Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Frequently Asked Questions about STD's

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What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

Sexually transmitted diseases, commonly known as STDs, were once referred to as venereal diseases. These diseases are contracted by having unprotected sex (vaginal, oral, or anal) with someone who is infected with an STD. Sexual contact includes kissing, oral-genital contact, and the shared use of sexual devices such as vibrators. Around for thousands of years, STDs are the most common infectious diseases in the United States. More than 25 STDs have been documented, many with different strains. The most dangerous of these diseases is the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, otherwise known as AIDS. STDs are widespread; more than 13 million people in the US are infected each year.

Without treatment, these diseases can lead to major health problems such as sterility (not being able to get pregnant), heart disease, cancer, permanent brain damage, and even death.

Do condoms protect against STDs?

Condoms do not provide complete protection against all STDs, like herpes, HPV (warts), and syphilis. These diseases can still be transferred through contact with areas that are not covered by a condom. Condoms can provide some, though not complete, protection from some STDs such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, HIV, and trichomoniasis.

It’s important to remember to use a latex condom. A natural or “skin” condom does not provide the same protection; the HIV virus and other STDs can pass through this type of condom. Non-latex polyurethane condoms also tend to break up to five times more frequently. Use a new latex condom or dental damn for each new sexual act. Always practice safe sex.

How will I know if I get an STD?

Many STDs are non-symptomatic, especially in women. By the time you have symptoms, the infection is usually advanced. The most common symptoms can include: sores or blisters on or around the sex organs or mouth; discharge from the vagina or penis that looks or smells unusual; itching; swelling; or pain in or around the sex organs; and pain or burning during urination.

Also, if you have abdominal pain or unusual vaginal discharge that is yellow, gray, green with a strong odor (it is normal to have a clear or white discharge between periods). The only way to know if you have contracted an STD is to be tested. It’s important to be treated early as STDs can result in infertility (not being able to get pregnant), and they can also be passed to a baby during pregnancy or birth.

What are the most common STDs?

  • Public Lice
  • Gonorrhea
  • Genital Herpes
  • Chlamydia
  • CMV
  • Human Papillomavirus
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • NGU
  • Scabies
  • Syphilis
  • Vaginitis
  • PID
  • Molluscum
  • HIV/Aids

What is an STD test?

There are several ways to test for an STD. (See specific STD links for more information.) The doctor generally begins by asking you questions about your risk elements. Next he or she will examine your skin, throat and genital area for growths, skin rashes, or sores, and also look inside your vagina and at your cervix (opening to the uterus). For men, the doctor may take a swab from inside your penis.

The doctor may take a fluid or tissue sample from your skin, vaginal, or penis or anal areas and send it to a lab for testing. Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomoniasis can be diagnosed with a urine test. Hepatitis C, Syphilis, and HIV are all blood-borne illnesses which require blood testing. None of these tests are painful and the benefits far outweigh a few minutes in stirrups, or a quick swab. The important thing is to have the test!

How are STDs spread?

STD’s are spread through vaginal or oral sex without the proper use of a latex condom. Anal sex tends to be a greater risk because there is more chance of bleeding. STDs are spread through bodily fluids, such as semen, blood, and vaginal secretions. Infection can also be contracted from skin or mucous membranes and sores in the mouth. Shared use of needles and syringes for drug use and unsanitary tattoo and body piercing equipment can all lead to an STD. STDs are on the rise in people under 25, because today people are having sex at a much earlier age.

Anyone can be infected with an STD; all nationalities, economic levels, and backgrounds, are susceptible. The health issues triggered by STDs have a tendency to be worse in women. Over 15% of American women have been left infertile due to an untreated STD.

Can STDs be cured?

Many STDs can be treated, depending on the type and strain. Some can be cured completely, while with others only the symptoms can be managed. HIV, HPV, and hepatitis C and B are currently incurable. Some STDs do not show any symptoms, particularly in women, therefore spreading the disease without knowledge. Many doctors recommend periodic testing for STDs if you have more than one sexual partner. The only way to prevent STDs is abstinence or sex in a monogamous relationship where neither party is infected. Even kissing is not safe: syphilis, herpes, and a few other forms of STDs can be spread with even that somewhat innocent act.

Several forms of STDs can even put your life in jeopardy if left untreated. STDs do not just affect your physical health; they can also take their toll on your emotional wellbeing. Before you begin a sexual relationship, make sure to ask if your partner has ever had an STD, or used intravenous drugs. If you notice a discharge, rash, open sores, or even an unpleasant odor, refrain from becoming intimate. Even a cold sore is a form of herpes. If you suspect you have an STD, see your doctor immediately for your best chance at a cure.

Pubic Lice

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Public lice, also known as crabs, are small parasites that feed on human blood. They are primarily found in the pubic or genital area of humans. They can affect anyone, anywhere, in all cultures.

Causes of Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are usually spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, although there have been cases of pubic lice documented from infected toilets, bedding and clothing.

