Many young women who become sexually active worry about contracting Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Anyone who has had sexual contact can get an STD or STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection). STIs are most common among teens and young adults, with about two-thirds of all STIs occurring in people under age 25. Young people are more likely to take more risks and have sex with more partners. Additionally, teen girls are more likely to become infected by chlamydia than adult women are. It is very common to be afraid of STDs, but with knowledge and regular testing, they can certainly be avoided.
What Are Some Common STDs and STIs?
There are many common STDs and STIs that people can be infected with everyday. These include:
Human papillomavirus can be sexually transmitted by infecting the skin and mucous membranes. There are over 40 types of HPV strains that can infect genital areas such as the penis, vulva, and anus. The linings of the vagina, cervix and rectum can also become infected by this virus. The majority of people who have HPV will show no symptoms, but sometimes it can cause genital warts. HPV has also been know to cause cervical cancer in women.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that gradually attacks the immune system. Over time, HIV severely attacks the immune system and turns into AIDS. The most common way to become infected is to have anal or vaginal sex with someone infected, or by using infected needles or syringes.
A sexually transmitted bacterial infection, gonorrhea infects the genital tract, mouth and retum. Gonorrhea is spread through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect both men and women. Women can get chlamydia in the cervix, rectum, or throat. Men can get chlamydia in the urethra, rectum, or throat. Chlamydia can be contracted during oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the infection. A woman can also pass chlamydia to her baby during childbirth or even breast feeding. Chlamydia is easily cured.
General STD and STI Symptoms
Not all STDs and STIs have obvious symptoms. If you have been engaging in sexual activity of any kind, protected or not, and you experience these symptoms, it would be a good idea to get tested:
- Feeling of burning or discomfort when urinating
- Vaginal discharge
- Abdominal pain
- Abnormal itching
- Blisters or Open sores
- Swollen Glands
How Are STDs Spread?
Many STDs and STIs are spread through contact with infected body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluids, or semen. They can also be spread through contact with infected skin or mucous membranes, such as sores in the mouth. Exposure to these fluids can occur through vaginal, oral, and especially anal sex. The use of needles with infected persons is also a way to spread STDs and STIs.
How can I prevent getting an STI or STD?
Abstinence from sexual behavior is the number one way of preventing contracting an STD or STI. If that is not an option, it is vital that you practice safe sex every time. This means preventing the passing of body fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluids, and avoiding direct oral, anal, or genital contact. The best ways to do this are to always use condoms and dental dams. It is also wise to limit your amount of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the greater your risk of being exposed to an STI or STD. It is best to avoid sexual contact with anyone that has signs of an infection like sores, rashes, or discharge from the genital area.
If you have any other questions about STDs and STIs, you can contact us anytime for further education. The team at Stony Brook Women’s Health is here to provide you answers and confidential STD and STI testing if you need it.