What are sexually transmitted diseases?
Below, you can find general information about STDs themselves, signs, symptoms, and treatments. Analyzing your symptoms can’t tell you if you have an STD or not – the only way to truly know your STD status is to get tested (and to get tested regularly, too). Any STD that you may contract has the possibility of being asymptomatic. The more time that you have an STD without knowing, the more time the STD has to unknowingly cause damage to your body. Richmond City Health District offers FREE STI screening every Tuesday from 5:00PM-6:30PM at 400 E. Cary Street. Screenings include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. If you’re not able to make our clinic, please check out our list of local partners.
What are some common STDs?
Select one of the sexually transmitted diseases below to learn more about how they work, signs and symptoms, and how they can be treated. For additional information on STDs, please check out CDC’s STD fact page.
- Chlamydia can cause cervicitis in women and urethritis and proctitis in both men and women.
- Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
- Chlamydia is most common among young people, with two-thirds of new chlamydia infections occurring among youth aged 15-24 years.
- Chlamydia is commonly asymptomatic, with only 10% of men and 5-30% of women with confirmed chlamydial infections developed symptoms.
What Is It?
Chlamydia is a common STD that can infect both men and women. It can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system. Chlamydia can cause cervicitis in women and urethritis and proctitis in both men and women. Over a longer period of time, infections in women can lead to serious consequences including pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal factor infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain. You can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia. If you’ve had chlamydia and were treated in the past, you can still get infected again.
Am I At Risk?
Anyone who has sex can get chlamydia through unprotected sex. However, sexually active young people are at a higher risk.
- Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are also at risk since chlamydia can spread through oral and anal sex.
- If you are a sexually active woman younger than 25 years, the CDC indicates that you should get a test for chlamydia every year.
- If you are an older woman with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners you should get a test for chlamydia every year.
The Silent Infection
Chlamydia is known as a “silent” infection because most infected people are asymptomatic and lack abnormal physical examination findings. Only about 10% of men and 5-30% of women with confirmed chlamydial infections develop symptoms. Symptoms may not appear until several weeks after exposure in those persons who develop symptoms.
In women, the bacteria initially infect the cervix, where the infection may cause signs and symptoms of cervicitis (e.g. mucopurulent endocervical discharge, easily induced endocervical bleeding), and sometimes the urethra, which may result in signs and symptoms of urethritis (e.g. pyuria, dysuria, increased urinary frequency). Infection can spread from the cervix to the upper reproductive tracts causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may be asymptomatic or acute, with typical symptoms of abdominal/or pelvic pain, along with signs of cervical motion tenderness, and uterine or adnexal tenderness on examination.
Men who are symptomatic typically have urethritis, with a mucoid or watery urethral discharge and dysuria. A minority of infected men develop epididymitis (with or without symptomatic urethritis), presenting with unilateral testicular pain, tenderness, and swelling. Chlamydia can infect the rectum in both men and women, either directly (through receptive anal sex), or possibly via spread from the cervix and vagina in a woman with cervical chlamydial infection. While these infections are often asymptomatic, they can cause symptoms of proctitis (e.g. rectal pain, discharge, and/or bleeding.
Chlamydia can be easily cured with antibiotics. HIV-positive persons with chlamydia should receive the same treatment as those who are HIV-negative. Persons with chlamydia should abstain from sexual activity for 7 days after single dose antibiotics or until completion of a 7-day course of antibiotics, to prevent spreading the infection to partners. Women and men with chlamydia should be retested about three months after treatment of an initial infection, regardless of whether they believe that their sex partners were successfully treated. (CDC)
- Gonorrhea is a very common infectious disease. CDC estimates that approximately 820,000 new infections occur in the United States each year. An estimate of 570,000 reported infections were among young people 15-24 years of age.
- Many men and most women with gonorrhea are asymptomatic, or symptoms be mild and nonspecific and mistake for something else.
- Gonorrhea infections can take place in the anus, eyes, mouth, throat, urinary tract, uterus, or penis.
- Gonorrhea that goes untreated can also spread to the blood and cause disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI).
What Is It?
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by infection with the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. N. gonorrhoeae infects the mucous membranes of the reproductive tract, including the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women, and the urethra in women and men. N. gonorrhoeae can also infect the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, eyes, and rectum. Gonorrhea is a very common infectious disease. CDC estimates that approximately 820,000 new gonococcal infections occur in the United States each year, and more than half of these infections are detected and reported to CDC. CDC estimates that 570,000 of them were among young people 15-24 years of age.
Am I At Risk?
Anyone who has sex can get gonorrhea through unprotected sex. However, sexually active young people are at a higher risk.
- Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are also at risk since gonorrhea can spread through oral and anal sex.
- If you are a sexually active woman younger than 25 years, the CDC indicates that you should get a test for gonorrhea every year.
- If you are an older woman with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners you should get a test for gonorrhea every year.
Discharge and Discoloration
Many men with gonorrhea are asymptomatic. Most women with gonorrhea are asymptomatic. When present, the following may help you identify a gonorrhea infection:
In women, even if you have symptoms, they are often so mild and nonspecific that they might be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. The initial symptoms and signs in women include dysuria, increased vaginal discharge, or vaginal bleeding between periods. Women with gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, regardless of the presence or severity of symptoms.
Men who are symptomatic typically have dysuria or a white, yellow, or green urethral discharge that usually appears one to fourteen days after infection. In cases where urethral infection is complicated by epididymitis, men with gonorrhea may also complain of testicular or scrotal pain.
Symptoms of rectal infections in both men and women may include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements. Rectal infection also may be asymptomatic. Pharyngeal (throat) infections may cause a sore throat, but usually is asymptomatic.
CDC now recommends dual therapy (i.e. using two drugs) for the treatment of gonorrhea. It is important to take all of the medication prescribed to cure gonorrhea. Although medication will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease. Antimicrobial resistance in gonorrhea is of increasing concern, and successful treatment of gonorrhea is becoming more difficult. If a person’s symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, he or she should return to a health care provider to be reevaluated. (CDC)