Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on March 27, 2020. Written by Libby Pellegrini. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Sexually transmitted infections—known as STIs or STDs—come in many different forms. They can be transmitted between sexual partners through vaginal, penile, anal, and/or oral sex. Many STDs will have no symptoms, and some may have very mild symptoms that don’t become pronounced until the infection has been present for some time. In order to fully protect yourself from STDs, it’s important to use a protective barrier, such as a latex condom, whenever you have sex. Routinely screening for STDs is another good step to take. (Unsure how to get tested for STDs? You can test yourself for 6 common STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis from the privacy of home using the Everlywell option for STD testing for men and women.
Read on to learn more about the different types of STDs, how to know if you have an STD, and STD testing and treatment options.
According to the CDC, a chlamydial infection is the most commonly reported STD. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that can both infect men and women; however, women are more likely to get it.
Chlamydia can be contracted through vaginal, penile, anal, or oral sex with an infected person. Many women and men will have no symptoms at all with a chlamydial infection. However, when symptoms are present, women may experience abnormal vaginal discharge or the sensation of burning during urination. Men may also experience a burning sensation with urination, penile discharge, or swelling or pain in the testicles. If the infection is in the rectum, it can cause pain, discharge or bleeding.
It’s recommended that sexually active women under age 25, and any women with risk factors like new or multiple partners, be tested for chlamydia every year. This is because a chlamydia infection can spread from the cervix to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing damage to a woman’s reproductive system via inflammation and scarring. This is a serious medical condition called “pelvic inflammatory disease,” or PID, which can be asymptomatic or have symptoms such as abdominal or pelvic pain and vaginal discharge. When the fallopian tubes become scarred, their ability to carry eggs to the uterus is impaired, which affects fertility. Fallopian scarring can also increase the likelihood of a pregnancy outside of the uterus, which is a potentially fatal condition called an ectopic pregnancy.
Chlamydia can also cause problems for pregnant women because the infection can be passed from a mother to her baby, potentially causing pneumonia in newborns. Routine prenatal visits screen for chlamydia infections.
You can test for chlamydia from the comfort of your own home using the Everlywell Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test. You’ll get your results online, and if you test positive you’ll have the opportunity to connect with our independent physician network—and may be prescribed medication.
Gonorrhea is the second-most commonly reported STD in the United States. Gonorrhea infections are more commonly reported in men than in women. While gonorrhea and chlamydia are quite similar, these infections are caused by different kinds of bacteria.
Gonorrhea can be transmitted through vaginal, penile, anal, or oral sex. Additionally, gonorrhea can be passed from a mother to her baby during childbirth, potentially causing a serious infection.
Gonorrhea can be present in men and women, and it can be completely asymptomatic. When symptoms do occur in women, they can include painful urination, abnormal vaginal discharge, abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic discomfort, or sore throat. When symptoms occur in men, they can include painful urination, penile discharge, swollen or irritated testicles, or sore throat.
Similar to chlamydia, it is recommended that sexually active women under age 25, and women with risk factors like new or multiple partners, be tested for gonorrhea every year. This is because, like chlamydia, an untreated gonorrhea infection can cause a serious condition called pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. This condition can lead to future reproductive difficulties and it can also increase a woman’s chance of a pregnancy outside the uterus.
Treatment for gonorrhea is done with antibiotics. However, due to antibiotic resistance, gonorrhea is on the rise. In fact, the CDC reports that there has been a 63% increase in cases since 2014.
If you think you may have been exposed to gonorrhea, or if you’d just like to screen for this STD from the comfort of your own home, you can use the discreet Everlywell Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test.
Trichomoniasis or “trich” infections are caused by a parasite, and they are more common in women than in men. According to the CDC, it is the most common curable STD in the United States.
In women, trichomoniasis infections can occur on the outer genitals, in the vagina, cervix, or urethra. In men, the urethra can become infected.
Only about 30% of people with trich will have symptoms. In women, symptoms can include painful urination, itching, vaginal discharge, and pain during sexual intercourse. Men can experience symptoms like painful urination, itching of the genital area, or penile discharge.
Having a trichomoniasis infection can put you at risk of contracting other STDs like HIV or syphilis. It can also cause problems in pregnancy, such as preterm delivery or low birth weight.
Trichomoniasis can be easily detected with a simple urine test. Once identified, it can be treated with antibiotics. If you’re concerned you may be experiencing the signs or symptoms of trichomoniasis, you can test yourself from the comfort of your own home using the Everlywell Trichomoniasis Test.
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that is common in both men and women. It is spread through sexual contact, either vaginal, penile, anal, or oral. It is estimated that more than one in every six American ages 14 to 49 has a genital herpes infection.
Genital herpes is caused by two different viral strains: herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 commonly affects the mouth, causing cold sores. Many people will contract this during childhood through kissing or sharing food or drinks; it can be spread without sexual contact. However, during oral sex, it can pass from the mouth to the genitals, causing genital herpes. HSV-2 is an infection that typically affects the genitals. Women are more likely than men to have an HSV-2 infection.
Most people with genital herpes are asymptomatic. However, even without symptoms, they are capable of spreading the virus to others. When STD symptoms are present, small, blister-like lesions known as “vesicles” can appear in the mouth, genital, or anal regions. These are often painful and can burn, although itching is also reported. When these vesicles rupture, they leave a shallow ulcer which gradually heals over the course of days or weeks.
A first outbreak of genital herpes can occur with other symptoms, such as fever, body aches, fatigue, or headache. Subsequent outbreaks tend to have a “prodrome,” which is a period of time during which people feel a painful, tingling, or burning sensation prior to the appearance of the lesions.
