STDs know no gender, age or sexual orientation. Whether you’re straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, having unprotected sex can expose you to a Sexually Transmitted Disease, some of which can seriously affect your health (in some cases, possibly fatally). To help anyone who’s sexually active understand STDs and how to prevent getting one, we recommend this blog by Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group, which discusses STDs and their symptoms and treatment in-depth (excerpted below).
The 8 most common STDs: symptoms and treatment
A bacterial infection of the genital tract, chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease that can be easily cured. If left untreated, however, chlamydia can make it difficult or impossible for a woman to get pregnant. In its early stage, chlamydia causes few or no symptoms, which makes it hard to detect. Symptoms usually show up 1-3 weeks after a person has been exposed to it.
Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is a bacterial infection of the genital tract, sometimes referred to as “the clap.” Gonorrhea is easily treated but can cause serious and sometimes permanent complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease in women which can cause infertility. If untreated, gonorrhea can increase a person’s risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV. In addition, gonorrhea and chlamydia can be experienced simultaneously. Symptoms usually appear 2-10 days after exposure. However, some people may be infected for months before symptoms occur.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a microscopic protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis which spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who has the infection. It usually infects the urinary tract in men and the vagina in women. Although symptoms vary, most people who have the parasite can’t tell they are infected.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) inhibits your body’s ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and fungi that cause disease. HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) which is a chronic, life-threatening disease. When first infected with HIV, many people develop flu-like symptoms which are often mistaken for other viral infections. More severe symptoms of HIV infection may not appear for 10 years or more after the initial infection. No effective cure exists for HIV. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled.
5) Genital herpes
Genital herpes is a highly contagious STD and is caused by two types of viruses, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). One out of every six people 14-49 years old have genital herpes, yet most don’t know they have it because they have no symptoms, or symptoms are mild and go unnoticed. However, even with no symptoms, herpes can still be spread to sex partners.
6) Genital warts (HPV infection)
Genital warts, one of the most common types of STDs, are caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Genital warts affect both women and men, but women are more vulnerable to complications. Warts can be treated, but they can come back unless the underlying infection is also treated.
Good News: Now there is a vaccine called Gardasil that provides nearly 100% protection from four types of HPV infection. If all three doses of the vaccine are taken at the correct intervals and if they are given before a person contracts HPV, the vaccine provides almost 100% protection from HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Glenn Kaplan, MD, FAAP, one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians, has written a very informative blog about HPV infection and the HPV vaccine (“Why We Recommend The HPV Vaccine“), which you can read here.
7) Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. Most people don’t think of hepatitis as a sexually transmitted infection, but one of the more common ways hepatitis B is spread is through intimate sexual contact.
Divided into three stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), syphilis is a bacterial infection that affects the genitals, skin and mucous membranes. It may also affect other parts of the body, including the brain, eyes and heart. A person can develop syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal or oral sex, and it can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn baby. Without treatment, syphilis can spread to the brain and nervous system (neurosyphilis) or to the eye (ocular syphilis).
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Need to talk to someone about an STD? Come see us—what’s discussed with us stays with us.
If you think you might have an STD, please come in and talk with one of our Westchester Health physicians or pediatricians. We’ll perform tests, determine if, in fact, you have an infection, provide treatment and help you work through your options. In addition, whatever is discussed with us—any aspect of sex or sexuality—remains confidential. Most of all, we want to help you get and stay healthy in any way we can. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.