Symptoms of Pubic Lice

Pubic lice can be asymptomatic (not showing symptoms). The most common symptom is itching in the pubic area. If you have been bitten by a number of lice, a mild fever and fatigue can occur. Sometimes, small red spots on underwear appear from bleeding bites.

Diagnosis of Pubic Lice

The lice may be visible with careful inspection. A microscope will help your physician see them clearly.

Treatment of Pubic Lice

Products are available without a prescription at pharmacies, or your doctor can prescribe a treatment. Generally, the treatment is a lice-killing shampoo. As long as you follow the directions on the bottle, it should not be difficult to resolve the problem. It’s important to remember to change all bed linens and wash infected clothing.


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Gonorrhea (say: gan-e re-uh) is caused by a bacteria (neisseria gonorrheae). Often referred to as the “clap”, gonorrhea is contracted through sexual contact with an infected person. It can also be transferred through bodily fluids, which means a newborn could contract the infection during childbirth. The bacteria grow and easily multiply in moist, warm areas, such as the uterus, cervix, Fallopian tubes, and urethra (tube that carries urine). Gonorrhea bacteria can even grow in the eyes. It affects both men and women, and most often occurs in people who have multiple sex partners.

Causes of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can be spread by contact with the mouth, vagina, penis, or anus of an infected person. You are most likely to be infected if you do not use a condom during sex, abuse alcohol or illegal substances, have multiple sex partners, or have a partner who has a history of an STD. Every state in the US has a law which requires all health care providers to report anyone who is diagnosed with gonorrhea.

Symptoms of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea often shows no symptoms until the infection is more advanced. Sometimes the symptoms are so mild in women that they assume the small discharge they are experiencing is a yeast infection and begin to treat themselves with over-the-counter medications. Others think they have a bladder infection, or UTI. If you notice any type of discharge, especially if you are sexually active, it’s best to see your doctor for a correct diagnosis and get the right treatment. The most common symptoms in women are discharge from the vagina or anus, painful burning sensation when urinating, anal itching, painful bowel movements, vaginal bleeding between menstrual cycles, swelling of the vulva, burning in the throat (due to oral sex), conjunctivitis, lower abdominal or pelvic pain and spotting during intercourse. Symptoms in men can include burning while urinating, painful or swollen testicles, burning in the throat (due to oral sex) and greenish yellow or whitish discharge from the penis.

If you contract gonorrhea in the throat, it can present itself with a sore throat. Left untreated, gonorrhea can be life threatening. It can cause infertility and chronic pelvic pain and also spread to the blood and or joints.

Diagnosis of Gonorrhea

There are several ways to diagnose gonorrhea. You doctor can perform a urine test or take a sample from the infected area with a swab, from the cervix in women and the urethra in men. This is sent to a lab for analysis. Your doctor may also take a culture from your anus or throat, depending on your symptoms. Often, if you have gonorrhea, you should also be checked for Chlamydia.

Treatment of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is treatable with oral or injectable antibiotics. To prevent reinfection and further spread of the disease, your partner should also be treated, at the same time. Your health care provider will determine the best and most up-to-date treatment for you – never treat yourself without seeing your physician first. Complete the entire course antibiotics, and never take someone else’s medications. It’s important to tell *all* your sexual partners that you are infected with the gonorrhea bacteria. Also, refrain from sex until you have finished your antibiotics and always use a latex condom.

There are two goals in treating a sexually transmitted disease, especially one as easily spread as gonorrhea. The first is to cure the infection in the patient. The second is to locate and test all of the other people the person had sexual contact with and treat them to prevent further spread of the disease. If symptoms such as pelvic, belly, or joint pain persist after 7 days, a follow up visit should be made with your doctor. You may need more treatment to ensure the infection is gone.

Genital Herpes

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Genital herpes is an STD caused by the herpes simplex virus. It can be spread through secretions of the mouth or genitals. Most infection in the genitals, buttocks, or anal area is caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV-2). The infection has seen a significant surge in the population under 25, due to an increase in sexuality activity in that age group; also, the HSV-1 has increasingly been found to cause genital herpes.

Causes of Genital Herpes

The herpes simplex type 2 STD can be spread through the secretions from the mouth or genitals. The herpes simplex virus type 1 most often causes the infections of the mouth and lips. Herpes is most likely to be transmitted by contact with the skin of an infected person who has visible sores, blisters, or a rash (an active outbreak), but you can also catch herpes from an infected person’s skin when they have NO visible sores present (and the person may not even know that he or she is infected), or from an infected person’s mouth (saliva) or vaginal fluids.

Because the virus can be spread even when there are no symptoms or sores present, a sexual partner who has been infected with herpes in the past but has no active herpes sores can still pass the infection on to others.

Genital HSV-2 infections is more common in women (approximately 1 of every 4 women is infected) than it is in men (nearly 1 of every 8 men is infected).

