Every year, millions of Americans are infected by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and they experience a wide range of symptoms. The good news is most STDs can be treated with antibiotics, and those that can’t be treated with antibiotics can usually be managed with other medicines. The key is early diagnosis.
Board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, Paul W. Morrison, M.D., has significant experience in both diagnosing and treating STDs in patients at his practice in Newburgh, Indiana, which serves the Evansville area. Here are five common STDs he wants you to know about.
Human papillomavirus is the most common STD. In fact, nearly every person in the United States will eventually develop an HPV infection. Ulike most STDs, though, about 90% of HPV infections clear up over time without causing any noticeable symptoms. If an HPV infection doesn’t clear up, the virus can increase your risk of developing certain cancers later in life, including cancers of the throat, cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, and anus.
Currently, there is no treatment for the virus itself, but HPV vaccination can dramatically decrease your risk of contracting the more serious types of HPV.
Chlamydia is another very common STD, and it affects about 1.6 million Americans. Like many STDs, chlamydia causes few or no symptoms early on, which means diagnosis can be delayed. As the infection progresses, it may cause an unusual or foul-smelling discharge from the vagina or penis, along with pelvic pain. You may also have abnormal bleeding between periods or pain during intercourse.
In women, chlamydia increases the risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease, and it can also make it harder to get pregnant. If you have the infection when you get pregnant, or if you get infected while pregnant, you can also pass the infection to your baby.
Fortunately, chlamydia can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Like any STD treatment, it’s important to take the full course of antibiotics, even if you start feeling better before you’ve taken all of your medicine.
Gonorrhea infects about 668,000 Americans annually, but that number is on the rise. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the infection rate for this virus has increased 45% since 2016.
Like many STDs, gonorrhea may cause no symptoms, especially in the early stages of the infection. When symptoms do occur, they include:
Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can be successfully treated with antibiotics. However, in recent years, some gonorrhea infections have proven resistant to many antibiotics typically used to treat the disease. It's very important to take all of your antibiotics and report any ongoing or recurrent symptoms, so a new medicine can be used.
Syphilis infections are also on the rise in the United States. Infections typically occur in three stages:
In stage 3, the virus can wind up causing serious medical problems, including blindness and dementia.
Syphilis can be cured with antibiotic treatment. Regular STD screenings can help ensure that the virus is detected and treated early, before permanent problems, such as blindness, occur.
Sometimes called HSV-1 or HSV-2, herpes can cause symptoms around your mouth and lips (oral herpes) or around your genitals (genital herpes) or both. While sores are a common symptom, you can have an infection without any visible symptoms, which means you can get herpes from someone who doesn’t have any visible sores.
Currently, there is no cure for herpes. However, there are medicines that can reduce your symptoms, reduce outbreaks, and help prevent you from passing the disease on to your sex partner.
STDs are very common, and there’s no reason to be embarrassed if you think you might have an infection. In fact, getting screened is the responsible thing to do — for yourself and others.
Getting regular STD screenings is important for any sexually active woman, and it’s especially important for women of child-bearing age. The good news is screenings are simple. Typically, all that’s needed is a blood test, urine test, or swab test. If an infection is identified, treatment can begin right away.
To schedule your screening or to learn more about STD diagnosis and treatment, call 812-490-5200 or book an appointment online with the practice of Paul W. Morrison, M.D., today.