STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. STDs are infections that are most often spread through vaginal, anal, and/or oral sex, but they can also be contracted from nonsexual contact like intravenous needle use, childbirth, breastfeeding, and skin-to-skin contact.
STDs are extremely common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s estimated that 20 million STD cases occur each year in the United States,1 and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 1 million STIs acquired every day worldwide.2
STDs may not always show symptoms, but even if no symptoms are present, they can still cause irreversible damage. STDs can be scary, but most can be treated easily, especially if they’re caught early.
Getting tested is not only quick and easy, it’s the only way to know for sure if you do or do not have an STD.
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Chlamydia is a curable bacterial infection and, according to the CDC, it’s the most common notifiable disease in the United States.3 Often chlamydia doesn’t show symptoms, so people do not seek testing. But if left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility. Learn more about chlamydia here.
Gonorrhea is a curable bacterial infection that tends to inhabit moist, warm places like the urethra, rectum, throat, genital tract, and reproductive tract.4 Often it doesn’t show symptoms, but it can still be passed with no symptoms present. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are typical co-infections, which means that it’s likely to acquire both at the same time. Learn more about gonorrhea here.
Syphilis is a curable bacterial infection that tends to go unreported because its symptoms are often absent or indistinguishable. Syphilis has four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. In its early stages, syphilis is the most infectious and the least noticeable. It becomes more apparent in its final stages, which can result in damage to the brain and other organs.5 Learn more about syphilis here.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD. The CDC estimates that nearly every sexually active person will obtain at least one strain of the virus during their lifetime.6 There are over 100 different strains of HPV, most of which the body can fight off on its own. However, a few strains of HPV can cause genital warts or are considered “high-risk” and can lead to cancer. The HPV vaccine can prevent damaging strains of HPV. Learn more about HPV here
Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The virus is most known for causing cold sores/fever blisters on the face and genital region. Herpes spreads through sharing infected fluids, skin-to-skin contact, and contact with cold sores. The virus can spread even when cold sores are not present;7 over half of the population has it;8 and though there is no cure, it can be managed with treatment. Learn more about HSV-1 (oral herpes) or HSV-2 (genital herpes).
Hepatitis is a contagious liver disease that causes inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A is typically caused by eating or drinking items contaminated with infected fecal matter. Hepatitis B and C usually occur as a result of contact with infected bodily fluids. Hepatitis may resolve through rest, replenishing fluids, and, in chronic cases, it can be treated with antiviral medications.9 There are also vaccines available to prevent some strains of hepatitis. Learn more about Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the immune system, weakening the body’s ability to fight off other infections and making the body highly vulnerable to major illnesses. HIV is a lifelong disease, but it can be managed with antiretroviral (ART) medication. If it’s not managed, it can progress into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition.10 Learn more about HIV and AIDs.
Trichomoniasis or “trich” is the most common curable STD in the world, and it’s typically passed through vaginal sex. In the U.S., an estimated 3.7 million people have the infection, but only about 30% of people develop any symptoms. If symptoms are present, they include foul-smelling vaginal discharge, genital itching, and painful urination.11 Learn more about trichomoniasis here.
The biggest takeaway with STD symptoms is that the most common STD symptom is no symptom at all. STDs may or may not show symptoms, depending on the STD and how it reacts with your body. Many STDs share similar symptoms, which is why it’s not possible to diagnose an STD based on symptoms alone; you must get tested in order to receive an accurate diagnosis. That being said, here are some of the most common signs to look out for:
STD symptoms in men include:
STD symptoms in women include:
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of obtaining an STI. However, certain factors can increase your risk. These risk factors include: 12
The following STDs can be cured with antibiotics:
The following STDs are typically cured naturally by the body and/or some strains can be prevented by a vaccine:
The following STDs are lifelong and can be managed with treatment:
The only 100% effective way to prevent STDs is to remain abstinent. However, because abstinence is an unrealistic expectation for most people, it’s necessary to take steps to protect your sexual health and reduce your risk. Here are a few preventative steps you can take:
There are multiple options for STD testing. Regardless of which you choose, routine STD testing is a necessary part of maintaining your sexual health. Testing can be done at free clinics, private doctor’s offices, online lab testing services, and mail-to-order kits. It can be performed using a urine sample, blood sample, and/or swab. It’s necessary to choose an option for STD testing to ensure the sexual health of you and your partner(s).
STDcheck.com is an online lab testing service that provides STD testing through urine and blood samples. With our service, you can order a test online, visit a lab, and receive results in a few days.
Medically Reviewed by J. Frank Martin JR., MD on January 1, 2020Written by Nick Corlis on December 22, 2019