Symptoms of Genital Herpes

The herpes virus does not show symptoms until blisters develop, generally two weeks after exposure to the virus. These blisters typically show up around the genital area and rectum. The most common symptoms in women are: small red bumps and/or open sores on the vagina, around the genital and anal area, thighs, and buttocks. In men, the most common symptoms include the same on the penis, scrotum, around the anus, thighs, and buttocks. In both men and women, the mouth, eyes, lips, fingers, tongue, and other parts of the body, can also show blisters. When these blisters break, they are very painful, leaving a shallow blister. They generally heal in about 7-10 days. Some people experience fever, headache, swollen glands, muscle aches, and abnormal vaginal discharge or pain when urinating.

The virus hides and remains dormant. The infection can flare up at any time, but tends to decrease in frequency over time. The sores may be so mild they are mistaken for an insect bite. Flare-ups can be aggravated by trauma, physical and emotional stress, genital irritation and even menstruation. Attacks tend to be milder and shorter in duration for men.

Diagnosis of Genital Herpes

If your doctor is unable to locate sores, s/he may take a blood sample. If sores are visible, your doctor can take a sample with a swab and send it to the lab for evaluation.

Treatment of Genital Herpes

Antiviral medication can relieve pain and discomfort during an outbreak by healing the sores more quickly, but there is no cure for genital herpes. Talk to your doctor about the best course of treatment; often, the preferred medications provide greater relief during initial outbreaks, more so than in subsequent flare-ups. Some people with chronic outbreaks take these medications over time; it can help prevent giving the herpes to another person, as well as further outbreaks.

When an outbreak occurs, it’s important to begin the medication at the first signs of blisters, itching, burning, or tingling. If you are pregnant and have a history of genital herpes, it’s important to share this with your doctor. He may choose to treat you prior to delivery or recommend a C-section to prevent infecting the baby.


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Chlamydia is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US. Chlamydia is often passed unintentionally because it rarely shows any symptoms. People don’t realize they have the disease, which makes it the number one STD in the US. Left untreated, Chlamydia can damage reproductive organs.

Causes of Chlamydia

Chlamydia is spread through sexual contact with an infected person. It can be passed through anal, vaginal, and oral sex. People with multiple sexual partners are at the highest risk to contract Chlamydia. This STD can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth.

Symptoms of Chlamydia

Most often, Chlamydia shows no symptoms. However, the most common symptoms in women appear within 1-3 weeks after exposure:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Burning sensation or pain when urinating
  • Pain during sex
  • Fever
  • Bleeding between menstrual cycles
  • Nausea
  • Lower back and or abdominal pain
  • Itching or burning in around the vagina
  • Painful urination

With or without symptoms, treatment of Chlamydia is very important. It can spread to the cervix, uterus, and even the fallopian tubes, which can cause PID, or pelvic inflammatory disease.

For men, the most common Chlamydia symptoms also appear within 1-3 weeks after exposure:

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Burning or itching around the opening of the penis
  • Clear or cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Swelling or pain around the testicles

Diagnosis of Chlamydia

Diagnosis of Chlamydia can be made in several ways. Your doctor can take a urine sample and test for bacteria, or he or she can take a sample by swabbing the urethra in men and cervix in women.

Treatment of Chlamydia

The treatment of Chlamydia consists of a short course of antibiotics. Once the infection has been accurately diagnosed, antibiotics can be more than 95 percent effective. Any sexual partners you have had contact with during the past 6 months should also be contacted and treated. When your course of antibiotics is complete, it’s important for you to return to your doctor to be sure the infection is gone. You should also refrain from sex during treatment and until you have a negative test result.

Genital Warts (HPV)

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HPV 16 and HPV 18 are types of venereal warts, also known as the human papillomavirus. Papillomaviruses account for 70% of cervical cancers, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women. They are also very contagious, and can be transmitted during oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected partner; the problem with HPV is there are no initial symptoms, and infected people pass the HPV to others unknowingly. The warts generally show up within 3 months, and about two-thirds of people who have sexual contact with an infected partner will contract the warts. The warts can be found on the penis, vagina, vulva, urethra, cervix, anus and larynx. Other types of HPV can cause warts on the hands and feet, but this type does not cause genital warts. The HPV vaccine could decrease your risk.

Causes of Genital Warts (HPV)

Most often the HPV virus is transmitted through genital contact, during vaginal or anal intercourse with an infected person. It can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact. Though rare, HPV can be passed during oral sex. Sexually active people are more likely to get infected with the HPV virus, but may not realize they have it due to lack of symptoms. Latex condoms provide the best protection against transmitting the HPV virus, although the protection is not 100%. If you have a concern about warts or lesions that are visible on your sexual partner, it is best to avoid any sexual contact until treatment has occurred. Some HPV can progress to cervical cancer.

