Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Common STDs and how to avoid them

The first thing anyone needs to know about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), is that anyone can get any of them. Women, men, and teenagers, are at risk of being infected if they are sexually active.

Here are four common STDs, the symptoms of them, and how to prevent them:

Herpes

People with herpes can be asymptomatic, but in most cases, the initial outbreak occurs about two weeks after infection. You might experience flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes and fever, but the hallmark characteristic of a herpes infection is an outbreak of sores in the genital region. Prevention is very important because there is no cure for herpes. Abstinence is the only 100 percent sure way to prevent it, but avoiding all sexual contact with an infected person, particularly during an outbreak, will make contracting this virus unlikely.

Chlamydia

This is said to be the most commonly detected STD out there. To get this disease, actual penetration doesn't have to occur. It can be transmitted simply through contact with an infected person's genitals. It is said that Chlamydia can sometimes show no symptoms, but women may experience vaginal discharge, pain during sex and urination, "spotting" (bleeding when a woman isn't menstruating), pain in the lower abdomen and mild fever. Men may have discharge, or an itchy, burning sensation in their penis.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is most commonly transmitted to men and women by means of sexual intercourse, be it vaginal, anal or oral sex. Penetration is not always needed to get this disease - simply being in contact with it is enough. Symptoms may include discharge (sometimes bloody discharge), a burning feeling when urinating, abdominal pain or swelling, spotting and fever. It's said that men are more likely to experience symptoms of this STD than women, and they may have a burning sensation during urination and discolored pus coming out of the penis.

Gonorrhea can lead to infertility and sterility (the inability to have children). As with Chlamydia, it can be transmitted to babies during birth.

Syphilis

This disease is spread through sexual intercourse, contact with an infected person's genitals, and can even be transmitted mother-to-child during pregnancy, if the mother-to-be has it. Not something to ignore, syphilis has four stages:

  1. Painless sores appear on or around the genitals, the mouth, throat or anus.
  2. A rash with brown sores appears, and causes fever and aches.
  3. The third stage is called "latent," because the disease appears to be gone. However, it is still living in the body.
  4. Left untreated, syphilis can cause severe damage to almost any body part, even the brain.

If you think you have syphilis, get tested as soon as you can.

Other STDs include Hepatitis A, B, and C, Trichomoniasis, Genital Warts, Pubic Lice (crabs), Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (some STDs can lead to this), Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and HPV warts, and HIV / AIDS. If you think you may have any of these diseases, get tested immediately, and get the medications needed to treat them.

Some ways to prevent contracting or spreading STDs are to always use protection, even if you are with a trusted partner; get tested regularly for STDs (particularly before engaging in sexual activity with a new partner); and never have careless sex or several sexual partners at one time.

The only 100 percent effective way to prevent yourself from contracting an STD is to never have sex - in lieu of this, smart decisions and careful planning are your best resources.

By Cecilia Taylor