URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/sexuallytransmitteddiseases.html

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Also called: Sexually transmitted infections, STDs, Venereal disease

Summary

What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. The contact is usually vaginal, oral, and anal sex. But sometimes they can spread through other intimate physical contact. This is because some STDs, like herpes and HPV, are spread by skin-to-skin contact.

There are more than 20 types of STDs, including

What causes sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

STDs can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Who is affected by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

Most STDs affect both men and women, but in many cases the health problems they cause can be more severe for women. If a pregnant woman has an STD, it can cause serious health problems for the baby.

What are the symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

STDs don't always cause symptoms or may only cause mild symptoms. So it is possible to have an infection and not know it. But you can still pass it on to others.

If there are symptoms, they could include

  • Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Sores or warts on the genital area
  • Painful or frequent urination
  • Itching and redness in the genital area
  • Blisters or sores in or around the mouth
  • Abnormal vaginal odor
  • Anal itching, soreness, or bleeding
  • Abdominal painn
  • Fever

How are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) diagnosed?

If you are sexually active, you should talk to your health care provider about your risk for STDs and whether you need to be tested. This is especially important since many STDs do not usually cause symptoms.

Some STDs may be diagnosed during a physical exam or through microscopic examination of a sore or fluid swabbed from the vagina, penis, or anus. Blood tests can diagnose other types of STDs.

What are the treatments for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

Antibiotics can treat STDs caused by bacteria or parasites. There is no cure for STDs caused by viruses, but medicines can often help with the symptoms and lower your risk of spreading the infection.

Correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading STDs. The most reliable way to avoid infection is to not have anal, vaginal, or oral sex.

There are vaccines to prevent HPV and hepatitis B.

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