Talking about STD’s doesn’t come naturally to most of us. But according to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, roughly half of sexually active individuals contract an STD by the age of 25.
In 2018 the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that approximately 1 in 8 between the ages of 14 to 49 had genital herpes and roughly 50% in this age group had the virus responsible for the majority of oral herpes cases.
Did you know that condoms can’t be relied on to prevent the transmission of herpes?
This is just one of the many reasons experts recommend regular STD screening for sexually active women under 25 and those over 45 with multiple partners.
Paying Attention to Your Sexual and Reproductive Health Is as Important as Any Other Facet of Your Health Care
Health issues related to STDs tend to be more frequent and severe for women versus men, and STDs can be passed from a mother to her unborn child, increasing the risk of infant death or disability.
Because we know that you may be reluctant to bring this topic up with your doctor, significant other, or best friend, here are some of the common STD symptoms you should know about, including when it’s time to seek medical attention.
Vaginal discharge is most often 100% normal—except when it’s not. A normal discharge looks white or clear. Abnormal discharge can range from yellow to green to gray and be thick or cloudy. It can smell bad, sometimes even fishy smelling.
It’s true that your period can affect the odor, amount and color of discharge and an abnormal discharge can be symptomatic of many issues, not just STDs. But in the case of chlamydia and gonorrhea, abnormal discharge is present often enough to be a red flag.
If you have a continual discharge that is colored and/or has an odor it’s time to see a doctor.
Most women will experience one or more bladder infections in their lifetimes. A burning sensation or pain during urination is a common sign of bladder infection, as is the urge to go, but if you experience these signs along with blood in your urine, you may be dealing with gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Symptoms of HIV and the flu include rash, fatigue, fever, headache, and sore throat, making it easy to assume you have a viral infection when in fact you could have something more serious. According to experts, swollen lymph nodes are a major distinguishing factor, as is the amount of time you feel ill. Flu symptoms usually abate in 7-10 days but if you have the above symptoms longer than two weeks, it’s time to see your health care provider and get a saliva or blood test that can determine if you have HIV.
Fever occurs with a great many health problems, most often with upper respiratory issues. But when fever is present with pelvic pain it can point to pelvic inflammatory disease. Fever together with a sore throat, fatigue and headache could be an indication of HIV, while fever together with dark urine, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, itching, and muscle or joint pain, could be warning signs of hepatitis A, B, or C.
Warts or Lesions
Many STDs are characterized by the presence of warts or lesions, including syphilis. Syphilis is a bacterial infection and the first symptom is often a sore at the site where the infection was transmitted. Next to appear are symptoms such as fever, rash, fatigue, enlarged lymph nodes, and aches and pains. Around 15% of untreated individuals will go blind and/or incur nerve damage.
Genital warts are commonly seen with the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is extremely common and experts believe that nearly every sexually active person in the U.S. will contract one of the dozens of HPV types at one time or another.
HPV doesn’t display a predictable array of symptoms, however. Some types present with genital warts, while other types show no signs or symptoms.
Because you can have HPV and not know it, it’s crucial for women to get regular pap smears as well as HPV screenings. Condoms can only reduce the risk of HPV infecting the cervix, they do not guarantee 100% protection from transmission of the virus. There is an HPV vaccine and you should discuss this with your doctor if you feel you may be at risk for HPV.
The herpes virus is another sexually transmitted condition that can result in sores on the body. However, many individuals contract and shed the virus without knowing it, which makes it difficult to prevent.
Experts caution that STD-associated body sores and warts can be mistaken for an ingrown hair. But such sores are typically longer lasting than a simple ingrown hair and will appear in clusters.
Lastly, if you have a rash this can be the result of any number and types of skin irritation. But a rash can be an indication of a STD when it occurs alongside other signs and symptoms.
For example, a rash in combination with flu-like symptoms could point to the possibility of HIV or syphilis, particularly if you have a sore on your genitals, rectum or mouth.
If you have any of the above symptoms that are not going away, the best course of action is to see a doctor sooner rather than later.
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