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The ten most common sexually transmitted infections

The ten most common sexually transmitted infections
Update - 2022.07.01

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are infections that can be passed from one person to another through any type of sexual contact. STDs can affect men and women of all ages and backgrounds, and some can be deadly.

Many people think that because they are not having sex or only having sex with someone they trust that they don’t have to worry about getting an STD. However, this is not true. You can get an STD even if you’re using a condom or if you’re only having oral or anal sex.

Each year, there are nearly 20 million new cases of STDs in the United States. That’s approximately 54,000 new cases each day! And that doesn’t even include HIV/AIDS. The majority of these cases occur in young people aged 15-24 years old.

Many people don’t realize that they have an STD until it has caused serious damage to their health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ten most common STDs in the USA are:

Chlamydia

Chlamydia infections are common sexually transmitted diseases caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, a strain of bacteria in the Chlamydiaceae family, which typically infects the urogenital tract, thus, the cervix in women and penis in men. When a contaminated individual has unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex, Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria may spread to the partner who is not contaminated.

You can get chlamydia only from having close sexual contact with someone who has the infection, not through random touching, touching another persons clothes, or drinking contaminated food or water. Because chlamydia is so common, and there are usually no symptoms, and because chlamydia is so prevalent in younger women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that sexually active women ages 25 or younger be tested once per year.

If a pregnant woman has Chlamydia, it may be passed to her baby when she gives birth – leading to infections of the lungs or eyes.

Chlamydia Symptoms

It is important to note that many people who are infected with chlamydia, whether women or men, have no symptoms, and they might not know that they have chlamydia. If you actually have symptoms of chlamydia, it can take a few weeks after getting infected for them to appear. Even when symptoms go away, you might still have chlamydia and you might pass it along.

When symptoms do occur, they may include urethritis, which is inflammation of the urethra. This may cause pain when urinating, a burning sensation, or abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina. Other symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can cause infertility in men and women as well as other serious health problems such as pneumonia and arthritis.

Chlamydia treatment

There are a few different types of antibiotics that can be used to treat Chlamydia. The most common type is azithromycin, which is taken as a one-time pill. Other antibiotics that can be used include doxycycline and erythromycin, which are both taken as pills twice a day for seven days.

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Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is an infection caused by a sexually transmitted bacteria (Neisseria gonorrhoeae), which can affect men as well as women. Gonorrhea is a very common STI; there are about 700,000 new cases each year in the United States.

The bacteria that cause gonorrhea are passed from one person to the next more commonly when they have sex, including oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse. As with other germs, you can pick up the bacteria, called Neisseria gonorrhoeae, simply by touching infected areas on another person.

The bacteria thrives in warm, wet environments, and gonorrhea can develop in any bodys mucous membranes, including those in the genitals, mouth, throat, eyes, and rectum.

Gonorrhea Symptoms

Often, there are no symptoms in those who are infected with gonorrhea; between 10 and 15 percent of men and around 80 percent of women can experience no symptoms. Even when women do get symptoms, the cause of gonorrhea is usually mild, and it may be confused for bladder or vaginal infections. More importantly, the symptoms that you actually do have may look very similar to those experienced with vaginal yeast or other bacterial infections, making it harder to identify.

Signs and symptoms of gonorrhoea infection in women include increased vaginal discharge, painful urination, bleeding between periods (such as after vaginal intercourse), and stomach or pelvic pain.

Most men with symptoms of infection will have inflammatory disease in the penile urethra, associated with burning when urinating and a discharge from the penis.
Gonorrhea affecting the eyes can cause pain in the eyes, sensitivity to light, and a pus-like fluid from one or both eyes.

Pregnant women who get gonorrhea gonorrhea may also transmit it to their babies when they give birth, causing serious eye infections, which may cause blindness, joint infections, or fatal blood infections in their babies.

Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious complications, including pelvic inflammatory diseases, infertility, sepsis (blood infections), and joint arthritis

Gonorrhea treatment

Antibiotics are the best treatment for gonorrhea. They work by killing the bacteria that cause the infection. There are several different antibiotics that can be used to treat gonorrhea, including ceftriaxone, cefixime, and azithromycin, which is a one-time dose that can be taken orally. It has been shown to be effective in treating both men and women with gonorrhea. In addition, it also appears to be effective against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia and syphilis.

