Sexually Transmitted Diseases
STDs in Women



Sexually Transmitted Diseases


What Is A Sexually Transmitted Disease?
What Are The Most Common STDs?
Who Is Most Prone To STDs?
What Are The Symptoms Of STDs?
How Are STDs Treated?
How Are STDS Prevented?

Articles In This Section

Symptoms of STDs
STD Testing
STD Prevention
STD Clinic

Types Of STDs

Genital Herpes
Genital Warts
HPV Virus

Related Topics

The Female Body

What Is A Sexually Transmitted Disease?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STDs/STIs are infections that you acquire by having sex with someone who has the infection. STDs are caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites that thrive in the warm moist area of the genitals, mouth and throat. Most STDs affect both men and women but the consequences can be more serious in women leading to infertility, or if the woman is pregnant it can be dangerous for her baby.

What Are The Most Common STDs?

While there are more than 20 types of STDs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only require doctors to report certain diseases. Reporting on gonorrhea and syphilis for example began in 1941 but chlamydia has only been reported since 1984 and most other common STDs like genital herpes are not required be reported at all. The following are a list of some of the most common types of STDs:

Trichomoniasis (Trich): 7.4 million new cases every year in America.
Trichomoniasis (sometimes called trich) is a parasite that can live in the male reproductive tract for years without causing symptoms. In women, most of the time it produces a green frothy, foul smelling vaginal discharge. In fact it is the third most common type of vaginitis (vaginal infection) affecting 3 million women. It is nearly always acquired through sexual contact with an infected partner but is highly treatable with antibiotics.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): 6.2 million new cases every year.
HPV is a common virus that is passed via sexual contact. It is estimated that nearly 50 percent of sexually active people will have HPV at some stage in their life. In 90 percent of cases the body naturally rids itself of the virus within 2 years. If it does not clear, it can lead to genital warts, cervical dysplasia and even cervical cancer.
Pubic Lice (Crabs): Effects (estimated) about 3 million a year.
Also called 'crabs', these are lice that live in the pubic hair and cause agonizing itching. Although usually caught by sexual contact pubic lice can also be picked up from contaminated linen, clothes and toilet seats. Treatment is in the form of creams and shampoos.

Chlamydia: 3 million cases a year.
In many instances chlamydia goes undiagnosed because it produces no symptoms, although it is responsible for nearly 50 percent of all cases of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). It is highly curable with antibiotics.
Genital Herpes: Estimated 1 million new cases a year.
The primary symptom of genital herpes is recurrent outbreaks of painful sores in the genital region. It is a virus that enters the body and can remain dormant for years, or it can cause intermittent outbreaks. The virus is most contagious when the person has obvious sores. There is no cure but the antiviral drug acyclovir can help reduce the number and severity of outbreaks.
Gonorrhea (The Clap): 300,000 new cases a year.
Also called the 'clap' symptoms of gonorrhea are more likely to occur in men: a milky discharge from the penis and burning sensation when urinating. It often goes undetected in women although it may cause up to 40 percent of cases of PID. It is a bacteria and so can be treated with antibiotics.
Syphilis: 14,000 cases a year.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection which in the first stage causes an open sore on the genitals, which then disappears. The next stage is a general feeling of unwellness, sore throat and headaches. It causes a rash on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Symptoms can disappear again, and the person may have no outwards sign of the disease for years. However it quietly damages the heart, brain, bones and spinal cord, leading to heart disease, blindness, dementia and death. If caught early it is treatable with antibiotics.
Genital Warts
Genital warts are benign growths in the genital and anal area that are caused by the HPV virus. They are highly contagious and difficult to cure.
Hepatitis B: About 4,500 cases a year.
This is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. It can be passed through any body fluid, including sexual secretions, saliva, blood, sweat and tears. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and low grade fever. There is no cure for the virus but the majority of people recover within a few months of being infected and become immune. Less than 5 percent go on to develop serious liver disease (cirrhosis).
HIV & AIDS: 50,000 cases a year.
One in five people with the HIV virus don't know they have it (HIV is the virus that causes AIDS). HIV weakens the body's defense system making the person prone to lethal infections and cancers. It also affects the central nervous system causing mental deterioration and paralysis. There are about 20,000 women in America living with AIDS and a further 140,000 known to have the HIV infection. There is no known cure although medications can help fight infections that arise.
Highly contagious infection where tiny mites burrow under the skin and deposit their eggs and feces. Scabies causes agonizing itching, particularly at night. It can be contracted through sexual contact and rarely infected clothing, towels and furniture. It can be treated by creams.

Who Is Most Prone To STDs?

With the exception of gonorrhea, the number of reported cases of virtually all STDs have been on the rise in America. Every day about 33,000 Americas contract a STD. Nearly 90 percent of these cases are in the 15 to 25 age group. Your risk is higher if:
• You have multiple sexual partners.
• Your sexual partner has had multiple partners in the past 3 months.
• You do not use condoms or female condoms.
• You use illicit drugs.

What Are The Symptoms Of STDs?

Symptoms of STDs: Very often a STD will not produce symptoms - for this reason, regular health screenings are important to highlight any hidden infections that could lead to infertility, PID and cervical cancer. Any woman (particularly those under the age of 25) who has had sexual contact should consider having a blood test for syphilis and possibly HIV as well a chlamydia swab, Pap smear test and gonorrhea culture.

How Can I Be Tested For STDs?

Ask your doctor to perform tests for you - if you have a regular pelvic examination and Pap smear test, don't assume your doctor is screening you for STDs. You will probably need to request these tests separately. Alternatively you can attend an STD clinic where they are used to performing all the recommended tests. Read STD testing for more details.

How Are STDs Treated?

If you have an STD caused by bacteria or parasite (trichomoniasis, scabies, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia) then your doctor can treat it successfully with antibiotics or other medications. If you have an STD caused by a virus (herpes, hepatitis B and AIDS), there is no cure. Sometimes drugs can keep the infection under control.

How Are STDs Prevented?

Wearing condoms and using spermicides can greatly reduce the risk of catching a STD, but it does not eliminate the risk. At the end of the day, the fewer sexual partners you have, the lower your exposure to potentially life threatening diseases. If you do become infected you will need to inform all your recent sexual partners to prevent the spreading of the disease further.

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