All your life you’ve been encouraged to stay healthy. Maybe your Mom lectured you about not wearing a coat in the winter, or a friend suggested you get more sleep. Your health is vital to everything you do. That includes your sexual health too.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are extremely common. Almost half of all STIs occur in people younger than 25 years old. Exposure to an STI can occur any time you have sexual contact with anyone that involves the genitals, the mouth (oral), or the rectum (anal). Exposure is more likely if you have more than one sex partner or you don’t use condoms correctly.
Determining if You Have an STI
There is a wide variety of STIs with different types of symptoms. Common STI symptoms can include burning pain when you urinate, or itching, and sores on the genitals. But, some people don’t experience any symptoms at all until much later. It’s not uncommon to pass an STI to a sexual partner without even knowing you have one.
Most STIs can be treated and cured. If left untreated, some can lead to serious health issues like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), eye inflammation, arthritis, heart disease, and even infertility. This is why it’s so important to be tested at least once a year and more frequently if you have different sexual partners.
5 Most Common STIs
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are about 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) per year, with about half occurring in young people ages 15 to 24. Here’s a list of common STIs:
Chlamydia is an infection caused by bacteria with few outward symptoms. In most cases, it’s spread through sexual contact. It’s treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection spread through sexual contact. It’s found most often in the genital area, but it can also infect other areas of the body, such as the rectum or throat. Most people with gonorrhea have symptoms within a few days after infection.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) / Genital Warts
Genital warts are skin growths on or around the genitals or anus. They are caused by a virus that’s spread by sexual contact. Some types can lead to cervical cancer. Other types may cause cancer of the genitals, mouth, and throat. There are usually no initial signs or symptoms of HPV infections.
Herpes can cause skin blisters and sores in the genital area but often causes no visible symptoms. It is commonly associated with cold sores or fever blisters (oral herpes), but also genital or anal sores. Herpes can also affect the developing fetus in a pregnant woman, especially if the woman becomes infected during the first trimester.
Syphilis is an infection spread through sex. The most common symptom is a painless sore on the genitals, rectal area, or mouth. Later symptoms may include a rash, hair loss, and flu-like symptoms. It’s simple to cure but left untreated, it can affect the heart and brain.
Pregnancy and Abortion
Pregnant women can spread STIs to their babies. Health consequences include low birth weight, eye infection, pneumonia, blood infection, brain damage, blindness, deafness, lack of coordination, hepatitis, meningitis, chronic liver disease, and stillbirth.
We’re Your Next Best Step
If you believe you may be pregnant or have an STI, contact First Care Pregnancy Center for free and confidential health services. For a suspected STI, a nurse will oversee sample collection for testing, which may include a urine sample, blood draw, and swabs on the throat, vagina, and/or rectum, as indicated.
We are here to help you because we care about you and your sexual health. Our center is judgment-free and you are always welcome!Learn More