Your doctor will choose the antibiotic that is most likely to work for you.

It is important to take all of the antibiotics prescribed, even if you start feeling better before finishing them all. If you do not take all of the antibiotics, your infection may come back and be harder to treat. You should also avoid sexual contact until your doctor tells you it is safe to resume sexual activity.

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Syphilis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum.

Syphilis is spread through contact with an infected person’s skin or mucous membranes, usually during sexual activity.
You also may be syphilized from having direct contact with an infected persons syphilis sores (touching or kissing). Sores are generally painless, but they can spread syphilis to others with ease.
Syphilis cannot be spread from using the same bathroom, clothes, utensils, or toilets as the person who is infected. Syphilis is not spread by random touching, so you cannot catch syphilis by sharing food or drinks, hugging, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, sharing towels, or sitting on the toilet seat.

Infection in pregnancy can lead to a miscarriage, stillbirth, or serious infection of the infant (congenital syphilis).

Left untreated, syphilis can lead to blindness, deafness, mental illness, organ damage, and even death.

It is important to get tested for syphilis regularly if you are sexually active because it can be cured with antibiotics if caught early enough. If you think you may have been exposed to syphilis or any other STI, please see your doctor right away for testing and treatment.

Syphilis Symptoms

Many people with syphilis do not experience symptoms, both during the time they are infected and afterwards.

The first indications of syphilis are often a sore called chancre, which is painless and appears on or near the genitals, although a sore may occur elsewhere, like in the mouth or anus.
During Stage 2 syphilis, a pink, lumpy, raw-looking rash appears on your body, typically on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet.

Other signs of secondary stages include fever, swelling lymph nodes, strep throat, body aches, mouth ulcers, and fatigue. People with latent syphilis can sometimes develop symptoms (floods) such as skin rashes, fever, a sore throat, swollen glands, or feeling weak and fatigued.

Without proper treatment, your infection will progress to a latent, and potentially, tertiary, stage of syphilis.

If latent syphilis progresses to Late Stage Syphilis, also called tertiary syphilis, the latent form of the disease causes severe damage to the heart and blood vessels, the brain and nervous system, and other organs.

Syphilis treatment

The current recommended treatment for syphilis, by both the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is injection-resistant benzathine penicillin G (BPG).
People who have penicillin allergies sometimes can use a substitute medication early on. During pregnancy and the third phase, any person with the allergy undergoes penicillin desensitization, which allows safer treatments.

Human papillomavirus (HPV/Genital Warts)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection, which can cause some cancers and genital warts.
Genital warts can be annoying and uncomfortable, and you may spread the HPV that causes them to others. Also, HPV infection can spread from mothers to their babies when there are genital warts. Both men and women can get HPV and get cancer caused by the HPV. Some men may have a higher risk of developing an HPV-related cancer, including men who have undergone anal intercourse and men who have weakened immune systems.

Human Papillomavirus Symptoms

Remember, an HPV infection, especially one with a high-risk HPV, rarely, if ever, causes symptoms before it has developed into advanced gynecologic cancer, so it is important to get proper screening and follow-up. If HPV infection does progress to cancer, cancer can cause symptoms such as bleeding, pain, or swelling of glands

Human Papillomavirus Treatment

There is no treatment for infections caused by the virus itself; however, there are treatments for certain health problems HPV can cause, like genital warts and some cancers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the HPV vaccine should be given between 11 and 12 years old, for both girls and boys.

Because the vaccine does not prevent all types of HPV infection that cause cancer, women should still have regular Pap tests. Studies have determined the vaccine prevents nine out of ten infections with the virus, and it is fully effective in preventing ongoing infections and changes in the Pap smear, which can be predictive of cervical cancer. Subsequent studies have shown the vaccine to be protective against HPV infections, anal and genital warts, and anal cancers in men.

Genital wart treatments include topical medications, such as creams and ointments, as well as surgical procedures, including freezing, excision, and laser removal.

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Genital herpes is most often caused by HSV-2. It can cause sores on the genitals, anus, thighs, or buttocks. It can also cause pain when you urinate or have sex.

Genital herpes is spread through skin-to-skin contact with people who already have the virus, including touching infected skin while having sex. A person who has genital herpes may also spread infection to other parts of their body through direct contact (i.e., touching the sore on their genitals, and then touching other parts of their body).

