Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Jump to: Bacterial STDs | Viral STDs

Sexual activity puts you at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If a person has an STD, he or she can infect others by means of oral, vaginal or anal intercourse, or in the case of some STDs, by means of skin-to-skin contact. When partners share bodily fluids the risk of STD infection increases dramatically.

Medical professionals can both treat and cure bacterial STDs. Medical professionals may not be able to cure viral STDs, but they can treat the symptoms. If you contract a viral STD, you may have it for the rest of your life. Bacterial infections can reoccur upon re-exposure.

Only abstinence will allow you to avoid STD infection completely. If you use condoms and/or dental dams correctly during each sexual act, you can significantly reduce your risk of infection. Talk with your partner about his or her wants, needs, feelings, and expectations before engaging in sexual activity. Also discuss safer sex practices, STD/HIV testing, and other potential consequences of sexual activity with your partner. If you cannot discuss these issues with your partner, then you should not have sex with him/her.

Student Health Services offers HIV and STD testing and consultation.

Bacterial STDs

Chlamydia
Transmission occurs when an infected person’s fluids come in contact with a partner’s mucous membranes. Most people have no symptoms. Women may feel pain or dull aching in the lower abdomen, or pain with intercourse. Women may experience spotting or heavy menstrual periods. Males may have discharge from the penis or epididymis. Both sexes may experience intense genital itching or burning during urination. A health care provider should diagnose by testing fluids from the infection site and then prescribe an antibiotic for both the infected person and his or her partner(s). If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to continued discomfort, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, scarring of the fallopian tubes in women, female infertility, and the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Gonorrhea
Transmission occurs when an infected person’s fluids come in contact with a partner’s mucous membranes. Symptoms are similar to those of chlamydia. Most people have no symptoms. A health care provider should diagnose by testing fluids from the site of the infection and the prescribe an antibiotic for both the infected person and his or her partner(s). If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, scarring of the fallopian tubes in women, infertility or sterility in both men and women, and the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Syphilis
Transmission occurs via both fluid and skin-to-skin contact. A pregnant woman can pass syphilis to her fetus in utero. Primary stage syphilis occurs one to twelve weeks after exposure, when painless sores or chancre appear at the infection site and lymph nodes swell. Secondary stage syphilis occurs weeks to months after sores disappear. A skin rash appears on the trunk of the body but eventually covers the body, even the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Tertiary stage syphilis may cause damage to the nervous system and organs such as heart, lungs, liver or eye. A health care provider must diagnose syphilis with blood tests and then prescribe an antibiotic for infected person and his or her partner(s). If left untreated, syphilis can lead to heart disease, brain damage, blindness, paralysis, or death.

Chancroid
Transmission occurs via contact with an infected person’s lesion. Chancroid is sometimes asymptomatic, but usually it manifests as one or more deep, painful genital ulcers. A health care provider must diagnose chancroid and will prescribe an antibiotic. If left untreated, chancroid can lead to secondary bacterial infections, fistulae, and chronic ulcers.

Viral STDs

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
This blood-borne pathogen is transmitted sexually. A person’s initial infection may have no symptoms. Several months or years after exposure an infected person may experience flu-like symptoms, enlarged lymph nodes, night sweats, rashes, and eventually more serious illnesses such as cancer, pneumonia, blindness, and deterioration of the body. There is no cure for HIV. A health care provider or HIV counselor will test a blood sample for HIV antibodies. Medicine is also available to slow the disease’s progress and treat the symptoms. If left untreated, HIV can lead to pneumonia, herpes, fungal infections (thrush), and death.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV), also known as Genital Warts
Warts can be transmitted by means of vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse, or skin-to skin contact when lesions are not present. Pregnant women may pass HPV to their children during childbirth. Weeks to months after exposure, clusters of pink or flesh-colored bumps will appear at the site of infection. They may cause itching, burning, or tenderness. The bumps are usually painless and may be microscopic. There is no cure for HPV and outbreaks may occur. A vaccine is available to help protect against four strains of HPV. Two strains are linked to cervical cancer and two strains are linked to genital warts. A health care provider must diagnose HPV, often by biopsying a lesion. External treatments are available for symptoms. Bumps must be removed with each outbreak by laser surgery, surgical removal, cauterization, or chemicals. If left untreated, HPV may lead to infertility or sterility. HPV may be linked to cancers of the anus, penis, vulva and cervix.

Genital Herpes (Herpes Simplex II Virus)
HSV I is oral herpes, while HSV II is genital herpes. Both HSV I and HSV II can be transmitted via mouth-to-genital contact, genital-to-genital contact, or skin-to-skin contact either when lesions are or are not present. Partners may transmit HSV II by means of any sexual contact or by skin-to-skin contact both prior to and during an outbreak. Pregnant women may pass HSV II to infants during childbirth. Infected people may feel itching or tingling at the site of infection. Outbreaks of herpes cause intense pain. Within ten days or up to years after exposure, blisters may appear accompanied by flu-like symptoms. The blisters will crust over and shed in about two weeks. The virus then lies dormant in the body and may reoccur. Transmission may occur even when there are no symptoms. There is no cure for herpes and outbreaks can reoccur. A health care provider must diagnose genital herpes by means of laboratory blood tests. Medications can ease symptoms of the initial outbreak or routinely for those with frequent outbreaks. A healthcare provider can prescribe topical treatments for the lesions. The infection may spread to other parts of the body.

Molluscum
Molluscum is transmitted via vaginal, anal or oral intercourse, skin-to-skin contact, or contact with infected objects. Infected people will see small, round, raised flesh-colored bumps, called papules, on the skin. Papules may become red or inflamed. There is no cure for molluscum. Medical providers can remove papules by freezing, scraping, or applying chemicals. If left untreated, molluscum can lead to secondary bacterial infection.

Hepatitis B
Infection may occur if you have unprotected sexual contact with an infected partner whose blood, saliva, semen or vaginal secretions enter your body.  Tiredness, dark urine, muscle and joint aches, stomach virus like symptoms, yellowing of the eyes and skin. May last two to six months after exposure.  No cure! Healthcare providers treat with Alpha Interferon and a special diet. A vaccine is available and is included in childhood immunizations.  Chronic active hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death from complications.