Symptoms of Genital Warts (HPV)

After exposure to HPV, warts can appear in a week, a month, or sometimes not at all. The most common symptoms are pink or flesh-colored flat or raised warts, alone or in groups in the genital area. They are shaped similar to cauliflower. They may be hard to see and either pain-free or painful. They can be very small or they can be quite large. The virus can also attack the cervix, vagina, anus, scrotum, penis, or thigh area.

Types of Genital Warts (HPV)

There are several types of HPV virus. One type causes genital warts; one causes warts on other parts of the skin, such as the hands and feet. However, warts on the hands or other parts of the body do not cause genital warts. Some HVP viruses can also cause cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine could decrease your risk. If you contract the infection associated with cancer, pre-cancerous changes can occur in cells in the tissue without symptoms or your knowledge. Left untreated, these cell changes can lead to cervical cancer, which is not only preventable, but also treatable with routine Pap tests.

Diagnosis of Genital Warts (HPV)

Your doctor may be able to diagnose genital warts visually. A pelvic examination in women may expose growths on the cervix or vaginal walls. In order to make the warts visible, the doctor may use a mixture of diluted vinegar to make them visible to the naked eye. A (colposcopy) or magnification may also be used to reveal the appearance of warts or lesions otherwise too small to be seen.

An abnormal pap smear in women may indicate HPV. In order to find out for sure if the changes are related to HPV, a DNA test may be ordered. This test reveals whether the type of HPV virus you have is the kind that can cause cancer. Pap tests are the best way for your doctor to diagnose cervical cancer or precancerous changes to the cervix. Only certain strains of HPV cause cancer.

Treatment of Genital Warts (HPV)

While there is no cure for genital warts, the symptoms can be managed with medications prescribed by a doctor. The HPV virus needs to be treated by a doctor: do not use over the counter medications intended for use on warts on your hands or feet. This could cause more damage. You may get an application of skin treatment in the doctor’s office. He or she may also give you a prescription for a medication to apply at home.

Surgical treatments include Cryosurgery, Electro cauterization, and Laser therapy. Annual Pap smears are indicated for women who have had genital warts, and women whose partners have ever had genital warts. For women who have had cervical warts, it is a good idea to have Pap smears every 3 to 6 months after the first treatment. Women with precancerous changes caused by HPV infection may need further treatment. Young women and girls ages 9 – 26 should be vaccinated against HPV.

Hepatitis B

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Hepatitis B, also called HBV, is a very serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. This virus can be acute or chronic. The majority of infected adults fight off the virus and the infection heals.

  • Acute hepatitis B: This indicates people who have new infections. Generally, people who have been infected see symptoms about 1-4 months after exposure. Most people with acute HBV are cured within weeks or months and symptoms fade. Statistically, a small number of individuals may develop an acute form of hepatitis referred to as fulminant hepatitis, which can be life threatening.
  • Chronic hepatitis B: This type of HBV infection generally lasts longer than 6 months. A chronic infection may never go away completely. HBV is the most common serious liver infection in the world. In the US, HBV is a more prevalent in young adults, age 20-25. There is an effective vaccine which has caused an 82% decrease in the number of new infections reported in the US.

Causes of Hepatitis B

The HBV virus is known as a blood-borne virus because it’s transmitted when blood from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected. This can happen with vaginal, anal, or oral sexual relations without the use of a condom, shared needles when using drugs, or any sharp exposure from an infected person. It can also be transmitted to a fetus if the mother is infected.

Those at high risk include people with multiple sex partners, people who share needles when using drugs, and people who receive blood transfusions. Other individuals at risk are health care workers, and men who have sex with men.

You cannot contract hepatitis B from someone sneezing, coughing, or hugging you. HBV is not airborne and cannot be transmitted through casual contact in any way.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B

Fifty percent of people who are infected with the hepatitis B virus have no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they are similar to the flu, which is why many people don’t seek immediate medical attention. Generally these symptoms will occur within 30-180 days of being exposed to the HBV virus. Common symptoms can include; nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, joint pain, diarrhea, itching, abdominal pain and jaundice of the skin. Your urine may turn dark in color and stools may be pale in color (grayish or clay colored) .

Diagnosis of Hepatitis B

Diagnosing the hepatitis B virus can be accomplished with a simple blood test. This blood test can also reveal whether you had the hepatitis B virus in the past. If liver damage is suspected, your doctor will want to take a biopsy of your liver. This is done with a tiny needle, and is referred to as a liver biopsy.

Treatment of Hepatitis B

Most of the time, acute hepatitis B goes away on its own. Since the symptoms are flu like, the best relief is to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid alcohol and drugs. It helps to eat a sensible and healthy diet as well. Check with your doctor about what herbal products to avoid as well as what medicines to avoid. Some of these products can actually worsen the liver damage caused by hepatitis B. There is no medication available that would prevent acute hepatitis B from turning into chronic hepatitis B. People who contract chronic hepatitis B should see their health care provider on a regular basis.

