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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) affect almost everyone who’s ever had sex. These infections can cause serious health problems if left untreated.
Many STIs are asymptomatic, so it’s important to get tested regularly. That way, you can catch an infection early and begin treatment.
What Are STIs?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur when bacteria, viruses or parasites get into your body through sexual contact. These STIs can be passed from person to person during vaginal, oral or anal sex.
STIs are usually asymptomatic and can often be treated with antibiotics. However, if left untreated they can progress to an STD and lead to serious health problems.
These infections can also be spread from mother to child, especially during pregnancy or during delivery. For this reason, it is important for all pregnant women to be screened and treated.
Many STIs can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may lead to infertility and ectopic pregnancy (a form of birthing that leads to fetal and maternal death). It is also possible for some STIs to cause cancer in women.
STIs can cause a wide range of symptoms, from those that are easy to miss to the ones that you may have never even realized you had. That’s why it is important to get tested for STIs regularly.
The most common STIs in men are gonorrhea and chlamydia. Both are bacterial infections that can affect the vagina, urethra, and rectum.
A urine test or swab from the infected area can help diagnose gonorrhea. If you’ve been diagnosed with gonorrhea, your doctor will recommend treatment with antibiotics, which are most often prescribed as a pill.
A doctor will also check your body for genital herpes, which is caused by herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1). Sores can develop on the penis, scrotum, anus, buttocks and thighs, and mouth.
There are many treatments available for STIs, including antibiotics and medications that can lessen symptoms and prevent infections from reoccurring. It’s important to know your symptoms and get tested regularly if you are sexually active, so you can keep yourself and your partners healthy.
Most STIs can be treated with medicine and the symptoms should subside within a few weeks or months, unless it is a life-threatening infection. Be sure to follow all of the instructions your doctor gives you.
Depending on the type of STI, tests may include blood samples or urine tests, says Ghanem. For example, gonorrhea and chlamydia require urine screening, while syphilis and HIV require blood samples.
The test results will show what STI you have, and whether your partner needs to be screened too. Telling your partner about the test can help them avoid getting infected too.
Getting routinely tested for STDs is the best way to prevent health complications from STIs. Tests can detect chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Most STIs don’t cause any symptoms, so it’s important to get screened regularly. This is especially true for men who have more than one sexual partner or are at higher risk for infection.
Many women can detect signs of chlamydia and genital gonorrhea with spotting, itching, blisters, or discharge, but this isn’t always the case for men. Symptoms can also include pain or burning during urination, abnormal vaginal discharges, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility.
The CDC recommends testing for chlamydia and syphilis in sexually active females under 25 years old, and for sexually active women over 25 with risk factors such as new or multiple partners or a partner diagnosed with an STD. For males, the CDC says there is little evidence to support screening for chlamydia and gonococcal infections.