There are many kinds of STDs and many kinds of STD screening tests, depending on factors such as your age, risk factors and symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 20 million new STD cases are diagnosed every year – and that number is growing. If you’re concerned that you might have an STD, it’s important to get tested so your treatment can begin promptly.
What Are Sexually Transmitted Diseases?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also called sexually transmitted infections; this latter one might be a more appropriate term since infections can easily pass from one person to another and frequently don’t have obvious symptoms. STDs are transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, oral and anal sex, and they can affect both men and women.
Chlamydia is a common bacterial infection most common among young women under the age of 25. Although chlamydia can infect the urethra, the rectum or the throat, the most common symptom is painful urination. Yet many people don’t have symptoms at all. Chlamydia can be treated by a course of antibiotics for both partners.
Gonorrhea is one of the most common STDs; it can affect the reproductive organs in both men and women, as well as mucous membranes in the mouth, throat, rectum – and even the eyes. Along with an abnormal discharge, men can experience pain in the testicles, and women may have pain in the lower abdomen. Gonorrhea is easily treated with antibiotics, but it can lead to infertility if left untreated.
Syphilis begins as a painless sore that appears in the days or months after sexual contact with an infected person. If untreated, syphilis progresses to a body rash. In the later stages, it can affect the internal organs, heart, and brain. An infected woman can also transmit syphilis to her baby during pregnancy and birth. Early or mid-stage syphilis is treated with antibiotics, but in later stages, it might require other medications.
Human Papillomavirus, or HPV
HPV is another very common STD, but the name actually refers a group of more than 100 different viruses, some of which can lead to cancer of the cervix, reproductive organs, and even the throat and mouth. HPV can cause genital warts or lesions, but many people have no symptoms at all. HPV has no cure, but its symptoms can be treated.
Often called genital herpes or simply herpes, this STD can cause sores on the genital and rectal area, including the thighs. Herpes is a chronic infection that can last a lifetime, but symptoms can be treated with antiviral medications when an outbreak occurs.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is a virus transmitted by sexual contact or the sharing of drug needles. This virus attacks the immune system so the body can’t fight off infections. HIV is chronic, but a variety of medications can help manage symptoms. The final stage of HIV infection is AIDS – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, but not everyone with HIV develops AIDS.
STD Screening and Treatment
A variety of STD screening tests can help diagnose STDs. If symptoms are present, a physical exam can often diagnose the specific type of sexually transmitted disease. But if it cannot, or if more information is needed to confirm the diagnosis, doctors turn to STD screening tests such as urine samples, blood tests or swabs of infected areas, depending on your circumstances and the symptoms you may have.
If you’re sexually active, and especially if you have multiple partners, your doctor may recommend routine testing at least once a year, even if you have no symptoms. At Yaffe & Ruden, our doctors will help you get the STD screening tests you need and plan the treatment that’s right for you.