STDs 101: Symptoms, Treatments, and Risks

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, are passed from one person to the next through sexual intimacy. Although they can be spread through skin-on-skin contact, most STDs are transmitted through vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. They can cause mild UTI-like symptoms, vaginal/penile discharge, or no symptoms at all.

In recent years, a steep and sustained rise in new sexual infections has created something of an STD epidemic in the United States. This alarming public health crisis is further complicated by another worrisome trend: the emergence of treatment-resistant STDs. 

At City Care Family Practice, we offer comprehensive STD counseling services that combine three key strategies — basic prevention, routine testing, and prompt treatment — to help you stay on top of your sexual health. Here’s what you should know. 

STDs explained

An STD is any viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection that’s passed from one person to another via direct sexual contact. STDs are exceptionally common, affecting tens of millions of people in the United States at any given time. 

Although all sexually active individuals carry an inherent risk of infection, STDs are particularly prevalent among young people: adolescents and young adults account for half of all new STD diagnoses, and one of every two sexually active young adults will contract an STD by the age of 25.   

A considerable number of people with STDs are simply “carriers,” meaning they don’t have any noticeable symptoms, but can still infect others during unprotected sex. Most STD carriers have no idea they’re infected until they get tested.

Common STDs 

STDs can have serious, long-term health consequences, especially when they go undetected and untreated for too long. Luckily, when they’re discovered early on, most STDs are treatable — if they can’t be cured completely, they can be managed with medication. 

Common STDs include:

Chlamydia and gonorrhea

As the two most frequently diagnosed STDs, chlamydia and gonorrhea are caused by bacterial infections. Chlamydia and gonorrhea often occur together, and in most cases, they cause mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. 

Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause serious complications when left untreated, especially for women; both infections can give rise to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a disorder that can cause chronic pelvic pain and even infertility. 

Although both of these STDs are curable with antibiotics, gonorrhea has become increasingly resistant to the medications that are available to treat it.  

Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that produces painless sores called chancres. While these sores will heal on their own within a few weeks, the infection remains in your body if it isn’t treated.

During the secondary phase of syphilis, you may notice rash-like spots on your feet or hands, or small flat warts on your genitals. You may also develop flu-like symptoms, including body aches.  

Left untreated, syphilis can reemerge and cause serious health complications, including heart problems and nerve damage. Because it can be fatal for unborn babies, pregnant women are always screened for syphilis at least once.   

Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics; early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent long-term health complications. 

Herpes

Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), herpes is an extremely contagious infection that can cause painful sores on your mouth, lips, genitals, or anus. About one in six adults in the U.S. has herpes.   

Most people with herpes don’t develop sores or any other noticeable symptoms, however; in fact, 90% of people who are infected with herpes don’t know they have it. Unfortunately, herpes can be spread even when the person who’s carrying it is unaware and asymptomatic. 

Besides putting future sexual partners at risk of infection, herpes can be passed on to a baby during vaginal childbirth. Although the virus isn’t curable, herpes outbreaks can be controlled with medication.  

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an inflammatory liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which mainly spreads through contaminated blood — most hepatitis C infections are caused by using unclean or shared needles to inject illicit drugs. 

Hepatitis C can also be passed from one person to another through unprotected sex. Teens and adults who have multiple partners have a higher risk of contracting hepatitis C than people in monogamous relationships.    

One in two people who contract HCV develop chronic hepatitis C, a persistent condition that can cause severe liver damage without proper treatment. In fact, hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants in the United States.

Protect yourself

Luckily, you can reduce your risk of catching — and unwittingly spreading — STDs. The two most important measures you can take to protect your sexual health include practicing safe sex (prevention) and getting tested regularly (early intervention). 

Call 212-545-1888 to schedule your next STD screening at our Lower Midtown, New York City, office today, or click online to book a visit with one of our preventive health care specialists any time.

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