The numbers of people diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection are increasing significantly. And because so many STIs can present without obvious symptoms, odds are many sexually active people do, in fact, have an STI without even knowing it.
Almost half of new STIs are among 15-24-year-olds. And here’s another way to look at it: As of 2018, 1 in 5 people in the US have an STI, which equaled 68 million infections in 2018. **
Since 2015, cases of chlamydia have risen by 19%, gonorrhea by 56%, syphilis by 74% and congenital syphilis by 279%. *
Let’s face it: Chances are someone you know, if not you, has either been exposed to sexually transmitted infections or actually has/had one. The best way to preserve your health is to be tested regularly—yearly, if sexually active but asymptomatic, or as symptoms appear.
If you are just finding out you’re pregnant and are concerned about whether you may have an STI, know that your OB physician will test you early in your pregnancy. Because of the health risks posed to both you and baby during pregnancy, your first prenatal visit will likely involve a screening for HIV, hepatitis B, chlamydia and syphilis.
While First Choice Health Services suspended its STI testing program due to COVID, we can provide local resources and referrals to provide testing and treatment to you. Please contact us for more information.
- Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STI in the United States.
- An estimated 4 million infections occurred in 2018 alone, though it may be significantly underreported as chlamydia is known as a “silent infection”with many being asymptomatic.
- The rates of reported chlamydia are quite higher for women than for men. See this CDC graph.
- It is estimated that 1 in 20 sexually active young women (age 14-24) has chlamydia.
- Symptoms women may notice: abnormal vaginal discharge, a burning sensation when urinating
- Symptoms men may notice: discharge from the penis, a burning sensation when urinating, pain/swelling in the testicles
- Chlamydia can cause a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (which is a pregnancy that occurs outside of the womb).
- For women, untreated chlamydia can spread to her uterus and fallopian tubes, which can then cause pelvic inflammatory disease. Women may have pelvic or abdominal pain as a symptom. PID can cause long-term, permanent damage to the reproductive system, including infertility and an ectopic pregnancy.
- The good news is that chlamydia can be easily treated with antibiotics, though you must carefully follow your physician’s instructions regarding time needed to abstain from sexual contact and the importance of a follow-up test three months after treatment to ensure no re-infection.
- Gonorrhea is a very common infectious disease, with the CDC estimating 1.6 million new infections in 2018 in the United States.
- The highest reported rates of gonorrhea are among young people aged 15-24, but again, as many are asymptomatic, the true rates are unknown.
- Both men and women tend to be asymptomatic when they have gonorrhea.
- Men may display symptoms of a urethral infection, including green, white, or yellow discharge. or discomfort while urinating. Gonorrhea may be complicated by epididymitis, which is swelling of the tube in the back of the testicles that carries sperm. This can cause intense pain and infertility.
- Women may have mild symptoms that mimic bladder or vaginal infections, such as increased vaginal discharge or discomfort when urinating. Untreated gonorrhea can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, which can then cause pelvic inflammatory disease. This can lead to internal abscesses, chronic pelvic pain, and damage to the fallopian tubes, leading to potential infertility and potential ectopic pregnancies.
- Gonorrhea can be treated with the right treatment, but permanent damage cannot be repaired. And due to the increasing resistance of gonorrhea to antibiotics, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to treat. If symptoms persist more than a few days of receiving treatment, follow up with a doctor for an evaluation.
- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) attacks the immune system and, if not treated, can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). There is no cure, and it’s a lifelong virus, but it can be controlled through medical care and treatment.
- Some people experience flu-like symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks of infection, including fever, chills, rash, muscle aches, fatigue, mouth ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, etc. However, those symptoms appear with many other illnesses, which means testing is the only way to know for sure.
- HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact and from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.
- Ways to protect yourself from HIV: using condoms correctly each and every time you have anal or vaginal sex (from beginning to end), being tested for HIV if you are at risk, and receiving treatment for other STIs you may have. Having a sore or broken skin from another STI may allow HIV easier access to your body.
- Risk factors for both STIs and HIV: having sex without a condom (anal, vaginal or oral), having multiple sexual partners, having anonymous sex sexual partners, and having sex while under the influence of drugs and alcohol (more likely to engage in risky behavior).
- Genital herpes is another silent infection in which most people with the virus do not exhibit symptoms.
- Genital herpes is quite common, with more than 1 in 6 people aged 14-49 having it.
- Genital herpes can be spread through sexual contact (vaginal, anal, oral) with someone who has the disease. Infections can be spread through sores, saliva (if partner has oral herpes) or genital fluids (if partner has genital herpes) and even the skin in both the oral and genital areas.
- If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, or if you’ve had exposure, be sure to tell your doctor so appropriate precautions can be taken, as some research has shown a link from genital herpes to miscarriage, premature birth, and transmitting herpes to baby during birth (which can be fatal).
- Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms, which may just be mistaken for other skin conditions (ingrown hair, for example). Blisters may appear and break, leaving sores that take time to heal.
- There is no cure for herpes, but there are treatments and medications available to manage the outbreaks (either preventing or shortening).