How do I know if I have a STI?
In many cases, a STI causes symptoms you may not even notice. The only way to be sure is to get tested: Signs and symptoms that might indicate a STI include:
- Sores or bumps on genial areas, oral areas, or around the anus
- Painful urination
- Discharge from penis
- Unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding
- Pain during sexual activity
- Sore, swollen lymph nodes – especially in the groin
- Lower abdominal pain
- Rash on trunk, hands or feet
How can I get a STI?
If you have had sex, whether oral, vaginal, or anal you could be at risk for a STI. Anyone who is sexually active can get a STI.
STIs, or sexually transmitted infections, can be contracted through sexual contact of any kind with an infected person. For many people, STIs don’t show symptoms for a long time, if at all. Even though you might not be exhibiting symptoms, you can still pass the infection to another person through sexual contact or even skin to skin contact.
Twenty million new cases of STIs occur each year in the US, and half of all new STIs are contracted by people 15 to 24 years old. Although many STIs can be treated with medication, there are a variety of STIs that have no cure.
What increases my risk of getting an STI?
- Sex, with or without a condom
- Multiple partners
- Prior STIs
- Abusing alcohol or recreational drugs
- IV drug use
How are STIs treated?
Early detection is key when it comes to effectively treating STIs. Some STIs can be treated and cured with prescribed medication; however, some cannot be cured. For those infections that are incurable, symptoms can be managed by medication and other treatment options. Getting tested for a STI is easy and painless, and will ultimately benefit your health and well-being.
What could happen if I don’t treat my STI?
- Pregnancy complications
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Cervical, rectal and oral Cancer
How can I protect myself against STIs?
The most obvious way to prevent contracting an STI is to not have sex. If you choose to have sex, you will not get an STI if you only have sex with ONE UNINFECTED sexual partner for your entire life. If you choose to have multiple sex partners, make sure you talk to your doctor, get tested regularly and use a condom correctly every time you have sex. However, be aware that there is still a risk for STIs, even when using a condom which are not as effective as you might think when used to prevent sexually transmitted infections. Using a condom during sex can reduce the risk of transmitting or contracting certain STIs, BUT a condom never eliminates the risk entirely. Some STIs are passed through skin to skin contact; a condom only covers a limited area of skin to skin contact.
There are treatments that exist for some STIs, but not all. The only sure way to avoid all sexually transmitted infections is to abstain from any sexual activity. Keep an open dialogue with your partner about STIs and avoid alcohol and drugs, as they impair judgment and could cause you to do something you wouldn’t normally do.
Types of Sexually Transmitted Infections:
Chlamydia: causes a yellowish discharge, burning during urination bleeding between periods, swollen or tender testicles. Many times, both men and women will not experience any symptoms. Chlamydia can be cured with treatment by a medical professional, but if left untreated, it can cause infertility in women.
Gonorrhea: There are more than 3 million cases of Gonorrhea each year. It causes a yellowish discharge, burning during urination and stomach pain. Often there are no symptoms; however it’s important to treat the infection early. Gonorrhea must be treated by medical professional to be cured.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV): occurs when too much of a bacterium is present in the vagina. This causes a change in the natural balance of the vagina. BV is not considered a STI but having BV can put women at an increased risk of getting a STI. BV requires treatment by a medical professional.
Genital Herpes: is a virus which causes a recurring skin condition that can cause irritation and blister-like sores in the genital area or mouth. Herpes is treatable, BUT it cannot be cured. You are most likely to spread the infection when an outbreak of sores is present around your genitals or mouth. Medical professional can prescribe daily mediation to help control the outbreaks.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV): affects the skin around the genital area, as well as a woman’s vagina and/or cervix causing wart-like growths. Although HPV is treatable by a medical professional, it will never go away and could lead to health complications, cervical cancer or oral cancer.
Pubic Lice (Crabs): often referred to as “crabs”, are tiny insects that live on or in body hair and cause severe inching and small red bumps. They can be treated by an over the counter lotion and anti-lice shampoo, BUT you need a medical professional to properly diagnose the condition before purchasing and treating the condition yourself.
Trichomoniasis: is caused by a parasite in the woman’s vagina or the man’s urethra. It causes itching, burning, irritation, redness, discharge, foul odor, frequent or painful urination, stomach pain and discomfort during sexual activity. It is treatable and curable when diagnosed by a medical professional.
Syphilis: is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body. This first stage is a painless sore. The second stage is a rash, fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat and muscle aches. The final stage involves damage to the internal organs, including the central nervous system and brain. You must see a medical professional immediately to receive treatment and hopefully prevent the infection from reaching the final stage.
Hepatitis A/B/C: are infections of the liver caused by a virus. Hepatitis B can be a long-term illness resulting in liver failure and cancer. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, dark urine, fever, joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea & vomiting, weakness and yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice). Hepatitis C is the most common long term blood borne virus in the U.S. and can lead to liver decay and cancer. Symptoms are similar to Hepatitis B plus bleeding & bruising easily, swelling in your legs, confusion and fatigue. You must see a medical professional to received proper diagnosis and treatment before the damage reaches the final stage of cancer.
HIV/AIDS: is a virus that destroys the body’s ability to fight off infection. The disease results in weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, fever, dry cough, diarrhea, swollen lymph glands, memory loss/ confusion and depression. Sometimes there are no symptoms and there is no cure, but many beneficial treatments are available. You must see a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
This information is intended for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional counseling and/or professional medical advice and treatment.
For more information on STIs, we encourage you to visit the following websites:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC. (2015). Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Mayo Clinic. (2015). Patient Care + Health Information: Sexually Transmitted Diseases
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