Aside from colds and flu, sexually transmitted diseases are the most common contagious diseases in the United States. Sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted via bacteria, parasites or viruses that come into contact with skin or body fluids. If left untreated, some sexually transmitted diseases may lead to major health problems, some of which may be life-threatening.
If you believe you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease, you (and your sexual partner or partners) should seek immediate medical attention.
Sexually transmitted diseases include:
- genital herpes
- human papillomavirus (HPV)
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- hepatitis B and C
How do I know if I have a sexually transmitted disease?
Not all sexually transmitted diseases result in obvious symptoms. However, sexually transmitted disease symptoms may include:
- vaginal discharge, burning, or itching
- painful or frequent urination
- pelvic or abdominal pain
- redness or swelling of the vulva (vaginal opening)
- genital warts
- jaundice (a yellow color in the skin or the eyes)
- bleeding between periods
- sore throat
- swollen or enlarged lymph nodes
To determine if you have contracted a sexually transmitted disease or if your sexual behavior places you at risk, Dr. Sargent may conduct one or more of the following:
- a review of your medical history, including sexual habits
- a pelvic exam
- blood tests
- taking tissue samples
How are sexually transmitted diseases treated?
Some sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted via bacteria or parasites. These conditions, which include gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and trichomonas, can be treated with antibiotics. Since these conditions may continue after symptoms disappear, it is important to take all of your medicine. Your partner should also be treated. Sexual contact should be avoided during treatment.
Other sexually transmitted diseases, such as genital herpes, HPV, HIV, and hepatitis B and C, are caused by viruses. Although they cannot be cured, their symptoms can be treated.
How are sexually transmitted diseases prevented?
The spread of sexually transmitted diseases can be limited by using a latex condom during any kind of sexual contact and by avoiding sexual behavior that can tear or break the skin.