Once a person contracts the herpes simplex virus, it lives in the nerve cells for life. Although there is no cure for genital herpes, there are treatments to help with symptoms. These include antiviral medicines and anti-inflammatory medications.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, can be transmitted through sexual contact and by using contaminated needles. It is the virus that, left unchecked, can lead to the condition known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.
HIV is notoriously connected to other STDs. Having another STD, especially syphilis, herpes or gonorrhea, can make a person more susceptible to contracting HIV. And having these other STDs can also make it easier to pass HIV along to others.
According to the CDC, about 1.1 million Americans had HIV in 2016. Men are more likely than women to contract HIV. Of those people who have HIV, 1 in 7 are unaware that they have the infection. This may be because symptoms of an HIV infection sometimes aren’t noticeable right away. Symptoms of an early HIV infection include flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, sweats, body aches, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, or swollen lymph nodes. About 2 out of 3 people will have these symptoms about two to four weeks after contracting HIV.
After the initial infection, the virus slows down its replication rate, but continues making copies of itself at low levels. Many people with HIV may be asymptomatic for years. If the virus replicates long enough, HIV may eventually progress to the condition known as AIDS, and many other symptoms and opportunistic infections may appear.
If HIV is detected before it progresses to AIDS, there are many medications available to help control the replication of the virus. Many people who are on a daily HIV medication will never have their condition progress to AIDS, and can live a very normal life. Medical science is evolving every day in the fight against HIV, and many researchers predict a cure may be in sight.
Medical authorities recommend that everyone ages 13 to 64 get screened for HIV at least once in their lifetime. You can easily screen yourself from the comfort of your own home using the Everlywell at-home HIV Test, which only requires a small blood sample collected with a simple, quick finger prick.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that is more common in men than women. Transmission occurs by coming into contact with a syphilis sore; these can be present on the penis, vagina, anus, lips, or mouth.
When a person contracts syphilis, they generally will develop a painless, round sore at the site of infection. This is a called a “primary” syphilis infection. Because the sores are painless, many people will not notice them. Left untreated, primary syphilis can progress to a secondary form, which can have symptoms of a skin rash (present on the palms and soles), or sores on the mucous membranes of the mouth, vagina, or anus.
People may also experience lymph node enlargement, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, or fever. These symptoms may also be rather mild and can go unnoticed. If a secondary syphilis infection remains undetected, it can progress to a third stage, known as tertiary syphilis. This stage tends to occur 10 to 30 years after an initial infection. In this stage, serious damage can occur to the brain, heart, eyes, and other organs. Fortunately, syphilis is treatable with antibiotics before it progresses to the tertiary stage.
Syphilis can be passed from a mother to her baby, causing low birth weight, premature birth, or even a stillbirth. Pregnant women are typically tested as a part of their prenatal care. Other people who should routinely test for syphilis include men who have sex with men, people with HIV, or people who have partners with syphilis. You can discreetly check yourself for syphilis with the Everlywell at-home Syphilis Test.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can cause a chronic liver infection. It is typically spread through contact with contaminated blood; however, it can also be spread through sexual contact, though the risk of this is low. The risk of getting hepatitis C through sexual contact is increased in people with HIV, people with multiple sexual partners, and people who engage in high-risk sexual activity (like not using protection).
Men are more likely than women to have hepatitis C. Hepatitis C may not cause any immediate symptoms but, if they do occur, symptoms can include fatigue, changes in the appearance of urine or stool, appetite changes, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or yellowing of the eyes or skin. Many people who are infected with hepatitis C do not know that they have the infection. Most people who contract hepatitis C will go on to develop chronic hepatitis C, and of those, a percentage will develop liver scarring, known as cirrhosis.
The CDC recommends that everyone born between 1945 and 1965, anyone who received clotting factors made before 1987 or blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992, people who are former or active IV drug users, people on hemodialysis, and people with HIV all take a hepatitis C test. You can easily test yourself from the comfort of your own home with the Everlywell Hepatitis C Test.
Human papillomavirus, also known as “HPV,” is a common sexually transmitted disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 79 million Americans—mostly teens and young adults—are infected with HPV. Many people who have an HPV infection have no symptoms, but they can still transmit the virus. There are up to 200 different types or “strains” of HPV, but only 40 strains are spread through sexual contact.
Generally, the body is able to clear the HPV infection on its own within 12 months; however, some strains can cause genital warts, and other “high-risk” strains are responsible for triggering the development of cancerous cells in the cervix (as well as the vagina, anus, mouth, or throat in women) ref].
Because of the the cervical cancer risk that comes with a persistent HPV infection with high-risk strains, it’s important to get routine screenings. Traditionally, evaluation for cervical cancer could only be accomplished via a Papanicolaou (Pap) smear, which is a procedure that collects cells from the cervix and vagina.
However, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued guidelines that have expanded HPV DNA testing for cervical cancer screening, and now endorses an option of primary high-risk HPV testing every 5 years for women who are age 30–65.
The Everlywell at-home HPV test lets you to check for 14 strains of high-risk HPV with a simple vaginal swab. If you have a positive test result, there are different treatment options you can discuss with your healthcare provider.
Pubic lice, known colloquially as “crabs,” can be spread through sexual contact. These lice are parasites and can be present in three forms: nits, nymphs, or adults. Symptoms of a pubic lice infection include an itching or burning sensation in the affected area. A pubic lice infection is generally diagnosed through direct observation of the creatures themselves. Treatment consists of anti-parasitic lotions or creams.
A scabies infestation is caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the skin. Scabies can be spread through sexual contact, but they can also be spread by other means—such as sharing bedding or living in a crowded institution, such as a nursing home, college dorm, or prison.
Symptoms of scabies include severe itching, which is often worse at night. Treatment of scabies can be accomplished using a specific medication that kills the mites. Retreatment after 2-4 weeks may be necessary in order to eliminate the entire mite population.
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