Your Guide to Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases, commonly called STDs, are diseases that are spread by having sex with someone who has an STD. You can get a sexually transmitted disease from sexual activity that involves the mouth, anus, vagina, or penis.
According to the American Social Health Organization, one out of four teens in the United States becomes infected with an STD each year and by the age of 25, half of all sexually active young adults will get an STD.
STDs are serious illnesses that require treatment. Some STDs, like HIV, cannot be cured and are deadly. By learning more, you can find out ways to protect yourself from the following STDs.
What Are the Symptoms of STDs?
Sometimes, there are no symptoms of STDs. If symptoms are present, they may include one or more of the following:
- Bumps, sores, or warts near the mouth, anus, penis, or vagina.
- Swelling or redness near the penis or vagina.
- Skin rash.
- Painful urination.
- Weight loss, loose stools, night sweats.
- Aches, pains, fever, and chills.
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice).
- Discharge from the penis or vagina. (Vaginal discharge may have an odor.)
- Bleeding from the vagina other than during a monthly period.
- Painful sex.
- Severe itching near the penis or vagina.
How Do I Know If I Have an STD?
Talk to your doctor. He or she can examine you and perform tests to determine if you have an STD. Treatment can:
- Cure many STDs.
- Lessen the symptoms of STDs.
- Make it less likely that you will spread the disease.
- Help you to get healthy and stay healthy.
- How Are STDs Treated?
Many STDs are treated with antibiotics.
If you are given an antibiotic to treat an STD, it's important that you take all of the drug, even if the symptoms go away. Also, never take someone else's medicine to treat your illness. By doing so, you may make it more difficult to diagnose and treat the infection. Likewise, you should not share your medicine with others. Some doctors, however, may provide additional antibiotics to be given to your partner so that you can be treated at the same time.
How Can I Protect Myself From STDs?
Here are some basic steps that you can take to protect yourself from STDs:
- Consider that not having sex or sexual relations (abstinence) is the only sure way to prevent STDs.
- Use a latex condom every time you have sex. (If you use a lubricant, make sure it is water-based.)
- Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to catch an STD.
- Practice monogamy. This means having sex with only one person. That person must also have sex with only you to reduce your risk.
- Choose your sex partners with care. Don't have sex with someone whom you suspect may have an STD. However, keep in mind that you can't always tell by looking if your partner has an STD.
- Get checked for STDs. Don't risk giving the infection to someone else.
- Don't use alcohol or drugs before you have sex. You may be less likely to use a condom if you are drunk or high.
- Know the signs and symptoms of STDs. Look for them in yourself and your sex partners.
- Learn about STDs. The more you know, the better you can protect yourself.
How Can I Avoid Spreading an STD?
- If you have an STD, stop having sex until you see a doctor and are treated.
- Follow your doctor's instructions for treatment.
- Use condoms whenever you have sex, especially with new partners.
- Don't resume having sex unless your doctor says it's okay.
- Return to your doctor to get rechecked.
- Be sure your sex partner or partners also are treated.