STIs: The Basic Facts

Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).  You can acquire an STI through vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact with an infected partner who may or may not have symptoms or signs of an infection.  Most of these infections do not go away on their own.  You may be embarrassed or feel guilty if you think you have a sexually transmitted infection, but it’s important to see your doctor. Untreated STI’s can cause complications for your health and the health of your partner.

STI’s are usually caused by bacteria or viruses.  Some common symptoms may include:

  • Rashes, open sores, blisters or warts in the genital area
  • Uncomfort or painful intercourse
  • Swelling or tenderness
  • Pus, bleeding, odor or abnormal discharge
  • Burning during urination
  • Sometimes there may be no symptoms at all

Women usually make an appointment with their gynecologist, but both men and women may see their regular doctor for STI testing.  Anyone can make an appointment for an STI test using Planned Parenthood’s website .  For a discount code, click here.

During your appointment, you may talk with your doctor about your sexual history and any concerns about the symptoms you may be experiencing.  Many STIs can be detected with a simple visual exam by your doctor.  Some infections may require a swab of cervical, anal, or throat secretions.  These may be sent to a lab for diagnosis.  Sometimes a tiny amount of cells in a lesion or sore is collected and sent to a lab where the organism is identified.  Urine tests and blood tests may also be used to diagnose the infection.

Some STI symptoms can be confused with other conditions, so it’s best to see a doctor.  Many times the infections can be easily cured with antibiotics.  Your sexual partner may also need treatment, so it is important to communicate openly with your partner. Early detection and treatment can limit the severity of the infection and lessen the chances for long-term problems like infertility.

Things to remember:

-Your chances of getting an STI increases with unprotected sex. 
-To prevent the spread of STIs, safe sex is your responsibility in every sexual relationship or encounter. 
-Alcohol or drugs can impair judgment and can result in unwise sexual decisions. 
Always use condoms with water-based lubricants or dental dams
-Consider being vaccinated for Hepatitis B and HPV. 
-Remember: birth control pills and other contraceptives do NOT protect you from contracting or spreading a sexually transmitted infection.

Planned Parenthood’s website provides more information on STI testing and safe sex practices. Don’t forget, you can get a discount on your testing services by clicking here.

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One response to “STIs: The Basic Facts

  1. Thanks for the great wrap up, Becki. In addition to all the symptoms you mentioned, it’s important to remember that the most common symptom of an STI . . . is no symptom at all. Even more important to get tested.