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The acronym STD refers to a Sexually Transmitted Disease. This is a set of diseases or infections spread specifically through sexual activity or intercourse with an infected partner. The term Sexually Transmitted Infection (or STI) is also frequently used to refer to this same set of ailments. However, knowing whether you have an STD is a little tricky because the symptoms are common to other issues.
What Does STD Mean?
There is a wide variety of both bacterial and viral STDs globally, and many can be cured completely with simple prescription treatments. We hope to take some of the guesswork out of the equation by providing you with some straightforward guidelines regarding STDs today and what to do if you think you may have one.
How to prevent STDs or STIs
The only sure-fire, 100% effective way to prevent an STD/STI is to completely abstain from any sexual activity. The use of male condoms can greatly reduce this risk, but there are many STIs which can be transmitted by skin not covered with male condoms. Female condoms are even less effective in the prevention of STIs, although they at least provide some form of protection during vaginal intercourse if a male condom is unavailable or not an option.
Can you get an STD from kissing?
The short answer is: YES! Any of the STDs that cause sores or warts can be transmitted through kissing. This includes Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) and even Syphilis. Be sure to have open communication with your romantic partner before being intimate and get STD testing done if warranted beforehand.
Can you get an STD from oral sex?
The short answer is: ABSOLUTELY! Like with kissing, any contact with skin that can transmit STDs is likely to also transmit the infection between partners. There is an added risk with oral sex, due to the increase in bodily fluids exchanged. Condoms can help to reduce this risk somewhat, but the possibility of STD transmission is still very much there with oral sex, like any other form of intercourse. Male condoms don’t cover all potentially infected areas, and female condoms even less so. Increased infections of syphilis and HIV during certain eras were, in fact, directly liked to oral sex.
Signs of STD or STI
STD symptoms can vary a lot. With many cases of STDs, the carrier is asymptomatic, meaning that there are no symptoms at all. One of the reasons that some STDs spread so widely and quickly through the population is their asymptomatic nature. Imagine having a potentially life-threatening illness and passing it along to a loved one without even being aware you have it.
This is yet another reason to make sure you and your partner get STD testing before engaging in sexual activity. One of you could infect the other without even knowing it.
Common Symptoms of STDs
There are many different ways for STDs to present, and many of the symptoms are the same for both women and men alike. Here are some things to watch out for, regardless of your gender, if you’ve been sexually active and have not been tested recently:
- Zero symptoms (as is the case with asymptomatic carriers)
- Painful urination
- Increased need to urinate
- Chancre sores around genitalia, anus, or mouth (including the throat and/or tongue)
- Swollen glands
- Inexplicable body or muscle aches
- Warts or bumps on, in, or around genital area, anus, or mouth (including the throat and/or tongue)
- Pain during intercourse
- Night sweats
- Unexpected weight loss
STD Symptoms Women
Along with all of the above possible symptoms, (or even sometimes lack thereof) vaginal itching is an extremely common symptom among women who show signs of a sexually transmitted infection. It is, in fact, one of the most common symptoms of an STD for women. If you have ruled out a yeast infection and continue to experience vaginal itching, it could be a sign of an STD or STI.
Unusual vaginal discharge is another extremely common symptom for women experiencing an STD. While thick white discharge might indicate a simple yeast infection, if the discharge is brown, yellow or green in color, or unpleasant-smelling, it could be a sign of gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or any number of other STDs. Unless a proper STD test is done, it’s impossible to know for sure, so that should be the first step towards feeling better and getting healthy.
STD Symptoms Men
Colored, and/or foul-smelling discharge from the penis can be a common symptom of STDs in men, in addition to the symptoms mentioned above. Painful ejaculation is another male-specific symptom to watch out for. If you’re experiencing either of these symptoms, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible so that you can start treatment and ease that discomfort.
Some of the most common STDs
While it’s possible for anyone engaging in sexual activity to get an STD, some are more common than others. Here are some of the most commonly diagnosed in the U.S.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is likely the most common of all STDs/STIs, for which there is luckily a vaccine available now. Prior to the vaccine being available, though, it was estimated that nearly 80% of the sexually active population were infected with this virus. It can cause various kinds of cancer, along with genital warts. It can also be completely asymptomatic, so getting tested for HPV is very important to avoid the possibility of infecting your partner unwittingly.
The chlamydia STD is probably the most common STD that can be completely cured with treatment. Many don’t realize they have it for long periods of time, because people can carry it (and infect others) while being asymptomatic. This, along with the ease of its spread, both contribute to it being so common.
