Sexually transmitted diseases, commonly called STDs, are diseases that are spread by having sex with someone who has an STD. You can get a sexually transmitted disease from sexual activity that involves the mouth, anus, vagina, or penis.
According to the American Social Health Organization, one out of four teens in the United States becomes infected with an STD each year and by the age of 25, half of all sexually active young adults will get an STD.
Sometimes, there are no symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease. If symptoms are present, they may include one or more of the following:
Bumps, sores, or warts near the mouth, anus, penis, or vagina
Swelling or redness near the penis or vagina
Weight loss, loose stools, or night sweats
Aches, pains, fever, and chills
Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
Discharge from the penis or vagina (Vaginal discharge may have an odor.)
Sometimes, there are no symptoms of STDs. If symptoms are present, they may include one or more of the following:
Bumps, sores, or warts near the mouth, anus, penis, or vagina.
Swelling or redness near the penis or vagina.
Weight loss, loose stools, night sweats.
Aches, pains, fever, and chills.
Yellowing of the skin (jaundice).
Discharge from the penis or vagina. (Vaginal discharge may have an odor.)
Bleeding from the vagina other than during a monthly period.
Severe itching near the penis or vagina.
How Do I Know If I Have an STD?
Talk to your doctor. He or she can examine you and perform tests to determine if you have an STD. Treatment can:
Cure many STDs.
Lessen the symptoms of STDs.
Make it less likely that you will spread the disease.
Help you to get healthy and stay healthy.
How Are STDs Treated?
Many STDs are treated with antibiotics.
If you are given an antibiotic to treat an STD, it's important that you take all of the drug, even if the symptoms go away. Also, never take someone else's medicine to treat your illness. By doing so, you may make it more difficult to diagnose and treat the infection. Likewise, you should not share your medicine with others. Some doctors, however, may provide additional antibiotics to be given to your partner so that you can be treated at the same time.
How Can I Protect Myself From STDs?
Here are some basic steps that you can take to protect yourself from STDs:
Consider that not having sex or sexual relations (abstinence) is the only sure way to prevent STDs.
Use a latex condom every time you have sex. (If you use a lubricant, make sure it is water-based.)
Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to catch an STD.
Practice monogamy. This means having sex with only one person. That person must also have sex with only you to reduce your risk.
Choose your sex partners with care. Don't have sex with someone whom you suspect may have an STD. However, keep in mind that you can't always tell by looking if your partner has an STD.
Get checked for STDs. Don't risk giving the infection to someone else.
Don't use alcohol or drugs before you have sex. You may be less likely to use a condom if you are drunk or high.
Know the signs and symptoms of STDs. Look for them in yourself and your sex partners.
Learn about STDs. The more you know, the better you can protect yourself.