By Laura Badalamenti, NMD

Over the next several weeks we will be taking a look at different STDs, but let’s start at the beginning…What are STDs?

A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is an infection a person gets after sexual contact. Sexual contact includes vaginal, penile, oral, anal, and other skin to skin genital area contact. These infections are very contagious and easily spread from person to person.You are more at risk if you have a new sexual partner, or if you or your sexual partner has had more than one sexual partner. Using a barrier method for protection, such as a condom, can reduce your risk of getting an infection, but it is never 100% protection. The incidence of sexually transmitted infections is on the rise, with over 20 million new cases reported every year. The CDC estimates that young people age 15-24 acquire half of all newly reported cases of STDS.

Sexually transmitted infections come from different types of organisms. It could be a type of bacteria such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. It could be a viral infection such as HPV, genital warts, herpes, and HIV. Also, there are parasites and yeasts that can be sexually transmitted. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics and often cured, but viral infections can only be managed with medications for the symptoms and can’t be cured. Sometimes an infection may not cause any symptoms, and you may not even know you have the infection until you get tested for it. In that case, you could still spread the infection to another person without even knowing you did. Other times, you may get symptoms like pain with urination, abnormal discharge, pelvic pain, abnormal skin eruptions, or rashes. Worse consequences could happen later on such as infertility problems, cancer, or could even threaten your life.

If you think you are at risk for an STD, or if you have never been tested before, ask your doctor if you should get tested. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor and share your sexual history. They are there to help you and can only do so if you are honest with them. Your doctor may get a urine sample, women may have a vaginal sample taken, men may have a penile sample collected, or a blood test may be done. Once they know if you have any infections, they will discuss a treatment plan with you.