According to a study conducted by the Center of Disease Control (CPC), nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases occur each year in the United States.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that pass from one person to another through various forms of sexual contact, like kissing, oral-to-genital contact, and sexual intercourse. STDs pose immediate health risks for women andcan cause long-term threats to your health and wellness if not treated promptly and thoroughly.
The Most Common STDs and the Best Course of Treatment
The best defenses you have against STDs, aside from abstinence, are using protection when engaging in sexual activities and knowing as much about your partner’s sexual history and health as possible. Arm yourself with information about common STDs so you can recognize their symptoms early and seek treatment from your gynecologist:
Transmitted through sexual contact—in women and men—this bacterial infection is the oldest known sexually transmitted infection and affects nearly one million women each year. Gonorrhea can infect the genitals, rectum, and throat causing long-term health problems if left untreated.
Because it is transmitted through bodily fluids, pregnant women can pass gonorrhea to unborn children. If you are pregnant and experience any of the following symptoms, call your gynecologist immediately:
- Pain or burning sensations during urination
- Lower abdominal or pelvic pain
- Green or yellow vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding between periods
- Swelling of the vulva
- Burning in the throat
- Spotting after intercourse
- Conjunctivitis (red, itchy eyes)
Upon diagnosis, your gynecologist will prescribe an oral or injectable antibiotic. Take the full course of medication to keep the infection from returning. If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, and in rare cases a life-threatening infection of the blood can develop.
Chlamydia is the most common STD in the United States. It is most commonly found in the urethra and the cervix, but it can also thrive in the rectum and the throat. Chlamydia does not always present symptoms, making it easy for carriers to unknowingly spread the infection to their partners. If you have chlamydia, you may notice:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Genital itching
- Cloudy urine
- Fever and lethargy
- Pain during sex
- Burning sensations during urination
- Anal discharge
Chlamydia can cause significant damage to your fallopian tubes and lead to PID if left untreated. If you do contract chlamydia, your gynecologist will most likely prescribe either a single dose of an oral antibiotic such as azithromycin or doxycycline.
- Genital Herpes
1 in 5 women has genital herpes (HSV2) in the United States. 80% of the infected population does not know that they are infected with the herpes virus because most carriers experience no symptoms—sometimes for years. Women who do experience symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak may notice:
- Burning during urination
- Vaginal swelling and swelling of the vulva
- Open sores
- Flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, or headaches
- Painful pinching or tingling sensations on the thighs, buttocks, or vulva
Herpes spreads mainly through contact with infected bodily fluids or open sores in a mucous membrane (such as the vagina or the throat). However, it can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact during periods of viral shedding, during which there are no symptoms. Condoms are only 30% effective in preventing the spread of genital herpes, so always talk to your partner about your sexual habits and health before engaging in sexual activity.
Initial herpes outbreaks usually clear up in about two to four weeks, but the virus stays in your body permanently. The virus attaches itself to a nerve sac at the base of your spine called the ganglia and reactivates periodically, causing outbreaks and symptoms.
Your gynecologist will test for herpes by drawing blood and examining it for herpes antibodies. There is no cure for genital herpes, but you can suppress the symptoms with antivirals such as Acyclovir, Famvir, or Valtrex. Antivirals help with symptoms and reduce viral shedding significantly.
If you suspect you have an STD, or if you know you have contracted one, contact your gynecologist immediately. Be prepared to list any and all symptoms to help your gynecologist correctly diagnose your condition. Remember that a good doctor should never make you feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking medical attention.
For more information about STD symptoms in women and STD treatment in Arkansas, contact The Women’s Clinic at 501-664-4131 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced, compassionate gynecologists.