When you're planning for a hot night under the sheets, you might not want to think about STDs. If you're happily smitten with your long-time partner, you may not think you have to.
But the possibility of infections and diseases are as much a part of sex as the fun is. Both men and women get them. Even if you didn't realize it, you've probably had an STD.
Knowledge is power when it comes to your sexual health. Recognizing the symptoms is a start, but you won't always notice chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and other STDs. You'll need to get tested to protect yourself -- and your partner. Fortunately, all of these common STDs can be treated, and most can be cured.
Nearly every sexually active person will have HPV at some point. More than 30 types of HPV can be spread sexually. You can get them through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can get them by skin-to-skin contact, too.
Most types of HPV have no symptoms and cause no harm, and your body gets rid of them on its own. But some of them cause genital warts. Others infect the mouth and throat. Still others can cause cancer of the cervix, penis, mouth, or throat.
Two vaccines protect against these cancers. One of them also protects against genital warts, vaginal cancer, and anal cancer. The CDC recommends young women ages 11 to 26 and young men ages 11 to 21 get vaccinated for HPV. A Pap smear can show most cervical cancers caused by HPV early on.
Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the U.S. It's spread mostly by vaginal or anal sex, but you can get it through oral sex, too. Sometimes you'll notice an odd discharge from your vagina or penis, or pain or burning when you pee. But only about 25% of women and 50% of men get symptoms.
Chlamydia is caused by bacteria, so it's treated with antibiotics.
Gonorrhea is another common bacterial STD. People often get it with chlamydia, and the symptoms are similar: unusual discharge from the vagina or penis, or pain or burning when you pee. Most men with gonorrhea get symptoms, but only about 20% of women do.
Gonorrhea is easily treated with antibiotics.
Syphilis is a tricky disease with four stages. In the primary stage, the main symptom is a sore. Sometimes syphilis is called the "great imitator" because the sore can look like a cut, an ingrown hair, or a harmless bump. The secondary stage starts with a rash on your body, followed by sores in your mouth, vagina, or anus.
Symptoms usually disappear in the third, or latent, stage. This stage can last for years or the rest of your life. Only about 15% of people with untreated syphilis will develop the final stage. In the late stage, it causes organ and nerve damage. It can also cause problems in your brain.
Your doctor can give you antibiotics to treat syphilis. The earlier treatment starts, the fewer antibiotics you'll need and the more quickly they work.