A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is a disease or an infection that is spread from one person to another through sexual contact. Most STDs are caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses and are transmitted through contact with the genitalia, skin, mouth, rectum, or bodily fluids. STDs can cause problems ranging from no symptoms, mild irritation to severe pain and debility. Left untreated, some STDs can cause illnesses, cancer, infertility or harm to a fetus during pregnancy. Some are curable, but some STDs are not able to be cured, only managed.
Risk Factors for STDS
STDs may be caused by a bacterial, parasitic or viral infection that is spread through sexual contact. Certain individuals may be more at risk for contacting an STD including those who:
● Engage in unprotected sex
● Have multiple sexual partners
● Are already infected with a different STD
● Abuse drugs or alcohol
● Share needles for drug use or tattoos
Types of STD Testing
STD testing is not part of a routine physical exam or checkup, so unless an STD infection is suspected by a patient or provider, testing must be specifically requested. The method of testing may vary depending upon the type of STD suspected and it may include the following methods:
● Blood test
● Urine test
● Swab sample from the genitals
● Tissue sample
● At home testing kits (although results may not be as accurate and should be validated by your health care provider)
If an individual tests positive for an STD, a treatment plan should be discussed with and developed by the provider. It is important to notify any sexual contacts so they can be treated as well. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments available for most STDS and although many STDs cannot be cured, there is medication available to treat and manage symptoms and help slow disease progression. STDs are serious infections that can cause lifelong or recurring symptoms and long term side effects. It is important for individuals to practice safe sex and get tested often particularly if they have risk factors for STDs.