Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also called sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. Making the choice to be sexually active comes with certain risks. Contracting an STD is at the top of the list. STDs are spread through unprotected vaginal, oral, and anal sex. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of men and women with an STD continues to rise in the U.S.
Statistics indicate that women are more likely than men to experience long-term health consequences after contracting an STD. Certain STDs can damage the reproductive system, causing infertility in both men and women. Of extra concern is the fact that a woman with an STD who is also pregnant risks passing the infection on to her baby. It could happen while the baby is in utero or during delivery. A baby’s eyes, lungs, and liver can experience irreversible damage if exposed to an STD during development.
For women: Usually none. May experience vaginal discharge, burning with urination, lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, pain during intercourse, and bleeding between menstrual periods.
For men: Usually none. May experience discharge from penis, burning with urination, a burning or itching around the opening of the penis, or pain and swelling of the testicles.
In women: Considered to be the most common cause of infertility. Advanced stages may require removal of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. May cause chronic pelvic pain and fatal ectopic pregnancies. If left untreated in women, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
In men: Urethral infection and sterility.
– 3 million new cases reported annually.
– ¾ of women and ½ of men infected may have no symptoms and not seek help until it has caused major damage.
– By age 30, 50 percent of sexually active women have evidence that they have had Chlamydia at some time during their lives.
– 1 in 10 adolescent girls tested is infected.
For women: Yellow or bloody vaginal discharge. Burning with urination.
For men: Yellowish-white discharge from penis. Burning with urination. Swollen or painful testicles.
In women: Infertility. May require surgery in severe cases. Can lead to PID.
In men: Sterility. Scarring of urethra and urinary tract problems.
– 650,000 people are infected annually.
– 75 percent of all reported gonorrhea is found in persons aged 15 to 29.
– Highest rates of infection are found in 15-to-19-year-old women and 20-to 24-year-old men.
For women and men: First stage includes swollen, non-painful sores (called chancres) where the infection entered the body. The ulcers may go unnoticed if they are inside the body. Second stage includes rash, fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue. Third stage includes loss of coordination, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, dementia, and possible death.
In women and men: Mental handicaps, heart disease, blindness, dementia, and death. Can cause birth defects or death of the infant if the mother is infected during pregnancy.
For women and men: Fever, sore throat, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes.
In women and men: Immune system breaks down. Death. May infect unborn children.
1.2 million people are infected with HIV (including the people who have AIDS)
For women and men: Painful ulcers appear at the site of infection. Periodic eruptions of these ulcers anywhere on the body. Pain during sex. Fever and swollen glands. Initial outbreak considered to be extremely painful.
In women and men: Continuous outbreaks. Life-long treatment required. Causes potentially fatal infections in infants if mother is shedding virus during delivery.
– 47.8 percent of people aged 14 to 49 are infected.
– 1 in 4 women has genital herpes (it is more common in women than men).
For women: Genital warts that sometimes form cauliflower shape. Many do not experience noticeable symptoms. May have vulvar itching and pain. Usually detected through abnormal pap smears.
For men: Genital warts similar to those in women.
In women: Requires painful and expensive treatment to remove pre-cancerous warts.
In men: Cancer of penis and anus.
– 5.5 million people currently are infected with HPV.
– 72 percent of men and 83 percent of women with HPV get cancer.
For women and men: Often none. May experience jaundice (skin turns yellow), fatigue, dark urine, gray-colored stools, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and joint pain.
In women and men: Severe liver damage. May lead to cancer of liver and cirrhosis.
– 850,000 people currently are infected.
– More than half of the people living with Hepatitis B do not know they are infected.
For women: Lower abdominal pain that is often mistaken for menstrual cramps. Fever, unusual vaginal discharge, painful intercourse, painful urination, and irregular menstrual bleeding.
For men: None. This disease only affects women but may be caused by infections carried by men.
In women: Ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and cancer. Can be life-threatening if left untreated.
In men: None.
– 2.5 million women have experienced PID.
– 1 in 8 women with PID has a history of experiencing difficulty getting pregnant.
Unfortunately, women are more likely than men to suffer with long-term health consequences from STDs. Some STDs can damage the reproductive system, making a woman infertile. A woman who is pregnant when she contracts an STD risks passing the infection along to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth. STDs can affect the development of a baby’s eyes, lungs, and liver, causing irreversible damage.
Whether you are pregnant or not, a health check or STI testing is important for your sexual health. STIs can be serious if left untreated. Both sexually active men and women should consider testing, especially if you have multiple sexual partners or are involved in unsafe sexual behaviors.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Abstinence from sex is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STDs.” Condom use reduces but does not eliminate the risk, as some STIs are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact and bodily fluids. All forms of sexual contact can spread infections. There are several types of STIs that are not routinely testable. Not all STIs are curable. While regular testing is highly recommended, tests do not guarantee that you are STD-free. Avoid sexual contact with new partners until you have both been tested for STIs.
You can find peace of mind about your health by getting regular STI / STD testing at one of Care Net Pregnancy Center’s locations which offers free STI / STD testing for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Contact us to schedule an appointment at on of our four locations. You will need a second appointment within the next 2 to 7 days to discuss your test results. Test results can take a couple of days to a week. If your result is positive, you and your sexual partner(s) will be referred to a treatment center. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are two of the most common, treatable STIs and are considered markers for other infections. If you test positive for either, it may indicate that you have other serious STIs. Your Care Net medical provider or personal advocate will provide a list of treatment options.
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