In women, the bacteria infect the cervix and can cause symptoms like vaginal discharge and pain during intercourse. For men, symptoms can also include painful intercourse and penile discharge, as the bacteria infects primarily the urethra in men. Again, routine STD testing is the only way to know definitively whether you carry this bacterium or not, and the treatment is straightforward, typically just involving a course of antibiotics.
This STD affects largely the same organs that chlamydia does, with similar means of transmission via any kind of intercourse. In pregnant women, there is even a higher risk of transmitting it to the baby during delivery. Also, like chlamydia, a person with gonorrhea may not experience any symptoms, so testing is vital if you suspect a possibility of infection. Again, treatment is simple and usually entails antibiotics.
Syphilis is also caused by a bacterium that frequently (but not always) causes chancres, or small, painless sores on the infected areas. The sores can and may go away on their own, but the bacterial infection remains, internally, which also makes it harder to detect. Lack of medical treatment for syphilis can lead to very serious health problems down the line, such as dementia, paralysis, and even organ failure. It is easily spread via vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse, or even kissing, if the infected person has an active sore in their mouth. This is yet another STD that is important to be tested for, as it can remain invisible for years at a time and will truly cause great harm to your entire body if left undiagnosed.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
One of the more well-known STDs is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. It is transmitted through any kind vaginal, anal or oral intercourse, and those with a medical history of other STDs have shown to be at an increased risk of contracting HIV according to the Center for Disease Control. Symptoms can include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, among others, but it is important to note that many patients can go years without showing any symptoms. Testing is absolutely necessary for a definitive diagnosis and subsequent treatment, which can save lives.
Of the STDs discussed here, Trichomoniasis (or “trich”) is the only non-viral, non-bacterial infection. It is actually a tiny parasitic organism that lives in the lower part of the genital tract, and thus can be easily transmitted during vaginal intercourse. Symptoms for both men and women can include painful urination, pain during intercourse, genital discomfort/itching, and unusual discharge. However, up to 70% of people infected by trichomoniasis show no symptoms, so if trichomoniasis is suspected, an STD check is advisable.
Can STDs Go Away on Their Own?
Yes, and no. While certain symptoms may go away, like with syphilis or chlamydia, the infection remains. So, while you may not be experiencing immediate effects from an STD, you could still transmit it to your partner. Additionally, the long-term health effects of infections like syphilis can be life-threatening, so it’s better to err on the side of caution by seeking testing and treatment as soon as possible. STDs are not medical conditions that will just go away if ignored. In many cases, they can get much, much worse, turning into life-threatening conditions.
How to Know if You Have an STD or STI
While many of the symptoms mentioned here can aid with the diagnosis and treatment of an STD or STI, research shows us that many people experience no symptoms at all. This is one of the main reasons that STD testing is so important. If you’ve been sexually active at all, the only way to know with certainty whether you have an STD is to get tested. Most of the tests can be done with a simple urine test (urinalysis) or blood test. It’s that easy. The wait time to get your results may vary. Depending on the testing agency you use, your results could take anywhere from hours to weeks.
How can I find STD testing near me?
It’s probably easier and more convenient than you think! We get it; sexually transmitted infections are deeply private and personal medical matters, and their diagnosis and treatment should reflect that, too.
If you’re looking for a confidential and anonymous STD test, our partners at STD Check have over 4,500 locations around the country. They are a leader in the field, having conducted more than 2 million tests to date. Their testing is not only reliable, but fast, to get you not only answers, but if needed, on your way to medical treatment and relief that much sooner.
Even if you don’t get the STD test results you’re hoping for, just know that we at Compounding Pharmacy of America are here to help. We are dedicated to providing our customers with top quality custom prescriptions to discreetly aid in their treatments, whether that be removing allergenic additives, finding more economical formulations, making liquid forms of medications, along with many other services.
Chief Operating Officer, The Compounding Pharmacy of America
Matthew Poteet, Pharm.D. graduated with Honors from Lee University with a Bachelors of Science in Biological Science. After his undergraduate training, he completed the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy, graduating in 2004. Dr. Poteet has spent much of his pharmacy career on staff at two of the most prestigious academic teaching hospitals in the Southeast; Emory University in Atlanta and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. At these institutions he received extensive experience and training in sterile products compounding.
He returned home to East Tennessee in 2010, where he has held the position of Pharmacy Director at two sterile products pharmacies in Knoxville. Matthew lives in Knoxville with his wife, Chris. Dr. Poteet is Tennessee’s first Board Certified Anti-Aging Pharmacist by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.