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Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are very common, but they are usually easy to treat. Could you be infected with an STD and what can be done about it?
An STD is a condition that can be spread from one person to another during sex. You might also hear the term STI or Sexually Transmitted Infection. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but some people consider an STI to be the initial infection and an STD to be the disease that develops from this.
Anyone who has had any kind of sexual contact with another person could have an STD or STI. Infections are most likely to spread through semen or vaginal fluids, but some can also be transmitted in other ways. You can catch an STD from oral, anal or vaginal sex. It is also possible for STDs to spread even if there is no penetration as fluids can be exchanged via your hands or other items.
Some STDs can also be spread in other ways, but this is much less common. For example, HIV and Hepatitis B can be transmitted by needles, surgical instruments or blood donations if the right safety procedures aren’t being followed.
If you have had unprotected sex or you’ve noticed symptoms that could be caused by an STD then you should get yourself tested as soon as possible. However, it can also be a good idea to get checked even if you always use a condom and are symptom-free. Condoms aren’t always 100% effective and can’t protect you against every infection and STDs can cause serious complications such as infertility even if you don’t have any obvious symptoms. If you are or have been sexually active then you should get yourself tested, just in case.
You can easily arrange STI testing at a sexual health clinic. Most STDs can be detected from a simple genital swab, which is very quick and usually painless. You might also need a blood test to check for HIV. When the test results get back, your doctor will be able to advise you on any treatments that are needed. If you do have an STD then your partner or previous partners should get tested too.
Many common STIs are caused by bacteria, which means that they can be cured by antibiotics. You might need an injection or a course of antibiotic tablets. It’s important to take all of the pills your doctor has prescribed, even if you start feeling better part of the way through the treatment.
Antibiotics can usually treat:
However, bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics. If you are infected with a strain that is resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics, you might need to be prescribed a different type of antibiotic. In some cases, the bacteria may be resistant to more than one antibiotic, which can make it more difficult to find a treatment that works. We can all help to reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance by only taking this medication when necessary and following our doctor’s instructions carefully when we’re taking them.
Although most STDs can be treated relatively easily, there are still some conditions that we cannot cure. These infections are caused by viruses rather than bacteria, so antibiotics can’t help. Some of these conditions can be very serious so it is important to protect yourself by using condoms.
The only way to prevent STDs from spreading during sex is to use a condom or dental dam. Both male and female condoms can protect against diseases. These barriers work by preventing fluids such as semen moving from one person to another. However, there are some STDs that can spread by skin-to-skin contact, so you are still at risk of these even if you prevent any fluids from being exchanged.
Condoms cannot protect you against:
The best way to protect yourself against these conditions is to watch out for any sores, growths or discharge that might be caused by an STD. Although there won’t always be visible symptoms, they can provide a useful warning in some cases. If you notice these symptoms on yourself or your partner then you should avoid any sexual contact and see a doctor.
It is important to be aware about STDs so that you can protect yourself and get help if you need it. However, you should remember that most STDs can be treated and won’t cause any serious complications as long as they are detected early.
Do you feel better now that you know more about how STDs can be cured and prevented?