What Every Sexually Active Adult Should Know About STDs

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What Every Sexually Active Adult Should Know About STDs

Every year in the United States, millions of people are diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. While many diseases can be treated with a course of antibiotics, other diseases require long-term management — and any disease that’s not treated promptly can wind up causing more serious symptoms.

At his practice in Lakeland, Florida, family care doctor Sergio B. Seoane, MD, helps patients understand the basics about STDs, including what symptoms to look for and what they can do to prevent infection. In this post, he offers some basic STD information that every sexually active person should know.

STD infections are on the rise

While infection rates for many STDs declined for a number of years, recently researchers have noted that the number of infections is actually increasing — sometimes dramatically. In fact, between 2016-2020, gonorrhea rates climbed by 45% and rates of syphilis infections grew by 52%.

STDs pose special risks for pregnant women

Moms-to-be can pass infections to their unborn babies and their newborns. In fact, the rates of congenital syphilis alone increased by an alarming 477% between 2012-2019, according to the CDC. Congenital (at birth) infections pose serious risks for newborns and can lead to stillbirths, as well.

STDs cause different symptoms — and sometimes no symptoms

STD symptoms can vary — sometimes dramatically — depending on the type of STD that’s causing the infection, what part of your body is infected, and the severity of the infection. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Rash, lumps, or bumps near your genitals or anus
  • Vaginal or penile discharge
  • Pain when urinating
  • Blisters, warts, or sores around your genitals or anus
  • Itching around your genitals or anus
  • Sores in or around your mouth
  • Painful sex
  • Fever
  • Pain in the lower belly

Some infections don’t cause any symptoms initially, or the symptoms can be so subtle, it’s easy to mistake them for something else, like an irritation. Regular screening helps identify infections even before obvious symptoms occur.

Not all STDs can be cured

Many STDs respond to antibiotics and other medications designed to kill the pathogen that’s causing the infection. There are some STDs, however, that cannot be cured — but they can be managed.

That includes herpes, a very common STD for which there’s currently no cure. If you have herpes, we can help you find a treatment to prevent flare-ups so you can effectively manage your symptoms.

Oral sex doesn’t prevent STDs

Many people think STDs are only transmitted via intercourse, but that’s not true. You can become infected through oral sex and even sex without penetration. In fact, the only way to prevent STDs is to refrain from sex and other activities that can pass along the germs that cause the infection. 

You can decrease your risk of infection

Realistically, using a condom and a mouth dam provide the greatest protection among all contraceptive options — but they are not foolproof. Other ways to reduce your risk of becoming infected include:

  • Avoid sex with multiple partners
  • Don’t have sex when you’re under the influence
  • Get vaccinated for HPV and hepatitis A and B
  • Consider preexposure prophylaxis (PreP) if your HIV risk is high
  • Use condoms and mouth dams consistently
  • Avoid sex with a new partner until they’ve been tested

Always discuss safer sex practices with any partner before beginning a sexual relationship.

Regular screening is essential for anyone who’s sexually active

While regular STD screening can’t prevent STDs, it can play an important role in preventing them from being transmitted to others (in addition to preventing a more serious infection). The CDC recommends regular screening for anyone who’s sexually active. Specific screening recommendations can be seen on their website here.

Protect yourself with regular screening

STD symptoms can be very subtle and difficult to identify on your own, especially in their early stages. Having regular screenings is important for keeping yourself healthy and your partner healthy, too. 

STD screening can be performed as part of your regular wellness exam or during a “standalone” appointment. To learn more, call 863-644-2204 or book an appointment online with Dr. Seoane today.