Sexually Transmitted Diseases

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Sexually transmitted diseases (also called STDs or STIs -- sexually transmitted infections) are infections that can be transferred from one person to another through sexual contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control there are over 15 million cases of sexually transmitted disease cases reported annually. Adolescents and young adults (15-24) are the age groups at the greatest risk for acquiring an STD, 3 million becoming infected each year.

Most STDs are treatable. However, even the once easily cured gonorrhea has become resistant to many of the older traditional antibiotics. Other STDs, such as herpes, AIDS, and genital warts, all of which are caused by viruses, have no cure. There are however natural cures for herpes and other STD's. Some of these infections are very uncomfortable, while others can be deadly. Syphilis, AIDS, genital warts, herpes, hepatitis, and even gonorrhea have all been known to cause death. Many STDs can lead to related conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, and complications in pregnancy. Therefore, education about these diseases and prevention is important.

It is important to recognize that sexual contact includes more than just intercourse. Sexual contact includes kissing, oral-genital contact, and the use of sexual "toys," such as vibrators. There really is no such thing as "safe" sex. The only truly safe sex is abstinence. Sex in the context of a monogamous relationship where neither party is infected with a STD is also considered "safe". Most people think that kissing is a safe activity. Unfortunately, syphilis, herpes, and other diseases can be contracted through this apparently harmless act. All other forms of sexual contact also carry some risk. Condoms are commonly thought to protect against STDs. Condoms are useful in helping to prevent certain diseases, such as HIV and gonorrhea. However, they are less effective protecting against herpes, trichomoniasis, and chlamydia. Condoms provide little protection against HPV, the cause of genital warts.

If you think you may have an STD or a related condition, see a doctor right away.

Common STDs

A partial listing of sexually transmitted diseases:

  • Chlamydia - Chlamydia is a very dangerous STD as it usually has no symptoms; 75% of infected women and 25% of infected men have no symptoms at all.
  • Gonorrhea - Gonorrhea is one of the most frequently reported STD. 40% of it's victims contract PID if not treated, and it can cause sterility.
  • Hepatitis B - A vaccine exists, but there's no cure; can cause cancer of the liver.
  • Herpes - Painful and episodic; can be treated but there's no cure.
  • HIV/AIDS - First recognized in 1984, AIDS is the sixth leading cause of death among young men and women. The virus is fatal involving a long, painful death.
  • Human Papalloma Virus (HPV) & Genital Warts - The most common STD, 33% of all women have this virus, which can cause cervical or penile cancer and genital pain.
  • Syphilis - Untreated, can lead to serious damage of the brain or heart.
  • Trichomoniasis - Can cause foamy vaginal discharge or no symptoms at all. Can cause premature birth in pregnant women.

Less Common STDs

Other reproductive tract infections not discussed here:

  • Bacterial Vaginosis - Causes pain during urination, and untreated can result in kidney failure.
  • Chancroid - A large, painful blister or ulcer which appears in genital area; may rupture.
  • Granuloma Inguinale - Causes painless ulcers which enlarge and easily bleed.
  • Lymphogranuloma Venereum - Rare in the United States; causes lesions, aching and abscesses in the groin.
  • Molluscum Contagiosum - This virus causes smooth, shiny lesions, which must be individually removed by a doctor.
  • Mucopurulent Cervicitis (MPC) - Causes discharge from the cervix, can result in PID or miscarriage in pregnant women.
  • Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU) - Afflicts men and causes urinary problems, can be caused by chlamydia.

Related Conditions

Other reproductive tract infections:

  • Candidiasis - Candidiasis, or yeast infection, is not a true STD but can be contracted sexually, causing burning, itching and discomfort. It is treatable with over-the-counter medication, although it is commonly recurrent.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - Can be caused by a number of bacteria, transmitted sexually or through other means. Can result in pain, infertility, and even death.

Chat with other women about STDs in our STD forum.

Sources for all Epigee STD info: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Public Health Service, Rockville, MD 20857; The Upjohn Company; Contraceptive Technology by R. Hatcher et al, Chapter 4, 16th Revised Ed., 1994; Medical Institute for Sexual Health, P. O. Box 4919, Austin, TX, 78765; MedicineNet.com; Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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