Treatments for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Don't try to treat a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, yourself. These diseases are contagious and serious. You must see a doctor.

Bacterial STDs can be cured with antibiotics if treatment begins early enough. Viral STDs cannot be cured, but you can manage symptoms with medications. There is a vaccine against hepatitis B, but it will not help if you already have the disease.

If you are given antibiotics to treat a STD, it is important that you take all of the drug prescribed to you, even if the symptoms go away. Also, do not take someone else's medication to treat your infection; it may make it more difficult to treat.

Here are some specific STD treatments:

HIV /AIDS: Since AIDS is not curable, treatment focuses on keeping HIV levels in check. Antiretroviral drugs are the standard therapy for HIV infection, and usually you will be given several drugs to take, a so-called drug "cocktail." The question of when to begin antiretroviral therapy for HIV is still debated. Some doctors believe in an early start to better manage the HIV virus, while others believe it is better to wait since the drugs can cause unpleasant side effects and drug resistance may develop. Talk to your doctor about when you should begin antiretroviral therapy.

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: These STDs are treated with antibiotics. You should begin taking them if tests show you have chlamydia or gonorrhea or if you have been exposed to them, even though you may not have symptoms. Your sex partners will also have to be treated regardless of whether they have symptoms. Certain strains of gonorrhea have become resistant to some antibiotics, so you may have to take more than one drug to fight gonorrhea. Make sure your partner also seeks treatment. You should get retested after three months to make sure the infection has cleared, even if your partner has been treated. Failure to treat chlamydia or gonorrhea can result in permanent damage to your reproductive organs and an inability to get pregnant.

Syphilis : Penicillin is the preferred treatment for syphilis. Early treatment is crucial to prevent the bacteria from spreading to and damaging other organs.

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Genital herpes : Once you are infected with genital herpes, the virus remains in your body for life. After the first outbreak, herpes may flare up several times per year, but these episodes may lessen over time. Antiviral medication (such as Zovirax, Famvir, and Valtrex) can help reduce the length and severity of both the initial and subsequent herpes outbreaks. If you have outbreaks often, you may want to use suppressive therapy. In suppressive therapy, your doctor prescribes medicine for you to take every day, to prevent you from getting a herpes outbreak.

Genital warts : There is no standard of treatment for genital warts. Most genital warts will disappear without treatment, so your doctor may choose to do nothing. However, you will still carry the virus that causes warts and can still transmit it to sex partners. If you do choose to treat genital warts, you have several options. Freezing the warts or applying medication directly to them are often the first choices. If genital warts do not respond to these options, surgery may be necessary to remove them. Keep in mind that treatment does not rid you of the infection, and you can still transmit it to others.

Hepatitis B: The goal of hepatitis B treatment is to stop liver damage by preventing the virus from spreading. There are now five drugs approved for use in hepatitis B: interferon alpha, pegylated interferon, lamivudine, adefovir, and entecavir. Each has pros and cons that you should discuss with your doctor. If you develop significant liver damage from hepatitis B, a liver transplant may be necessary.

Trichomoniasis : Infection by this organism is treated with the drug metronidazole, and the cure rate is about 90%. The drug is usually taken orally, but women in their first three months of pregnancy may be prescribed a cream or suppository to insert into the vagina. If this is ineffective, they can be given metronidazole pills to take in the second or third trimesters. Your partner should also get treated. You you get retested after three months to be certain the infection has cleared. Do this even if your partner has been treated.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on November 19, 2015

Sources

SOURCES: 

American Academy of Family Physicians. 

National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, CDC. 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Hepatitis B Foundation.

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