Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are diagnosed and treated by the Urology Division of Premier Medical Group.

Sexually transmitted diseases are most often spread through sexual contact. A wide variety of diseases, infections, and conditions comprise the STD/STI category, but almost all are easily tested and treated with the help of a medical professional. If you think you may have contracted an STD, it is important to receive a test. This can lead to a faster diagnosis, reduce possible complications, and limit the disease’s ability to further spread.

If you are unsure whether you have an sexually transmitted disease or infection, if you’re confused by which test you will need, or if you’re simply curious about the different types of STDs, use this list of STDs and Frequently Asked Questions to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions about STD's

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What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

Sexually transmitted diseases were once referred to as venereal diseases but are more commonly known as STDs or STIs. 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 certain types of 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 sexually transmitted diseases 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, and always practice safe sex.

How will I know if I get an STD?

Many types of STDs are non-symptomatic, especially in women. By the time you have symptoms, the infection is usually in an advanced stage. 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), make an appointment to receive an STD test. 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.

How long do symptoms of STDs last?

STD symptoms will vary by disease. In most cases, STDs left untreated can develop into more severe health issues, creating symptoms that last for months, years, and when further damage occurs, for the rest of a person’s life. However, fast treatment can ensure that most STD symptoms disappear quickly. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, for example, are easily treated with antibiotics, and the STD symptoms can clear up in less than a week.

It is important to remember that some STDs cannot be cured. In most cases, these STD symptoms appear in waves and cycles, meaning signs can last for days or weeks and then disappear on their own. Symptoms of herpes may come and go, even without treatment, but the STD itself will never be cured.

However, signs of an STD can indicate that a disease is no longer in its earliest stage, so it is important to get tested as soon as you notice symptoms, if not immediately after having unprotected sex.

What is an STD test?

There are several ways to test for a sexually transmitted disease. (See specific STD links for more information.) The doctor generally begins by asking you questions about your risk factors. 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 males, the doctor may take a swab from inside your penis.

Because there are several types of STDs, there are also several types of STD tests. In most cases, 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. Urine tests are among the most common form of STD tests, as they can easily diagnose Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomoniasis. Blood-borne STDs, like Hepatitis C, Syphilis, and HIV, will require blood testing, which will check for antibodies. In most cases, blood tests only require a single finger prick. These tests can also help suggest a condition other than an STD. The symptoms of epididymitis can sometimes be similar to those of testicular cancer, for example. The important thing is to have the test!

Most STD tests are not painful, noninvasive, and take just a couple of minutes to complete. All are covered by most insurance plans, but if you need to pay out of pocket, they are typically very cheap. The benefits far outweigh the potential, temporary discomfort.

But how often should you get an STD test? The answer will depend on your sexual activity. Risk factors for STD development include having unprotected sex, having sex with multiple partners, and having anonymous sex. If you have any of these risk factors, you should get tested every 3 to 6 months, even if you do not experience STD symptoms. People who do not have any risk factors should get tested once every year. Additionally, all newly pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B.

The CDC has a list of how often various demographics should receive a test.

How are STDs spread?

STDs are spread through bodily fluids, such as semen, blood, and vaginal secretions. As a result, STD’s are spread through vaginal or oral sex without the proper use of a latex condom. Anal sex tends to create a greater risk of infection because there is more chance of bleeding. 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. That said, anyone can be infected with an STD; all nationalities, economic levels, and backgrounds are susceptible. The health issues triggered by most types of STDs tend to be worse in women. Over 15% of American women have been left infertile due to an untreated STD.

Can STDs be cured?

Many sexually transmitted diseases 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 sexually transmitted diseases do not show any symptoms, particularly in women, and can therefore spread without taking proper precautions. 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 can spread a sexually transmitted infection: syphilis, herpes, and a few other forms of STDs can be spread with even that somewhat innocent act.

Several types 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.

Types of STDs

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Some types of STDs are more common than others. Below is a list of STDs that are most commonly found in the United States.