Genital Herpes Symptoms

The most common symptoms of an infection are a cluster of itchy or painful blisters on the vagina, vulva, cervix, anus, penis, scrotum (ball), butt, or the inner side of your thighs. Recurrent symptoms of genital herpes may be painful, and infection may cause social stigma and psychological distress.

Genital Herpes Treatment

There is no cure for genital herpes, but medications can help to manage and lessen the severity of symptoms, as well as reducing recurrence rates and risk for transmission. Antiviral medicines taken by mouth, such as valaciclovir or acyclovir, are most effective at controlling symptoms, though antiviral medicines taken by mouth cannot cure genital herpes.
Valacyclovir is a prescription-only antiviral drug that can treat symptoms of active infections and prevent herpes from flare-ups. It is not unusual for health care providers to prescribe this drug for people who experience frequent or severe oral outbreaks of Herpes.

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HIV

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a condition in which the body loses its natural defenses against infections.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a name used to describe a range of potentially lethal infections and diseases that occur when the immune system has been seriously damaged by the HIV virus.

Destroying CD4+ T cells leaves HIV patients vulnerable to potentially lethal infections and complications. In cases of acquired immune deficiencies, syndromes may include developing some infections and –or cancers – as well as decreased numbers of some special blood cells called CD4+ T cells, that are critical for helping the body fight off diseases. Pregnant women who are infected with HIV may transmit the virus to their babies through pregnancy or birth, and also through breastfeeding.

HIV/AIDS Symptoms

Most people do not immediately know when they are HIV-infected. Some people may have flu-like symptoms for up to one or two months after being exposed to the HIV virus, though many do not have symptoms at all when they are first infected. After symptoms go away, HIV can produce no additional symptoms for years.

During the asymptomatic time, HIV is actively infecting and killing your immune system cells. When HIV weakens the immune system, opportunistic infections may exploit this weakening status and cause disease.

HIV/AIDS Treatment

While HIV does not have a cure, it does have highly effective treatments, which allow most people who have contracted the virus to live a long, healthy life. In most cases, people living with HIV who are receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART) are able to live long, healthy lives. Treatment guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services suggest that someone living with HIV start on ART as soon as possible after being diagnosed.

With consistent antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV infection can be contained and managed as a chronic disease, without progression to AIDS.
Without treatment, HIV slowly destroys your immune system and progresses toward AIDS.

If you miss a dose or fail to keep up with your usual schedule, your treatment may not work, and your HIV virus could get resistant to your medication. Poor compliance with the prescribed medication regimen for HIV/AIDS may also result in the development of drug resistance, which can impact your treatment options in the future. Better AIDS control reduces side effects from many cancer treatments, can reduce the likelihood of recurrence, and may increase the chances that the individual will recover from cancer

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection that causes inflammation (swelling and reddening) which can cause damage to the liver. It can cause chronic infections and puts people at a higher risk for death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B virus attacking and damaging your liver. Hepatitis B infection occurs only when the virus is able to enter the bloodstream and get to the liver. Hepatitis B is diagnosed by a simple blood test, which can find infection of HBV years before symptoms appear and the virus has caused damage to the liver.

With early detection and proper medical care, individuals living with hepatitis B chronic infection can expect to live long, healthy lives. In 90% of adults who get infected with hepatitis B, the immune system successfully fights the infection in the early stage of the disease: The virus is cleared from the body in 6 months, the liver fully heals, and the person becomes immune to hepatitis B infections for the rest of his or her life.

Hepatitis B Symptoms

If you have hepatitis B, you might not develop symptoms until complications set in, which can take decades after being infected.
About one-in-20 adults who have had hepatitis B in their adult lives are carriers, meaning that they have chronic (long-lasting) hepatitis B. Most carriers are infectious–meaning they are capable of spreading hepatitis B – for the rest of their lives.

