Sexually active individuals are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). While having sex with new partners may increase your risk of STDs, anyone can get them.
The team at Patel & Patel MD, Inc., in South Charleston, West Virginia, provides knowledgeable, compassionate, and nonjudgmental support for all of your STD concerns. Our team offers STD screening, treatment, and advice on safer sex practices to lower your risk of contracting an STD.
You can protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections and avoid spreading them to partners with the proper precautions, testing, and treatment. Here are the six most common STDs and how to reduce your risk of contracting them.
The Human Papillomavirus
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD in the United States. It refers to a group of over 40 different types of HPV. Nearly everyone who has been sexually active will have HPV at some point. However, some types are easier for the body to clear than others.
HPV can cause havoc without causing symptoms. Some types can cause genital warts or infections of the mouth or throat. HPV is also one of the leading causes of cervical cancer and mouth and penile cancers.
Chlamydia is a commonly diagnosed STD primarily transmitted through vaginal or anal sex, but it can also be contracted orally. Symptoms include abnormal discharge and a burning/stinging sensation when peeing.
Chlamydia, if not detected and treated promptly, can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women, which can lead to serious complications, such as infertility. The good news is that chlamydia can be treated with a course of antibiotics.
This is another bacterial STD spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. The symptoms are similar to chlamydia but may also cause vaginal or rectal bleeding, anal itching, and/or painful bowel movements. It causes infections in the vagina, rectum, and throat and is most common in people aged 15-24, but don’t let that fool you if you’re older.
Syphilis is known as “the great imitator” because the disease’s first stage includes sores resembling an ingrown hair or a benign bump. However, the second stage causes a rash, followed by sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus.
Unfortunately, syphilis can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn child, so health care professionals advise women to get screened for it.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a virus that causes sores. Even if there are no sores, it is transmitted through skin-to-skin or sexual contact. HSV-1 is associated with cold sores in the mouth, while HSV-2 is typically found on the genitals, buttocks, or rectum.
The main symptom is the sores, though people may experience fatigue during the outbreak. Some people may be carriers of the virus but are unaware of it.
There is no cure for herpes, but it can be treated with antiviral drugs that shorten or reduce the frequency of outbreaks.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus
HIV infects and depletes the immune system. It is transmitted through unprotected sex or from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. Having other STDs can increase your chances of contracting HIV.
Early HIV symptoms, such as fever, aches, rash, night sweats, and chills, can mimic the flu, but not everyone feels sick in the early stages. Eventually, the immune system weakens and becomes unable to fight infections. AIDS is the most severe stage of HIV, but thanks to advances in medicine, people are rarely diagnosed with the most severe stage.
While HIV cannot be cured, people can live long and healthy lives thanks to advances in antiretroviral therapy research. Preventive medications are also available for people who are at risk.
Preventing common STDs
You can take several steps to protect your sexual health and prevent contracting or spreading an STD. Regular testing for you and your partner is a must. Using a barrier, such as a condom, significantly lowers the risk of STDs. Making safe sex choices, limiting sexual partners, and having open communication reduce STD risk.
If you have a partner who is HIV positive or are at risk of contracting HIV, PrEP medication can eliminate the risk of contracting the virus. PrEP (short for pre-exposure) medication works by blocking the enzyme needed for the HIV virus to replicate.
Three different vaccinations are available to prevent HPV and the high-risk types that cause cancer. These vaccines are recommended for young women (ages 11-26) and young men (ages 11-21).
Adopting safe sex practices and regular testing are part of taking care of your sexual health. Rely on the Patel & Patel MD, Inc providers for all of your STD, OB/GYN, and primary care needs.
To learn more about STD testing and prevention, call our office to schedule a visit with a Patel & Patel MD, Inc, provider today.