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 bacterium (neisseria gonorrheae). Gonorrhea is contracted through sexual contact with an infected person and/or via 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). The STD 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. Neglecting to use a condom during sex, abusing alcohol or illegal substances, having multiple sex partners, and/or have a partner who has a history of an STD increase a person’s likelihood of contracting the STD. Every state in the US has a law that 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. In general, females experiencing abnormal discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, anal itching, painful bowel movements, vaginal spotting, vulva swelling, conjunctivitis, lower abdominal pain, or bleeding during sex should visit the doctor. Male symptoms typically include a burning sensation 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 as a simple sore throat. Left untreated, gonorrhea can be life threatening. It can cause infertility and chronic pelvic pain and spread to the blood and/or joints.

Diagnosis of Gonorrhea

Your doctor will 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. If you have gonorrhea, you should also be checked for Chlamydia.

Treatment of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is treated with oral or injectable antibiotics. To prevent reinfection and further spread of the disease, your partner should also be treated at the same time. Complete the entire course antibiotics, and never take someone else’s medications. It’s important to tell all sexual partners that you are infected with Gonorrhea, and refrain from sex until you have finished your antibiotics. Use a latex condom to prevent reinfection.

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.

To learn even more about this STD and why it’s important to see the doctor, check out this information guide on gonorrhea.

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. The infection has seen a significant and recent surge in the population under 25, due to an increase in sexuality activity in that age group.

Causes of Genital Herpes

The herpes simplex virus type 2 causes genital infections, while 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. A sexual partner who has been infected with herpes in the past but has no active herpes sores can still pass the infection to others.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes

The herpes virus does not show symptoms until blisters develop, generally two weeks after exposure to the virus. The most common symptoms in females include small red bumps and/or open sores on the vagina, around the genital and anal area, thighs, and buttocks. In males, 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. However, the virus more often remains dormant.

Diagnosis of Genital Herpes

If your doctor is unable to locate sores, they 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

There is no cure for genital herpes, but antiviral medication can relieve pain and discomfort while expediting healing during an outbreak. Talk to your doctor about the best course of treatment. Some people with chronic outbreaks take medications over time, which 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.

To learn even more about this STD and why it’s important to see the doctor, check out this information guide on genital herpes.

pread 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 and is often passed unintentionally because it rarely shows any symptoms. 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 females appear within 1-3 weeks after exposure. This includes abnormal vaginal discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, fever, pain during sex, bleeding between menstrual cycles, and itching and burning around the vagina, among others. 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. This can include painful or burning urination, burning or itching around the opening of the penis, discharge, and swelling or pain around the testicles.

Diagnosis of Chlamydia

A chlamydia diagnosis can be made in several ways. Your doctor can take a urine sample and test for bacteria, or they 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.

To learn even more about this STD and why it’s important to see the doctor, check out this information guide on chlamydia.

Genital Warts (HPV)

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HPV 16 and HPV 18 are types of genital 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, and/or anal sex with an infected partner. HPV has no initial symptoms, and infected people pass the virus to others unknowingly.

Causes of Genital Warts (HPV)

The HPV virus is most often 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 also 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.

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 and may appear on the penis, vagina, vulva, urethra, cervix, anus, and/or larynx. They may be hard to see and either pain-free or painful. They can be very small or they can be quite large. 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 of contracting the virus.

Types of Genital Warts (HPV)

There are several types of the 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.

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. 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. 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. They 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 important all women who have had genital warts, and those who have had cervical warts should receive a Pap every 3-6 months. Women with precancerous changes caused by HPV infection may need further treatment. Young women and girls ages 9 – 26 should be vaccinated against HPV.

To learn even more about this STD and why it’s important to see the doctor, check out this information guide on genital warts.

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.

To learn even more about this sexually transmitted infection and blood-borne disease and why it’s important to see the doctor, check out this information guide on Hepatitis B.

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 C 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.

To learn even more about this sexually transmitted infection and blood-borne disease and why it’s important to see the doctor, check out this information guide on Hepatitis C.


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Scabies is an itchy infestation caused by a tiny burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei, which lays its eggs in human skin. Scabies can be spread through both sexual contact and any skin-to-skin contact. It is 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 touching, someone who is infected with the mites. Scabies is very contagious and can be caught easily from a family member, at childcare, at school, or in nursing homes. The mites like the warmth and the odor of humans. The female mite burrows into the skin, leaving threadlike tunnels, where they lay their eggs and leave feces. Scabies can affect anyone but is especially prevalent 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 a person will be contagious during this time. The first symptom is severe itching. People often mistake this for dry skin, but the itching is an allergic reaction caused by the scabies mite. Rashes, skin sores, or blisters may also appear. 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
  • 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 is easily 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 instrument 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 an 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 involves a cream or lotion, which will eliminate the infestation. Typically, the medication is applied all over the 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 that the doctor will probably recommend treatment for the whole family and anyone else you have been in close contact with. The products used are known as scabicides because they kill scabies mites and eggs. They are only available with a prescription from the doctor.

