Sexually transmitted diseases (STD), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STI), are contagious disease spread through sexual contact. STDs are caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites that are passed from one person to another.
How are STDs transmitted?
STDs are transmitted from a person who is currently infected to another person via contact with genitals, rectum, skin, mouth, or bodily fluids. Sexual contact with an infected person is a common way to contract an STD but they may also be transmitted through blood.
What symptoms do STDs cause?
Symptoms from STDs may be visually noticeable such as irregular genital growths, rash, or sores in and around vagina, mouth, or anus. Symptoms may present in the form of discharge that is colored or foul-smelling, blood or spotting after sexual intercourse, or itching and burning of the vagina. STDs may cause pain in the lower abdomen or pain during intercourse and urination. Some STDs do not cause any symptoms at all.
How are STDs diagnosed?
If you are concerned you may have an STD, even if you do not have any present symptoms, it is important to visit your gynecologist for a physical exam and potential testing. Testing may be in the form of a blood, urine, or fluid sample. In some circumstances, re-testing for the disease after treatment is indicated to ensure the infection is cleared.
Can STDs be treated?
STDs caused by bacteria or parasites are generally easier to treat than those caused by viruses. Bacterial or parasitic infections may be cured by treatment with antibiotics. Although not curative, antiviral drugs can be used to help treat and suppress STDs of viral origin. Treatment for any type of STD is best started as soon as possible. Even while undergoing treatment for an STD, it is vital that a person remains abstinent from sexual activity to prevent spread of the disease to a partner.
How can STDs be prevented?
There are several ways to reduce the risk of contracting an STD but there is no infallible method other than sexual abstinence. Being in a monogamous relationship and being familiar with your sexual partners helps reduce the risk of contracting an STD. Regular gynecological check-ups and STD screenings can help identify STDs before symptoms are noticeable. Using a condom during each sexual encounter and using it properly may greatly reduce the risk of STD transmission. Immunizations may be offered for certain STDs.