When most hepatitis B infections last longer than six months, they may progress to chronic hepatitis B, which may result in chronic inflammation of the liver, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and/or liver failure

Hepatitis B Prevention

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines on the hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccination, calling for HBV vaccination universally for all U.S. adults aged 19-59 years. The CDC has recommended universal vaccination with HBV within 24 hours of birth for medically stable babies over 2000 grams, removed the lenient language allowing the vaccine to be delayed until after discharge from the hospital, and continues to recommend hepatitis B and Hepatitis Immunization globulin, regardless of birth weight, within 12 hours of birth for babies born to patients with HBV.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is an imbalance in normal bacteria found in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis is a type of vaginal inflammation caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria that are naturally present in the vagina, disrupting the natural balance.

Bacterial vaginosis is most common in women who use vaginal douches or female hygiene products, which disturbs the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is not a sexually transmitted infection (also called STI, sexually transmitted disease, or STD), but is common among women who are sexually active, and it happens very rarely in women who are not having sex.

A woman cannot get BV from sex with a man, but it is likely that BV will develop after changing sex partners because–for reasons that we really do not understand–this may alter the normal balance of microorganisms (bacteria) in the vagina.

Bacterial Vaginosis Symptoms

The most common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are abnormal vaginal discharge with a strong fishy smell, especially after sex.

Bacterial Vaginosis Treatment

Bacterial Vaginosis is treated with antibiotics, either oral or vaginal. The most common antibiotic used for BV is metronidazole, but other antibiotics may also be prescribed. Treatment usually lasts 7 to 10 days. It’s important to finish the entire course of antibiotics to ensure that the infection is cured.

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Public lice

Pubic lice – aka crabs – are tiny parasites that latch onto your skin and hair around the genitals. Pubic lice typically live on your pubic hair, and are spread by sexual contact. They may also spread by touching towels, undergarments, and the bedding of the infected individual.

Pubic lice usually live on skin in your genital areas, but can appear anywhere with coarse hair on your body, including eyelashes, eyebrows, beard, moustache, and any hair on the back or stomach. If you have any lice outside the genital area, your health care provider will check them to make sure that they are pubic lice, and not head lice or body lice.

Public Lice Symptoms

If you have pubic lice, you can experience extreme itchiness in your genital areas. Itching around the genitals is caused by the way your body reacts to crab bites

Public Lice Treatment

Both topical and oral ivermectin have been used successfully for the treatment of lice; however, only topical ivermectin lotion is currently approved by the FDA to treat lice.Public lice may also be treated with OTC medications that contain either pyrethrin or 1% permethrin lotion

Trichomoniasis (Trich)

Trichomoniasis (Trich) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a motile protozoan, the protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis.
Trichomoniasis is the leading cause of vaginal infections that are transmitted by sexual contact.

There are a few reasons why everyone should know about trichomoniasis – not just those who might be at risk of getting it. First of all, trichomoniasis is very common; more than 3 million people in the U.S. have it right now . And although most people who have it don’t show any symptoms , those who do can experience some pretty uncomfortable side effects like itching, burning and discharge from their genitals. Second of all , this infection is easy to treat with antibiotics if caught early on , but left untreated can lead to more serious health problems like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Trichomoniasis Symptoms

One of the reasons that trichomoniasis is spread so easily is because large numbers of infected people — as many as 70% — never develop symptoms.
If you do have symptoms, they typically appear between 5 and 28 days after getting infected.

Most men have no symptoms of trich, but when they do, symptoms may include itching or irritation inside your penis, a discharge, or pain when they urinate.
Women with trichomoniasis will frequently complain of foul-smelling yellow or green vaginal discharge, dyspareunia, urinary frequency, dysuria, and/or pruritus or vulval erythema.

Trichomoniasis Treatment

Standard treatment of trichomoniasis is usually with metronidazole, a 5-nitroimidazole used for infections caused by some protozoan parasites and by anaerobic Gram-negative bacteria.

How to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections

The only 100% guaranteed way to avoid Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) is to have no sex at all – such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex, or touching the genitals from one person to the next.
The spread of certain STIs may be reduced by using fresh, lubricated latex condoms each time sex occurs throughout the entire act, and by reducing your number of sexual partners.
To prevent getting a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, always avoid having sexual intercourse with someone who has sores, rashes, a vaginal discharge, or other symptoms.

Talk with your teen about how he or she can lower his or her risk for STIs by limiting his or her lifetime number of sexual partners.
If you are sexually active, or thinking of becoming sexually active, talk with your primary care provider about STD tests and prevention.

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