID. However, the small increased risk is mostly limited to the first three weeks after the IUD is placed inside the uterus by a doctor.
While there are no specific tests for PID. A diagnosis is usually based on a combination of your medical history, physical exam, and other test results. You may not realize you have PID because your symptoms may be mild, or you may not experience any symptoms. However, if you do have symptoms, you may notice:

  • Pain in your lower abdomen.
  • Fever.
  • An unusual discharge with a bad odor from your vagina.
  • Pain and/or bleeding when you have sex.
  • Burning sensation when you urinate.
  • Bleeding between periods.


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can have very serious complications when left untreated, but it is simple to cure with the right treatment. You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can find sores on or around the penis, vagina, anus, in the rectum, on the lips, or in the mouth. Syphilis can spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby.
Any sexually active person can get syphilis through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The risk will be higher for those who are living with HIV, have a sex partner who has tested positive for syphilis, and a man who have sex with men.
Syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from your healthcare provider. However, treatment might not undo any damage that the infection has already done. Having syphilis once does not protect you from getting it again. Even after you’ve been successfully treated, you can still be re-infected. Only laboratory tests can confirm whether you have syphilis. Follow-up testing by your health care provider is recommended to make sure that your treatment was successful.

Symptoms of syphilis in adults vary by stage:

Primary Stage

During the first (primary) stage of syphilis, you may notice a single sore or multiple sores. The sore is the location where syphilis entered your body. Sores are usually (but not always) firm, round, and painless. Because the sore is painless, it can easily go unnoticed. The sore usually lasts 3 to 6 weeks and heals regardless of whether or not you receive treatment. Even after the sore goes away, you must still receive treatment. This will stop your infection from moving to the secondary stage.

Secondary Stage

During the secondary stage, you may have skin rashes and/or mucous membrane lesions. Mucous membrane lesions are sores in your mouth, vagina, or anus. This stage usually starts with a rash on one or more areas of your body. The rash can show up when your primary sore is healing or several weeks after the sore has healed. The rash can look like rough, red, or reddish brown spots on the palms of your hands and/or the bottoms of your feet. The rash usually won’t itch and it is sometimes so faint that you won’t notice it. Other symptoms you may have can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue (feeling very tired). The symptoms from this stage will go away whether or not you receive treatment. Without the right treatment, your infection will move to the latent and possibly tertiary stages of syphilis.

Latent Stage

The latent stage of syphilis is a period of time when there are no visible signs or symptoms of syphilis. If you do not receive treatment, you can continue to have syphilis in your body for years without any signs or symptoms.

Tertiary Stage

Most people with untreated syphilis do not develop tertiary syphilis. However, when it does happen, it can affect many different organ systems. These include the heart and blood vessels, and the brain and nervous system. Tertiary syphilis is very serious and would occur 10–30 years after your infection began.  In tertiary syphilis, the disease damages your internal organs and can result in death.

Neurosyphilis and Ocular Syphilis

Without treatment, syphilis can spread to the brain and nervous system (neurosyphilis) or to the eye (ocular syphilis). This can happen during any of the stages described above.
Symptoms of neurosyphilis include:

  • A severe headache.
  • Difficulty coordinating muscle movements.
  • Paralysis (not able to move certain parts of your body).
  • Numbness.
  • Dementia (mental disorder).
  • Changes in your vision and even blindness.


Trichomoniasis (or “trich”) is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Although symptoms of the disease vary, most people who have the parasite cannot tell they are infected. Trichomoniasis is the most common curable STD. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, an estimated 3.7 million people have the infection. However, only about 30% develop any symptoms of trichomoniasis. Infection is more common in women than in men. Older women are more likely than younger women to have been infected with trichomoniasis.

The parasite passes from an infected person to an uninfected person during sex. In women, the most commonly infected part of the body is the lower genital tract (vulva, vagina, cervix, or urethra). In men, the most commonly infected body part is the inside of the penis (urethra). During sex, the parasite usually spreads from a penis to a vagina, or from a vagina to a penis. It can also spread from a vagina to another vagina.
Trichomoniasis also can increase the risk of getting or spreading other sexually transmitted infections. For example, trichomoniasis can cause genital inflammation that makes it easier to get infected with HIV or to pass the HIV virus on to a sex partner.

What are the signs and symptoms of trichomoniasis?
About 70% of infected people do not have any signs or symptoms. When trichomoniasis does cause symptoms, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation. Some people with symptoms get them within 5 to 28 days after being infected. Others do not develop symptoms until much later. Symptoms can come and go.

Men with trichomoniasis may notice:

  • Itching or irritation inside the penis.
  • Burning after urination or ejaculation.
  • Discharge from the penis.

Women with trichomoniasis may notice:

  • Itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals.
  • Discomfort with urination.
  • A change in their vaginal discharge (i.e., thin discharge or increased volume) that can be clear, white, yellowish, or greenish with an unusual fishy smell.
  • Having trichomoniasis can make it feel unpleasant to have sex.

