Every year in the United States, millions of people are diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. While many diseases can be treated with a course of antibiotics, other diseases require long-term management — and any disease that’s not treated promptly can wind up causing more serious symptoms.
At his practice in Lakeland, Florida, family care doctor Sergio B. Seoane, MD, helps patients understand the basics about STDs, including what symptoms to look for and what they can do to prevent infection. In this post, he offers some basic STD information that every sexually active person should know.
While infection rates for many STDs declined for a number of years, recently researchers have noted that the number of infections is actually increasing — sometimes dramatically. In fact, between 2016-2020, gonorrhea rates climbed by 45% and rates of syphilis infections grew by 52%.
Moms-to-be can pass infections to their unborn babies and their newborns. In fact, the rates of congenital syphilis alone increased by an alarming 477% between 2012-2019, according to the CDC. Congenital (at birth) infections pose serious risks for newborns and can lead to stillbirths, as well.
STD symptoms can vary — sometimes dramatically — depending on the type of STD that’s causing the infection, what part of your body is infected, and the severity of the infection. Some of the more common symptoms include:
Some infections don’t cause any symptoms initially, or the symptoms can be so subtle, it’s easy to mistake them for something else, like an irritation. Regular screening helps identify infections even before obvious symptoms occur.
Many STDs respond to antibiotics and other medications designed to kill the pathogen that’s causing the infection. There are some STDs, however, that cannot be cured — but they can be managed.
That includes herpes, a very common STD for which there’s currently no cure. If you have herpes, we can help you find a treatment to prevent flare-ups so you can effectively manage your symptoms.
Many people think STDs are only transmitted via intercourse, but that’s not true. You can become infected through oral sex and even sex without penetration. In fact, the only way to prevent STDs is to refrain from sex and other activities that can pass along the germs that cause the infection.
Realistically, using a condom and a mouth dam provide the greatest protection among all contraceptive options — but they are not foolproof. Other ways to reduce your risk of becoming infected include:
Always discuss safer sex practices with any partner before beginning a sexual relationship.
While regular STD screening can’t prevent STDs, it can play an important role in preventing them from being transmitted to others (in addition to preventing a more serious infection). The CDC recommends regular screening for anyone who’s sexually active. Specific screening recommendations can be seen on their website here.
STD symptoms can be very subtle and difficult to identify on your own, especially in their early stages. Having regular screenings is important for keeping yourself healthy and your partner healthy, too.