Millions of Americans are infected with sexually transmitted diseases, and 19 million new infections occur each year. Safer sex practices can help to cut down on your risk, but even with condoms and dental dams, it is still possible to contract an STD.
Here are some common STDs which can sometimes go unnoticed:
Chlamydia: With mild to no symptoms, chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STD in the United States with about 2.8 million infections annually. The STD can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, in addition to being passed from an infected mother to her child during vaginal childbirth.
Since chlamydia tends to present few to no symptoms, lack of testing can lead to serious reproductive health complications for women, including infertility. This is one reason that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all sexually active females ages 25 and younger are tested each year. Chlamydia can be easily diagnosed with a lab test and treated (and cured!) with antibiotics.
Gonorrhea: The CDC estimates that over 700,000 sexually active individuals are infected with gonorrhea each year, with the highest infection rates affecting teenagers, young adults, and African Americans. The STD can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, though ejaculation does not have to occur. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her child during vaginal childbirth.
Symptoms are mild to non-existent, including a burning sensation during urination and increased discharge for both men and women. For women, the burning can easily be confused with a bladder infection. Untreated, gonorrhea can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women, leading to increased rates of ectopic pregnancy and infertility. In men, it can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles that may cause infertility as well. Lab tests can diagnose gonorrhea which can be successfully cured with antibiotics.
Syphilis: Transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex, syphilis is passed through direct contact with a syphilis sore. A syphilis sore appears as a small, round, firm sore on the mouth, anus or genitals, or as a rash on the body (particularly the soles of the feet or palms of the hands). Many infected individuals remain asymptomatic for years, allowing the disease to progress to later stages and increasing the risk of complications, including damage to the internal organs, nerves, bones and joints, and in very severe cases, death.
Undiagnosed, syphilis in pregnant women increases the chances of stillbirth or death of the baby shortly after birth, in addition to seizures and developmental disabilities. Syphilis can be diagnosed through a blood test or by examining an infectious sore and is easily treated in its early stages by a penicillin injection.
Remember, the best and only way to know if you have an STD is to get tested. Go to www.SexualHealth.com to learn more.