Hepatitis C

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Hepatitis C is an infection caused by the hepatitis C virus, leading to inflammation of the liver. This is considered to be the most serious of the hepatitis viruses. Hepatitis C is passed through contact with contaminated blood – most commonly through needles shared during illegal drug use. Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic. The majority of people who are infected develop chronic Hepatitis C.

Causes of Hepatitis C

Caused by the hepatitis C virus, people who may be at risk are individuals who:

  • Have had unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Shared a needle
  • Received blood or organs from an infected person
  • Have contact regularly with blood at work
  • Shared items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person
  • Were born to a hepatitis C infected mother
  • Got a tattoo or acupuncture with contaminated instruments

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Most people don’t know they have the hepatitis C infection until liver damage presents itself, sometimes decades later, as there are rarely any symptoms. If symptoms due occur, they may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark colored urine
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Yellow skin or yellowing of the whites of the eyes (jaundice)

Diagnosis of Hepatitis C

Diagnosing the hepatitis B virus can be accomplished with a simple blood test. This will show if there are elevated transaminase enzymes or the hepatitis C antibody. The other test your doctor may want to perform is a biopsy of the liver. Hepatitis C can cause severe liver damage, which is why this test is very important. Your doctor will insert a needle into the liver and remove a tiny sample of tissue, which is then examined.

Treatment of Hepatitis C

Treatment for hepatitis C depends on the level of infection. A diagnosis of hepatitis C infection doesn’t necessarily mean you need treatment. You may not even need treatment if your liver abnormalities are very minor, and your risk of future liver problems is very low. Your health care provider may suggest future blood tests to monitor for liver problems.

When treatment is called for, the Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications. This course of treatment could involve a mixture of medications that you would take over the course of several weeks. When you finish the treatment, your doctor will want to take another blood test to see if the virus is gone. If the hepatitis C virus is still existent, he or she may suggest another round of treatment. Some of these anti-viral medications can have side effects such as fever, fatigue, depression, and flu-like symptoms.

Treatment of short-term (acute) hepatitis C

Because most people don’t know they have the virus, they do not get treated. In certain instances, for example, if you are stuck by a needle, hepatitis C can be diagnosed early. Acute hepatitis C is treated with medicine, and may prevent chronic infections.

Treatment of long-term (chronic) hepatitis C

It’s not unusual for a person to live with chronic hepatitis C, because of the lack of symptoms. By the time a person is diagnosed with the virus, they already have a long-term chronic infection. If blood tests and liver biopsy show no damage to the liver, no treatment may be necessary. If, however, liver damage is diagnosed, treatment may be a combination of medicines that fight the viral infection.

Whether or not you take medicines to treat hepatitis C, you will need to have routine blood tests to help your doctor know how well your liver is working. You should be monitored every 4-5 years.


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NGU is an infection of the urine passage or urethra. It is transmitted through vaginal and anal sex with an infected partner and is therefore considered a sexually transmitted disease.

Causes of NGU

NGU is caused by several different kinds of bacteria or other organisms. Chlamydia is the most common cause.

Symptoms of NGU

Typical symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Burning with urination
  • Discharge of mucus or pus form the urethra
  • Testicular pain and or swelling in men
  • Vaginal bleeding and or discharge

Diagnosis of NGU

NGU is diagnosed by taking a swab from the urethra and looking at it under a microscope. If the test is positive, your doctor may also test you for Chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Treatment of NGU

If you test positive for NGU, the usual treatment involves oral antibiotics for 7 days. It is important to complete the full course of medicine. Refrain from sexual contact until treatment for both partners is completed.


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Scabies is an itchy infestations caused by a tiny burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei, which lays its eggs into the human skin. Scabies can be spread through sexual contact or any skin-to-skin contact. It’s not always considered an STD. The existence of these mites causes intense itching and a strong urge to scratch, especially at night.

Causes of Scabies

Scabies is spread through close intimate contact. Beside sexual contact, scabies can be spread by sleeping in the same bed with or even touching someone who is infected with the mites. Scabies is very contagious and can be caught easily from a family member, at child care, school, or nursing homes. The mites like the warmth and the odor of humans. The female mite burrows into the skin leaving threadlike small tunnels, where they lay their eggs and leave feces. Scabies can affect anyone, anywhere that is very crowded such as extended-care facilities and prisons.

Symptoms of Scabies

Symptoms may not show up for 2-6 weeks, but during this time, a person is still contagious. The first symptom you will notice is severe itching. People often mistake this for dry skin, but the itching is actually an allergic reaction caused by the scabies mite. You may notice a rash, skin sores, or blisters. You may even see the mite, which looks like a small black dot. Infants and babies may just show red inflamed skin. These symptoms are most likely to develop in the following areas:

  • On the buttocks
  • Around the nipples, and side of breasts (in women)
  • On the genitals in men
  • Elbows and armpits
  • Between fingers and inside of wrists
  • Scalp, neck or face
  • Hands and soles of feet

Diagnosis of Scabies

Scabies can generally be diagnosed if you have severe itching and a rash (especially if the rash looks like tiny curving tracks). Your doctor may also remove the mite with a needle or scraping and examine it under a microscope. Another test is called the ink test. The doctor rubs a washable felt tip pen across the areas that are itchy. After the area is wiped off with water or alcohol swab, any burrows should show up as a dark line. Rarely is a skin biopsy performed, but it is another option in hard-to-diagnose cases.