Trichomoniasis can be treated with medication (either metronidazole or tinidazole). These pills are taken by mouth. It is safe for pregnant women to take this medication. Without treatment, the infection can last for months or even years. People who have been treated for trichomoniasis can get it again. About 1 in 5 people get infected again within 3 months after receiving treatment. To avoid getting reinfected, make sure that all of your sex partners get treated. Also, wait for 7- 10 days after you and your partner have been treated to have sex again. Get checked again if your symptoms come back.


People who have STDs are more likely to get HIV when compared to people who do not have STDs. This is because the same behaviors and circumstances that may put you at risk for getting an STD can also put you at greater risk for getting HIV. In addition, having a sore or break in the skin from an STD may allow HIV to more easily enter your body. Some STDs are associated with HIV. According to Central of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, people who get syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes often also have HIV or are more likely to get HIV in the future.
Some activities can put you at risk for both STDs and HIV:

  • Having anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom.
  • Having multiple sex partners.
  • Having anonymous sex partners.
  • Having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lower inhibitions and result in greater likelihood of risky sexual practices.

It is also important to know that treating STDs is not enough to prevent you from getting HIV. If you get treated for an STD, this will help to prevent its complications, and prevent spreading STDs to your sex partners. Treatment for an STD other than HIV does not prevent the spread of HIV.

STDs and Pregnancy

Women who are pregnant can become infected with the same STDs as women who are not pregnant. Pregnancy does not provide women or their babies any additional protection against STDs. Many STDs might have no symptoms, so you may not know if you are infected. If you are pregnant, you should be tested for STDs, including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), as a part of your medical care during pregnancy. The results of an STD can be more serious, even life-threatening, for you and your baby if you become infected while pregnant. It is important that you are aware of the harmful effects of STDs and how to protect yourself and your unborn baby against infection. If you are diagnosed with an STD while pregnant, your sex partner(s) should also be tested and treated.
STDs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, and BV can all be treated and cured with antibiotics that are safe to take during pregnancy. STDs that are caused by viruses, like genital herpes, hepatitis B, or HIV cannot be cured. However, in some cases, these infections can be treated with antiviral medications or other preventive measures to reduce the risk of passing the infection to your baby. If you are pregnant or considering pregnancy, you should be tested so you can take steps to protect yourself and your baby.

What can I do to protect myself from getting STDs?

  • The surest way to protect yourself against STDs is to not have sex. That means not having any vaginal, anal, or oral sex (“abstinence”). There are many things to consider before having sex. It’s okay to say “no” if you don’t want to have sex.
  • If you do decide to have sex, you and your partner should get tested for STDs beforehand. Make sure that you and your partner use a condom from start to finish every time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Know where to get condoms and how to use them correctly. It is not safe to stop using condoms unless you’ve both been tested for STDs, know your results, and are in a mutually monogamous relationship.
  • Mutual monogamy means that you and your partner both agree to only have sexual contact with each other. This can help protect against STDs, as long as you’ve both been tested and know you’re STD-free.
  • Before you have sex, talk with your partner about how you will prevent STDs and pregnancy. If you think you’re ready to have sex, you need to be ready to protect your body. You should also talk to your partner ahead of time about what you will and will not do sexually. Your partner should always respect your right to say no to anything that doesn’t feel right.
  • Make sure you get the health care you need. Ask a doctor or nurse about STD testing and about vaccines against HPV and hepatitis B.
  • Girls and young women may have extra needs to protect their reproductive health. Talk to your doctor or nurse about regular cervical cancer screening, and chlamydia and gonorrhea testing. You may also want to discuss unintended pregnancy and birth control.
  • Avoid mixing alcohol and/or recreational drugs with sex. If you use alcohol and drugs, you are more likely to take risks, like not using a condom or having sex with someone you normally wouldn’t have sex with.

Where can I get tested?

If you are sexually active, getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. Make sure you have an open and honest conversation about your sexual history and STD testing with your doctor and ask whether you should be tested for STDs.
If you are not comfortable talking with your regular health care provider about STDs, there are many clinics that provide confidential STDs testing, such as urgent care clinics. There are some benefits of going to urgent care, that include:

Testing for STD at urgent care is no different from getting tested in any other healthcare facility. There are several ways to test for an STD, depending on your symptoms and the type of sexual contact you’ve had. Normally, your healthcare provider will evaluate the symptoms that may suggest STD infections and then run a test.
Depending on what you are being tested for, your provider may take a blood sample, urine sample and/or swabs, taken from your genitals, throat or rectum, in some services you might be able to take the swab yourself in private.

Treatment and testing for Sexually Transmitted Diseases are available now at Swift Urgent Care

Source :

  • CDC
  • NIDDK 

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