Sexually transmitted diseases strike fear into the hearts of parents as they watch their children grow, make teens and young adults uncertain about how to engage safely in sex, and even affect older adults who left their inexperience behind long ago. The unfortunate truth about sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, is that most people just don’t know enough about them. Despite semesters of sex ed and the enormous amount of information put out by health departments across the world, these hidden epidemics remain a serious problem in the United States – and beyond.
Naturally, we can’t expect everyone to have a degree in virology or bacteriology, and it stands to reason that people are confused with such a wealth of possible diseases out there, all with different cures (or not cures).
That’s where testing comes in. With regular testing, you can reduce your need to learn about each STD and its individual symptoms, and instead substitute in a test that will tell you everything you need to know once a year … or more often. Before we talk about that, however, let’s cover some of the most common symptoms of STDs, so you at least know what to watch out for when you’re sexually active.
What Is an STD?
A sexually transmitted disease is one that passes from partner to partner during sexual activity. That doesn’t need to be traditional vaginal intercourse, mind you. Oral sex, anal sex and even activities with hands can all pass STDs from one person to another. In some cases, as with chlamydia and gonorrhea, you can pass the disease to your eyes. With herpes, you can pass it from mouth to genitals and back. If this sounds frightening, it is, especially when you consider how long it takes for many people to notice they even have an STD.
Where do they come from? MedlinePlus reports that “The causes of STDs are bacteria, parasites, yeast, and viruses. Most STDs affect both men and women, but in many cases the health problems they cause can be more severe for women.” For instance, “If a pregnant woman has an STD, it can cause serious health problems for the baby.” (1)
While there are more than 20 known STDs, the most common include:
- Genital herpes
Signs and Symptoms of STDs in Women
Given the wealth of sexually transmitted diseases in the world today, it is not possible to cover every sign and symptom. More disturbingly, many diseases have no signs or symptoms whatsoever, explains The Mayo Clinic: “It's possible to contract sexually transmitted diseases from people who seem perfectly healthy, and who may not even be aware of the infection. STDs don't always cause symptoms, which is one of the reasons experts prefer the term ‘sexually transmitted infections’ to ‘sexually transmitted diseases.’” (2)
However, symptoms do occur with many diseases. If they’re going to appear at all, they usually appear within the first few days or months. Some of the most common symptoms of STDs in women include:
- Vaginal itching: While some itchiness or discomfort around the vagina is normal, especially with abrasive clothing, after workouts or during prolonged periods without showering (for instance, while camping), it is not normal long-term. If you have tried to get rid of itching, for instance with yeast infection treatments, but have been unsuccessful, it’s time to look into the problem.
- Blisters and bumps: Blisters and bumps are never normal. They could be signs of genital warts, caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) or herpes, which causes painful blisters that raise up and burst in cycles. Additionally, a blister could be a sign of syphilis, which causes one small, hard blister at the infection site.
- Rash: While we tend to dismiss rash as a relatively mundane occurrence, it could be a sign of something much worse. If you see a rash anywhere on your body (not just your genitals), look into it. If you can’t get it to go away with soothing creams in a day or two, it’s worth taking an STD test or booking an appointment with your doctor.
- Burning while peeing: It’s not normal to have discomfort of any kind while peeing. If you feel burning, stinging, pinching or pain while urinating, that could be a serious sign of an STD – or at least a urinary tract infection, which can lead to kidney infection. Either way, it’s important to deal with immediately.
- Pain during sex: If you are experiencing regular pain during sex, the culprit could be an STD or a secondary effect, such as pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Unusual bleeding or discharge: If you have bleeding during an unusual time of the month or after sex, or unusual discharge that smells, is too thick, is yellow or green, or generally isn’t normal for you, it’s possible an STD is behind it.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s time to get a checkup right away. The good news is, doing so gives you a much better chance to cure any diseases faster and more completely.
Are STDs Curable?
As MedlinePlus points out, “Antibiotics can treat STDs caused by bacteria, yeast, or parasites. There is no cure for STDs caused by a virus, but medicines can often help with the symptoms and keep the disease under control.” In fact, many people live long and healthy lives now with diseases such as HIV or HPV, due to the advances in medical science.
Whether or not STDs are curable, they’re best avoided. The most reliable way to do this is by using protection: “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.” (3)
However, since most people are going to engage in at least some forms of these activities, it’s important to practice safer sex, which means vetting partners first, sleeping with new people when sober, and testing regularly.
When Should You Get an STD Test?
Any time you are uncertain about a sexual partner, it’s important you get a test. If you have multiple partners regularly, you should get tested at least once a year. However, it’s much more responsible to get tested before you sleep with someone new, to avoid passing the disease on to them. While it can feel easier to stick your head in the sand, the healthiest attitude is to treat STD screening as an essential part of a healthy sex life. For affordable and accurate STD screening in the privacy of your own home, request your STD test kit today.
(1) Sexually Transmitted Diseases. (2017). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/sexuallytransmitteddiseases.html
(2) Sexually Transmitted Diseases. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/symptoms-causes/syc-20351240
(3) Sexually Transmitted Diseases. (2017). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/sexuallytransmitteddiseases.html