Treatment of Scabies

Treatment for scabies will involve a cream or lotion which will eliminate the infestation. Typically, the medication is applied all over your body, from your neck down, and it is left on for at least eight hours. It should be applied to a clean body and clean clothing should be worn after treatment. Scabies is so contagious; your doctor will probably recommend treatment for the whole family and anyone else you have been in close contact with. Symptoms do not usually show for 2-6 weeks, so it’s important to get treated because the scabies can still spread. Everyone in contact should be treated at the same time to prevent re-infestation. The products that are used to are referred to as scabicides because they kill scabies mites and some also kill mite eggs; they are only available with a prescription from the doctor.

You should also wash all linens and clothing in hot water and dry in a hot dryer. You can also seal items in a plastic bag for 72 hours because scabies mites do not survive for more than 2-3 days without human skin. Itching may continue even after treatment due to the allergic reaction to the mites. If the itching continues 2-4 weeks after treatment, or if new burrows appear, you may need another course of treatment.


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Syphilis is a highly contagious bacterial infection. Primarily transmitted through oral and anal sex, occasionally this disease can be passed to another person through prolonged kissing or close bodily contact. Syphilis is typically spread through sores; often these sores go unrecognized causing the infected person to pass the disease without knowing. The sores generally show up on your genitals, rectum, or mouth. It spreads through the skin or mucous membrane contact with the sores.

With early diagnosis, syphilis can generally be cured, sometimes with just one injection of penicillin. Left untreated, the syphilis bacteria can harm other organs including the heart and brain, and it can be life threatening. It can also lie dormant in the body for decades before becoming active again. Syphilis is on the rise in the United States. The syphilis sores make you more vulnerable to becoming infected with the HIV virus.

Causes of Syphilis

Syphilis is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. It is highly contagious and is transmitted through oral and anal sex. Although less common, the bacteria can be spread through cuts and abrasions on the skin. Syphilis can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth. You cannot catch syphilis from toilet seats, hot tubs, door knobs, eating utensils, or shared clothing.

Symptoms of Syphilis

The most common symptom of the syphilis bacteria is small, round, painless sores around the genitals, anus, or mouth. Some people get a rash on their body, typically on the palms or soles of the feet. Symptoms vary with each stage of syphilis. Sometimes you don’t see symptoms for years, yet have the disease.

Types of Syphilis

  • Early or Primary syphilis: The first symptom of early syphilis is generally a small sore, (chancre) which resembles a large round bug bite. Most people develop more than one sore. These sores are usually hard and painless, hidden within the vagina or rectum, which makes immediate diagnosis more difficult. They can also occur in the mouth. The sores usually develop about three weeks after exposure. The chancre will heal on its own within six weeks.
  • Secondary syphilis: Secondary syphilis occurs a few weeks after the original sores heal (6-8 weeks after exposure). A rash may appear on your trunk, which eventually covers your entire body. This rash can even spread to the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. In most cases this rash is not itchy and may be accompanied by wart-like sores in the mouth or genital area. Other symptoms can include fever, sore throat, muscle aches, weight loss, and swollen lymph nodes. These signs and symptoms may return for as long as a year or they may just disappear. Like primary syphilis, secondary syphilis will resolve without treatment.
  • Latent syphilis: Without treatment, the syphilis bacterium moves from the secondary to the latent (hidden) stage, when you have no symptoms. The latent stage can last for years. Signs and symptoms may never return, or the disease may progress to the tertiary (third) stage.
  • Tertiary or late syphilis: If the infection is not treated, complications known as tertiary, or late, syphilis occur. In this stage, the syphilis bacteria may damage the brain, heart, liver, eyes, blood vessels, bones and joints, heart, blood vessels, and liver. In this stage, the disease may result in blindness, deafness, impotence, paralysis, and even death. These problems may transpire many years after the original, untreated infection.
  • Congenital syphilis: This type of syphilis occurs when babies are born to women who have syphilis. The infection is spread through the placenta or during birth. Although most newborns with congenital syphilis experience symptoms, some get a rash on the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet. Other more symptoms can occur later, including deafness and teeth deformities.

Diagnosis of Syphilis

Diagnosis is made with a simple blood test at your doctor’s office or at a public health clinic. If a sore is present, the doctor may want to take a swab or scraping and send it to a lab for analysis. If you doctor has reason to believe you have nervous system complications, he or she may collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid through a procedure called a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).

