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Could You Have an STD — And Not Know It?

WebMD can help you know what to watch for

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Symptoms: Many people will have no sores or minimal symptoms. But during an outbreak, women with genital herpes may experience small red bumps, blisters, or open sores on areas near or on the vagina along with vaginal discharge, fever, headaches, muscle aches, pain during urination, and itching, burning, or swollen glands in the genital area. Sores heal after 2-4 weeks, and most symptoms are relieved. Symptoms can recur, however, sometimes in just weeks or months after the last outbreak, particularly when you are under stress.

Symptoms vs. exposure time: Symptoms usually start within 2 weeks of transmission.

Transmission: Herpes is frequently passed through sexual contact, and it is particularly contagious during an outbreak of open sores. But if your sex partner has the condition, be aware that you can also contract herpes in the days and hours before your partner experiences a breakout if you are intimate during this time.

Treatment: There is no cure for genital herpes, since the virus will always be in your body. But there are drugs that can shorten outbreaks, make them less severe, or even prevent them from occurring.

Consequences if left untreated: Pregnant women can pass the virus on to their children during delivery. Herpes infections present during birth are one of the leading causes of blindness in newborns. It is important that you tell your obstetrician if you have had a previous infection. Sometimes a C-section birth is necessary to insure your baby is safe from infection.

HPV and genital warts

At least half of sexually active Americans will contract genital HPV at some point in their lives. Out of the 100 or so strains of the virus, there are about 40 strains of genital HPV, and fewer still are linked to an increased risk of cervical cancer. Other HPV-related cancers include vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, penile cancer, and anal cancer.

Symptoms: Some women have no symptoms. Those who do may have warts in the genital area or on the inner thighs and lesions on the cervix or in the vagina. Some strains that cause no symptoms can also increase the risk of cervical cancer - one reason it is important for all sexually active women to have routine Pap test screening for cervical cancer, even if no symptoms are present.

Symptoms vs. exposure time: When warts appear, they can form anywhere from weeks to months to even years after contact with an infected person.

Transmission: Sexually transmitted strains of HPV are passed through vaginal, anal, and possibly oral sex. They can also be spread by direct skin-to-skin contact in the genital area.

Treatment: There is no treatment or cure for HPV, although a new vaccine to prevent HPV infection is now available. The vaccine is approved for girls and women age 9 to 26 years. The vaccine prevents transmission of four strains of the virus. These strains are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts.

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