Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are infections that are primarily transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact. These infections can affect both men and women and may cause a wide range of symptoms and health complications. Some common STDs include:
- Chlamydia: Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, it often presents with no symptoms but can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility if left untreated.
- Gonorrhea: Caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, it can cause symptoms such as discharge, painful urination, and can also lead to PID if untreated.
- Syphilis: Caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, it progresses through several stages and can lead to severe health issues, including damage to organs like the heart and brain.
- Herpes: Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), it can cause painful sores or blisters on or around the genitals and mouth. There are two types: HSV-1 (typically associated with oral herpes) and HSV-2 (typically associated with genital herpes).
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): A group of viruses that can cause genital warts and is linked to certain types of cancer, including cervical cancer.
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): A virus that attacks the immune system, leading to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, sharing needles, or from mother to child during childbirth or breastfeeding.
- Hepatitis B and C: These viruses primarily affect the liver and can be transmitted through sexual contact, among other routes.
STDs are transmitted through various forms of sexual contact, which may include:
- Unprotected Sexual Intercourse: This includes vaginal, anal, or oral sex without the use of a condom or dental dam.
- Skin-to-Skin Contact: Some STDs, like herpes and syphilis, can be transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact with infected areas, including sores or lesions.
- Sharing Needles: STDs such as HIV and hepatitis can be transmitted when individuals share needles or syringes for drug use.
- Mother-to-Child Transmission: In some cases, STDs can be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth or breastfeeding.
Prevention of STDs includes practicing safe sex by using condoms or dental dams, getting vaccinated for preventable infections like HPV and hepatitis, undergoing regular STD testing and screenings, and limiting sexual partners. Early detection and treatment are crucial for managing and preventing complications associated with STDs. If an individual suspects they may have an STD or has been exposed to one, they should seek medical advice and testing.