Treatment of Syphilis

When syphilis is diagnosed early, it is easy to cure. Usually, a single injection of penicillin can stop the disease if you’ve been infected for less than one year. If you have had the disease longer than a year, addition dosing may be required. Avoid sexual contact until follow up blood work indicates the infection is gone. You also need to let any sexual partners know your positive diagnosis of syphilis so they can be tested and receive treatment.


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While vaginitis is not generally known as an STD, some STDs can cause it. Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching, and pain during intercourse. It can affect women of all ages and is very common.

Causes of Vaginitis

Vaginitis can be caused by a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria, or an infection. Reduced estrogen levels after menopause is another contributor to vaginitis, as is poor hygiene. Some chemicals in bubble baths, soaps, and perfumes, can also cause vaginitis. Antibiotics can lead to yeast infections by killing off the normal antifungal bacteria that live in the vagina.

Symptoms of Vaginitis

The most common symptoms are itching, burning, and a change in vaginal discharge, and sometimes pain during sex.

Diagnosis of Vaginitis

Your doctor of health care provider will take a sample of cervical or vaginal discharge and look at it under a microscope or send it to a lab for analysis.

Types of Vaginitis

  • Bacterial: caused by an overgrowth of organisms that are normal in your vagina.
  • Yeast infections: caused by a fungus called Candida albicans.
  • Trichomoniasis: caused by a parasite commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse.

Treatment of Vaginitis

For bacterial vaginitis your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Both partners should be treated at the same time, and you should refrain from sexual activity until you both have completed the treatment.

For yeast infections, your doctor may prescribe a suppository, but there are also over the counter options. It’s important to know what the origin of the vaginitis is before you self-treat.

Here is a list of helpful tips to prevent a yeast infection:

  • Wash underwear in hot water
  • Change out of wet clothing such as bathing suits
  • Avoid frequent bubble baths
  • Limit deodorant tampons or pads, also avoid scented toilet paper
  • Wear loose clothing, avoid tight pants
  • Do not douche, it can kill good bacteria
  • Eat yogurt and a well-balanced diet

If you get frequent yeast infections, your doctor may want to run some tests to find out why.


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PID, or pelvic inflammatory disease, is an infection of the female reproductive organs. It is not considered an STD, rather a serious complication of untreated STD’s.

Causes of PID

PID occurs when specific bacteria, such as Chlamydia or gonorrhea, travel upward from a woman’s vagina or cervix (opening to the uterus) into her reproductive organs. The infection can cause serious damage to the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other organs. In most cases the bacteria are related to Chlamydia and gonorrhea. Women under the age of 25 and teens are more likely to get PID, due to the fact that the cervix is not fully matured making them more vulnerable to the STDs that are linked to PID. Multiple sex partners also create a higher risk factor for PID. Douching changes the vagina flora, which forces bacteria to move into the higher reproductive organs, making a woman at higher risk for PID.

An IUD, (intrauterine device) can also increase the risk of PID. If there is any bacterial vaginosis or STI present at the time of insertion, the procedure forces bacteria from the vagina to the cervix or uterus. It’s important to be checked prior to insertion of an IUD.

Other causes of PID can include infectious difficulties related with childbirth, abortion, and pelvic procedures. You can prevent PID by making sure to get immediate medical attention if you notice abnormal vaginal discharge, pain during sexual intercourse, abdominal or pelvic pain, burning during urination, or bleeding between menstrual cycles.

Symptoms of PID

PID can appear with no symptoms, or severe symptoms. The most common symptoms can include:

  • Unusual vaginal discharge, yellow, brown, or green color
  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lower abdominal and/or lower back pain
  • Cramping similar to menstrual cramps
  • Pain during sex
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Burning or pain with urination

Because PID can be asymptomatic, women don’t realize there is a problem. If the PID is caused by Chlamydia, typically there are no symptoms. Unfortunately, symptoms generally do not appear until the infection has spread to the lining of the abdomen and fallopian tubes. Sometimes, women notice the symptoms during their periods because the cramping can be worse. The pain can also be worse during sex, urination, and bowel movements.

It’s important to see your doctor and get checked if you have any of these symptoms. PID can cause serious and permanent damage to the female reproductive organs.

Diagnosis of PID

There is no specific test for PID, making the diagnosis difficult. Your doctor will typically make his or her diagnosis on clinical findings. He should perform a complete physical exam including an internal exam. If you have any of the symptoms, such as vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, fever, the doctor will want to check for PID. He may take a swab from the vagina or cervix and send it to the lab for analysis. An ultrasound can also prove helpful in viewing the pelvic area to check the fallopian tubes and also for abscess. In some cases, a laparoscopy is performed to view internally the organs and also to take specimens for the lab.

Treatment of PID

The most standard treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a course of antibiotics, for 14 days. The type of antibiotic and length of the course will depend on the nature of the infection. Your doctor may also prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to relieve pain or discomfort. It’s important to finish all the medicine and for your partner to be treated as well. You should be re-checked a few days after treatment, again in 7-10 days, and once more 4-6 weeks after treatment is finished.

