Many people that have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) are unaware of the symptoms and severity of STDs. If you are sexually active, it’s your responsibility to get tested so you know whether you are infected and need to seek treatment. Even if you’ve only had one partner or haven’t had penetrative sex, it is still possible to contract an STD through ANY sexual contact with ANYONE.
Even with an STD test, it takes different diseases different amounts of time to show up on tests. Listed below are the difference between STIs and STDs and the most common STDs and symptoms.
The difference between STIs and STDs
STIs are just that – sexually transmitted infections that have not yet formed into a disease. As an STI gets more serious and starts to develop symptoms, the infection turns into an STD. For example, HPV often doesn’t have symptoms, but if the HPV in someone causes a disease, like cancer, it is now an STD. Basically, STIs mean that you carry the virus of an STD and are essentially the first step of STDs, making knowledge of any STIs you might have contracted critical for treatment.
The most common STDs for both women and men are HPV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes, Trichomoniasis and HIV/AIDS. Listed below are common symptoms that come with each disease and how they are usually contracted.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
This is the most common STI and WebMD reports that all sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. There are over 40 different types of HPV that can be spread sexually.
- Common Symptoms: Most types of HPV show no symptoms, leaving your body to cure them by itself. On the other hand, some types of HPV cause genital warts, infections in the mouth and throat, and several different types of cancer. Some symptoms also don’t show up until years after the virus enters the body.
- How you get it: Through vaginal, oral and anal sex, and skin-to-skin contact.
Chlamydia is the highest reported STD in the United States. Symptoms or no symptoms, this STD can cause damage to the reproductive system. If it goes untreated for a long enough time, the disease can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, eventually leading to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, causing the inability to get pregnant, potentially deadly ectopic pregnancies and long-term pelvic pain.
- Common Symptoms: Much like HPV, it’s common for Chlamydia to show no symptoms. Common symptoms that do show up include discharge from genitals or pain and burning when you use the restroom. Men may also experience pain and swelling in one or both testicles, but this is less common.
- How you get it: It’s most commonly spread through vaginal and anal sex, but transmission through oral sex is possible, too.
Gonorrhea is often contracted with Chlamydia with similar symptoms. While almost all men experience symptoms of Gonorrhea, only about 20% of women with this STD do.
- Common Symptoms: Unusual genital discharge and pain or a burning sensation during urination. Similar to Chlamydia, men may experience swelling in one or both testicles, but it is less common.
- How you get it: Through vaginal, anal and oral sex.
This STD has four stages and symptoms, with symptoms medically escalating in the later stages. The infection can also spread to a fetus if the mother has Syphilis.
- Common Symptoms: Symptoms are broken up by stage. Syphilis starts with a sore that looks like a bump or ingrown hair and then turns into a rash in the second stage, causing more bumps in your mouth or genital areas. Only about 15% of people living with untreated Syphilis will get to the last stage, causing organ and/or nerve damage and brain problems.
- How you get it: Direct contact with a Syphilis sore. Sores can be found on and around the genital area, on the lips or/and in the mouth.
Herpes are warts that appear on or around the mouth and/or genitals. It is common for people with Herpes to not know they have it because it doesn’t always show symptoms.
- Common Symptoms: Painful blisters and sores in the mouth and in and around the genital area. Sores can also show up inside the genitals where you can’t see or feel them.
- How you get it: Through vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has Herpes. You can also get Herpes through contact with a sore, saliva if the person has oral Herpes and through the skin, if the person has genital Herpes. Transmission is also possible for those infected that do not have physical symptoms like sores.
This STD is caused by a tiny parasite and is more common in women than men. Trichomoniasis is also the most common curable STD in the U.S.
- Common Symptoms: Only about 30% of people with this STD experience signs of it and the symptoms vary. Symptoms include burning during urination, itching, and soreness around the genitals and/or unusual discharge.
- How you get it: Skin-to-skin contact around the genital areas, including intercourse. It is not common for this STD to spread to other parts of the body, like hands, mouth, and anus.
HIV is the virus/first stage before it turns into the disease AIDS. HIV can be hard to detect in a person, requiring a test to be sure. There is also a lot of misinformation about the transmission of HIV – you cannot get it from a person through saliva or by kissing.
- Common Symptoms: Because it can be hard to detect in a person, symptoms can be vague. Those infected may get symptoms like the flu, have muscle aches, a fever, and fatigue.
- How you get it: HIV is spread bodily fluids like blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal fluids. For example, you could get HIV through sharing a needle or having unprotected sex with an infected person.
CDC reports the only way to successfully avoid STDs is to abstain from oral, vaginal and anal sex. In addition, it’s critical to your health that you get tested for STDs to receive treatment and prevent further transmission. Her Health offers complimentary and no-cost Chlamydia and Gonorrhea STD testing for women. Contact Her Health to learn more about the testing and to schedule an appointment with our medical staff.