A sexually transmitted disease (STD), sometimes known as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can be caught when you have sex. This includes genital touching and vaginal, anal or oral intercourse; and everyone is vulnerable to these types of diseases, regardless of whether they’re single or married, straight or gay.
An STD won’t always be obvious at first, but if you think you might have been exposed to one or you think you may have one, you should consult a doctor straight away. Free STD testing is available and it’s essential that you use these tests to find out whether you have one and if you do, what treatment you require. Some STDs are easy to treat whilst others may require longer, more complicated treatments. And if you are suffering from an STD, it’s important that you notify your partner and previous partners so they can also be tested and treated, if necessary.
STDs, when left untreated, can increase your risk of getting another STD, like HIV. This is because they can cause sores or an immune response can be stimulated in the genital area. Other STIs can also cause infertility.
Sometimes There Are No Symptoms
It is quite common for some STDs to have no symptoms or signs (asymptomatic), but even without these symptoms, you could still be passing the STD on to your sex partners. That’s why it’s so important that you use protection during sex, e.g. a condom. You should also get regular screening checks that will identify these asymptomatic STDs if you have one.
Some STDs, such as HIV, don’t require sexual contact to be transmitted and can instead be caught when you come into contact with the blood of an infected person. Others, such as gonorrhea, require sexual contact.
The Symptoms of Chlamydia
This is one of the STDs that can often cause few or no symptoms and signs, particularly during the early states. Chlamydia occurs in the genital tract and is a bacterial infection, and is one of the STDs that can lead to infertility.
After two to three weeks, you may notice some signs but these can often pass or be mild, so you may not notice them if you aren’t looking for them. These include lower abdominal pain, painful urination, discharge from the vagina, bleeding in between periods and pain during sex.
The Symptoms of Gonorrhea
Also occurring in your genital tract, gonorrhea is a bacterial infection but one that can grow in your anus, eyes, throat and mouth too. Normally, the signs will start to appear 10 days after you’ve been exposed to the STD but some may find it’s month before they notice any symptoms. These include a burning sensation or pain when urinating; bloody, cloudy or thick discharge from the vagina; bleeding between periods or heavy menstrual bleeding; anal itching and painful bowel movements.
The Symptoms of Trichomoniasis
The parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis is the parasite responsible for this STD and it spreads during sex. It often causes no symptoms and will usually infect a woman’s vagina. If it causes symptoms, they normally appear five to 28 days after exposure and will range from severe inflammation to mild irritation. Symptoms can include yellowish, greenish, white or clear vaginal discharge; vaginal irritation or itching; strong vaginal odor; pain during sexual intercourse and painful urination.
The Symptoms of HIV
HIV affects your body’s ability to fight off fungi, bacteria and viruses that can cause illnesses and it can also lead to AIDS, which is a serious, life-threatening disease. Initially, you might not experience any symptoms and some will find they develop a flu-like illness after two to six weeks. However, the only way to find out if you have HIV is to get tested.
Early symptoms of HIV can include fatigue, rash, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, headache and fever. Disappearing after a week in most cases, these will often be mistaken for other viral infections but during this stage, you are incredibly infectious. Severer or more persistent symptoms of HIV might not appear until 10 years later. But as the virus continues to grow and your immune cells are destroyed, you may develop infections and other symptoms like a cough and shortness of breath, fever, weight loss, diarrhea and swollen lymph nodes.
When an HIV infection gets into the late stages, symptoms and signs include soaking night sweats, unexplained and persistent fatigue, shaking fever or chills for several weeks, chronic diarrhea, swelling lymph nodes that last over three months, unusual infections and persistent headaches.
Finley Burton is a healthcare worker who works each Monday at the local family planning clinic where he works with teens and young adults on contraceptive and STD matters. He is keen to help more people and has taken to writing articles in order to do that.