Avoid sexual intercourse until you have finished treatment.

Molluscum contagiosum

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Molluscum contagiosum is a chronic viral infection that shows itself with lesions or raised pearl-like bumps. It’s most common on the face, trunk, genitals, abdomens, and inner thighs. The bumps are generally painless, but can itch.

Causes of Molluscum contagiosum

The molluscum virus can be transmitted through sexual contact and/or any skin-to-skin contact. The bumps this virus causes also spread on your own body. It can also be spread from infected towels, clothing and even toys. If bumps or lesion appear in the genital area (vagina, anus, vulva, or penis) see your health care provider as soon as possible. If it’s diagnosed as the mollluscum virus in these areas, then it was spread through sexual contact.

Symptoms of Molluscum contagiosum

The molluscum virus shows up in small smooth, firm, white, pink, or flesh-colored bumps or growths with a dimple or pit in the center. They can be swollen, red and sore, but generally painless. If your immune system is otherwise compromised, the bumps may grow very large and spread more rapidly to other parts of your body. They can also be harder to cure at that point. They are most likely to show up on the face, trunk, abdomen or genital area. In children they usually show up on the arms and legs.

Diagnosis of Molluscum contagiosum

Most of the time, your doctor can diagnose molluscum based on the distinctive appearance of the lesions. He or she may also take a skin biopsy and send it to a lab for analysis.

Treatment of Molluscum contagiosum

The molluscum virus typically disappears naturally over a period of months to years in people who have normal immune systems. A disease which affects the immune system such as AIDS, or other conditions, can affect the healing process of the lesions, making it a lengthier process. Some medications similar to those used to remove warts may also be helpful in lesion removal.

Note: The surgical removal of individual lesions may result in scarring.


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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus. HIV attacks the body’s immune system. Because it weakens the immune system, the body has no ability to fight infections and cancer, or the very organisms that cause the disease.

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the end result of infection from the virus HIV.

Causes of HIV/AIDS

HIV is spread when infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk gets into the bloodstream of a person through:

  • Anal, vaginal or oral sex without a condom
  • A break in the skin
  • Shared use of needles or syringes with an infected person
  • Exposure to blood of an infected person, through needle-sticks or other on- the- job exposures
  • Passed from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy
  • HIV cannot be passed through saliva

Symptoms of HIV/AIDS

Shortly after becoming infected with the HIV virus, most people have flu-like symptoms, (fever, muscle aches, fatigue) that last a few days. Some people have no symptoms for years; although asymptomatic, they are still contagious.

Primary infection of HIV/AIDS

Primary infection is when you develop flu-like symptoms within a month or two of being infected. These symptoms may only last a few weeks, but the amount of virus in the blood stream (viral load) is at an all-time high at this stage. This is when the infection is at its most prolific. Other symptoms during primary infection period may include:

  • Joint pain
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches and or headache
  • Rash
  • Mouth or genital ulcers
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Diarrhea
  • Clinical latent infection

Clinical latent infection is typically asymptomatic; however, the virus remains in your body. This stage can last 8 to 10 years, with some people staying in this stage longer than others. In some cases, chronic swelling of lymph nodes occurs.

Early symptomatic HIV infection

Early symptomatic HIV infection is when the virus multiplies and begins to destroy immune cells. You may start to develop mild infections and lingering symptoms as the virus continues to multiply and destroy immune cells. These symptoms can include:

  • Cough and shortness of breath
  • Fever and fatigue
  • Swollen glands
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea

Progression to AIDS

Without treatment for the HIV virus, the disease generally develops into full blown AIDS. By this time, your immune system is severely damaged. Symptoms at this stage may include:

  • Nausea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting
  • Headaches and neck stiffness
  • Chills and fever
  • Persistent, unexplained fatigue
  • Blurred and distorted vision
  • Weight loss
  • Skin rashes or bumps
  • Weight loss and extreme fatigue
  • Confusion and forgetfulness

Diagnosis of HIV/AIDS

The most common test for HIV is a blood test. Saliva can also be tested for presence of antibodies to the virus. It can take up to 12 weeks and even 6 months for the antibody test to be positive.

One newer test checks for the HIV antigen, or protein, which is produced by the virus. This can show up with days of infection.

Treatment of HIV/AIDS

To date there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. A variety of drugs available can radically slow the progression of the disease. Each of these drugs is in their own class and blocks the virus in different ways. Your doctor may prescribe at least 3 different drugs from 2 different classes. Side effects for these drugs can include:

  • Skin rash
  • Bone death, particularly in the hip joints
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abnormal heartbeats

Your “viral load” should be tested at the start beginning of your diagnosis and every 3-4 months. The HIV treatment should decrease the viral load. Even if it becomes undetectable, it does not mean your HIV is gone.

There are holistic treatments which can complement your medical treatment. The can include yoga, massage, acupuncture, herbal medicines, and relaxation techniques such as meditation and visualization.