Wash all linens and clothing in hot water and dry in a hot dryer. Another option is to seal items in a plastic bag for 72 hours; 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.

To learn even more about this rash and why it’s important to see the doctor, check out this information guide on scabies.


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Syphilis is a highly contagious bacterial infection. Primarily transmitted through oral and anal sex, this disease can also pass to another person through prolonged kissing or close bodily contact. Syphilis is typically spread through sores. The sores can go unrecognized, causing the infected person to pass the disease without knowing. They generally appear on the genitals, rectum, or mouth. Syphilis 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.

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 spread through cuts and abrasions on the skin. Syphilis can also passed from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth. You cannot catch syphilis from toilet seats, hot tubs, doorknobs, 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 symptoms do not appear for years, yet you may still 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. 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. Other symptoms can include fever, sore throat, muscle aches, weight loss, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Latent syphilis: Without treatment, the syphilis bacterium moves from the secondary to the latent (hidden) stage. This stage has no symptoms and 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. This damage may result in blindness, deafness, impotence, paralysis, and even death.
  • 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 symptoms can occur later, including deafness and teeth deformities.

For more information about the different stages of syphilis, check out our syphilis information guide.

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, they 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, additional 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 syphilis diagnosis so they can be tested and receive treatment.

To learn even more about this STD and why it’s important to see the doctor, check out this information guide on syphilis.


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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. While vaginitis is not generally known as an STD, some STDs can cause it.

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, as well as poor hygiene, can also contribute to vaginitis. Some chemicals in bubble baths, soaps, and perfumes, can cause vaginitis.

Symptoms of Vaginitis

The most common symptoms of vaginitis are itching, burning, and a change in vaginal discharge. People with vaginitis may also experience pain during sex.

Diagnosis of Vaginitis

Your doctor or health care provider will take a sample of cervical or vaginal discharge, usually through a pelvic exam. They will observe the tissue under a microscope and/or send it to a lab for analysis. This analysis will determine what is causing the vaginitis.

Types of Vaginitis

Vaginitis is a catch-all term for vaginal inflammation. As a result, it can have several causes. These causes are broken into three distinct categories, which are listed below.

  • 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

If you are diagnosed with a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or trichomoniasis, a doctor will provide a prescription for creams, suppositories, vaginal tablets, or pills. Similarly, if the vaginitis is caused by hormonal changes or low estrogen levels, a doctor may give you a prescription for a treatment that releases estrogen into your body. If the vaginitis is caused by an allergy or irritation, the symptoms will usually go away when you stop using whatever is causing the problem.

To learn even more about this STD and why it’s important to see the doctor, check out this information guide on vaginitis.


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

Causes of PID

In most cases, the bacteria causing PID are related to Chlamydia and gonorrhea. There are many causes for this bacteria’s ability to spread. For example, women under the age of 25 and teens are more likely to get PID because 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. Douching changes the vagina flora, which forces bacteria to move into the higher reproductive organs, increasing the risk of developing 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.

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, people don’t often realize there is a problem. Symptoms generally do not appear until the infection has spread to the lining of the abdomen and fallopian tubes.

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 their diagnosis based on clinical findings. They will perform a complete physical exam, including an internal exam, which may include taking a swab from the vagina or cervix. If you have any of the symptoms, such as vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, fever, the doctor will want to check for PID. An ultrasound can also be helpful in viewing the pelvic area to check the fallopian tubes and for abscesses. In some cases, a laparoscopy is performed to view the organs.

Treatment of PID

The most standard treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a course of antibiotics, most often 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.

To learn even more about this STD-like infection and why it’s important to see the doctor, check out this information guide on PID.


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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.

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 molluscum 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. They can include yoga, massage, acupuncture, herbal medicines, and relaxation techniques such as meditation and visualization.