Skip to Content

Sexually Transmitted Diseases


What is a sexually transmitted disease?

A sexually transmitted disease (STD), is also called a sexually transmitted infection (STI). An STD is an infection caused by bacteria or a virus. STDs are spread by oral, genital, or anal sex. Some examples of STDs are HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

What increases my risk for an STD?

  • Unprotected sex
  • Being female
  • Illegal IV drug use
  • Multiple partners
  • Not vaccinated
  • A weak immune system

What are the signs and symptoms of an STD?

You may have one or more of the following depending on the STD you have:

  • 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 of the skin
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain, or pain during sex or when urinating
  • Sore throat, mouth ulcers, or trouble swallowing
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting after sex in females

How is an STD diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. He may ask you about your sexual history or other medical conditions. He will ask you if you have had an STD before. If you are a woman, you may need a pelvic exam to check your vagina, cervix, and other organs. You may also need any of the following:

  • Blood and urine tests may show an infection and what kind it is.
  • A sample of discharge may show what is causing your STD.

How is an STD treated?

Treatment depends on the STD you have. You may need medicines to treat the infection.

How can I help prevent an STD?

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

  • Use condoms. Use a latex condom if you have oral, genital, or anal sex. Use a new condom each time. Use a polyurethane condom if you are allergic to latex.
  • Do not douche. Douching upsets the normal balance of bacteria are found in your vagina. It does not prevent or clear up vaginal infections.
  • Do not have sex with someone who has an STD. This includes oral and anal sex.
  • Limit sexual partners. Have sex with one person who is not having sex with anyone else.
  • Do not have sex during treatment. Do not have sex while you or your partners are being treated for an STD.
  • Get screening tests regularly if you are sexually active.
  • Get vaccinated. Vaccines may help to prevent your risk of some STDs. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about vaccines for STDs.

When should I seek immediate care?

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

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

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

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2020 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

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