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Sexually Transmitted Diseases


A sexually transmitted disease (STD)

means signs or symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) have developed. An STI happens when bacteria or a virus are spread through oral, genital, or anal sex. Some examples of STDs are HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

Common signs and symptoms

may include one or more of the following, depending on the STD:

  • Blisters, warts, sores, or a rash on your skin that may be painful
  • Discharge from the penis, vagina, or anus that may have a foul smell
  • Fever, muscle pain, or swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • Inflammation and itching
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain, or pain during sex or when urinating
  • Sore throat, mouth ulcers, or trouble swallowing
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting after sex (women)

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have genital swelling or pain, or unusual bleeding.
  • You have joint pain, a rash, swollen lymph nodes, or night sweats.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your symptoms do not go away or get worse, even after treatment.
  • You have bleeding or pain during sex.
  • You or your female partner may be pregnant.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for an STD

depends on the STD you have. Antibiotics may be given for a bacterial infection. Antivirals may be given for a viral infection. Antifungals may be given for a fungal infection, such as a yeast infection. Early treatment may decrease the risk for certain cancers. Early treatment can also help prevent infertility.

Help prevent the spread of an STI:

Ask your healthcare provider for more information about the following safe sex practices:

  • Use a male or female condom during sex. This includes oral, genital, or anal sex. Use a new condom each time. Condoms help prevent pregnancy and STIs. Use latex condoms, if possible. Lambskin (also called sheepskin or natural membrane) condoms do not protect against STIs. A polyurethane condom can be used if you or your partner is allergic to latex. Condoms should be used with a second form of birth control to help prevent pregnancy and STIs. Do not use male and female condoms together.
  • Do not have sex with someone who has an STI or STD. This includes oral and anal sex.
  • Limit sex partners. Ask about your partner's sex history before you have sex.
  • Get screened regularly if you are sexually active. Common tests include chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis.
  • Tell your sex partners if you have an STI. Your partners may need to be tested and treated. Do not have sex while you are being treated for an STI. Do not have sex with a partner who is being treated.
  • Ask about medicines to lower your risk for some STIs:
    • Vaccines can help protect you from hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and the human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV vaccine is usually given at 11 years, but it may be given through 26 years to both females and males. Your provider can give you more information on vaccines to prevent STIs.
    • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) may be given if you are at high risk for HIV. PrEP is taken every day to prevent the virus from fully infecting the body.
  • If you are a woman, do not douche. Douching upsets the normal balance of bacteria found in your vagina. It does not prevent or clear up vaginal infections.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

You may need more tests. If you have an STD, you may need immediate or ongoing treatment. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who can provide specific treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.