All You Want to Know About Sexually Transmitted Diseases

safe sex

Globally, WHO estimates that more than one million people get an STD every day. The risk of STD is greatest in low-income countries and among women, whose risk is five times that of men. A lot of people who have STD do not even know it. They may look healthy and still have STD.

Sexually transmitted diseases are caused by infections that are passed from one person to another during sexual contact. These infections often do not cause any symptoms.

There are many kinds of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. And they are very common — more than half of all of us will get one at some time in our lives. The good news is we can protect ourselves and each other from STDs. Practicing safer sex allows you to reduce your risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases. If you’ve done anything that puts you at risk of infection, getting tested allows you to get any treatments you may need.

Types of STDs

Genital Wart

It is a wart in the moist skin of the genitals or around the anus. Genital warts are due to human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPVs, including those that cause genital warts, are transmitted through sexual contact. HPV can also be transmitted from mother to baby during childbirth. Most people infected with HPV have no symptoms, but these viruses increase a woman’s risk for cancer of the cervix. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US.


  • Small, flesh-colored or gray swellings in your genital area.
  • Several warts close together that take on a cauliflower shape.
  • Itching or discomfort in your genital area,
  • Bleeding with intercourse.

Pubic Lice

They are parasitic insects found in the genital area of humans. Rarely, infestation can be spread through contact with an infested person’s bed linens, towels, or clothes. A common misbelief is that infestation can be spread by sitting on a toilet seat. This is not likely, since lice cannot live long away from a warm human body. Also, lice do not have feet designed to walk or hold onto smooth surfaces such as toilet seats. Infection in a young child or teenager may indicate sexual activity or sexual abuse.


  • Itching in the genital area.
  • Visible nits (lice eggs) or crawling lice.


A sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoea. Contrary to popular belief, gonorrhea cannot be transmitted from toilet seats or door handles. The bacterium requires very specific conditions to grow and to reproduce. It cannot live outside the body for more than a few minutes at most, nor can it live on the skin of the hands, arms, or legs. It survives only on moist surfaces within the body and is found most commonly in the vagina and, especially the cervix. The bacterium can also live in the urethra. Gonorrhea can even exist in the back of the throat (from oral-genital contact) and in the rectum.


  • Thick, cloudy or bloody discharge from the penis or vagina.
  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating.
  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding.
  • Painful, swollen testicles.
  • Painful bowel movements.
  • Anal itching.


A sexually transmitted disease caused by Treponema pallidum, a microscopic organism called a spirochete. This worm-like, spiral-shaped organism infects people by burrowing into the moist mucous membranes of the mouth or genitals. From there, the spirochete produces a non-painful ulcer known as a chancre.

Primary Syphilis:  These signs may occur from 10 days to three months after exposure. It can vary from a small, painless sore to multiple sores. Another sign are the enlarged lymph nodes. Signs and symptoms of primary syphilis typically disappear without treatment, but the underlying disease remains and may reappear.

Secondary Syphilis: Signs and symptoms of secondary syphilis may begin two to 10 weeks after the chancre appears, and may include rash marked by red or reddish-brown penny-sized sores over any area of your body, fever, fatigue, soreness, and aching. These signs and symptoms may disappear within a few weeks or repeatedly come and go for as long as a year.

Latent Syphilis: In some people, a period called latent syphilis — in which no symptoms are present — may follow the secondary stage. Signs and symptoms may never return, or the disease may progress to the tertiary stage.

Tertiary Syphilis: Without treatment, syphilis bacteria may spread, leading to serious internal organ damage and death years after the original infection.


Like gonorrhea, chlamydia is found in the cervix and urethra and can also live in the throat or rectum. Like gonorrhea, it is highly destructive to the fallopian tubes. As a consequence, it causes infertility and tubal pregnancies. Again like gonorrhea, chlamydia is a prime cause of severe pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Because women newly infected with chlamydia tend not to have symptoms, chlamydia often goes undetected and untreated. The disease can progress in a stealthy way to wreck extensive destruction of the fallopian tubes and lead to infertility.


  • Painful urination.
  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Vaginal discharge in women.
  • Discharge from the penis in men.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse in women.
  • Testicular pain in men.

Herpes Simplex

A herpes virus (type 1) causes cold sores and blisters in and around the mouth. In rare cases, as when someone’s immune system is severely compromised, this virus can cause infection of the brain (encephalitis). Herpes simplex type 2 is a herpes virus that causes genital herpes, which is characterized by sores in the genital area. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. The treatment of infection with herpes simplex type 2 is by topical or oral anti-viral medication.


It is the acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the cause of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).


Many have no symptoms, but some people get temporary flu-like symptoms 1-2 months after infection. Swollen glands, fever, headaches, and fatigue are common. Canker sores in the mouth can occur too.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are all contagious viral infections that affect your liver. Hepatitis B and C are the most serious of the three, but each can cause your liver to become inflamed.


Some people never develop signs or symptoms. But for those who do, signs and symptoms may occur after several weeks and may include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the area of your liver on your right side beneath your lower ribs.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fever.
  • Dark urine.
  • Muscle or joint pain.
  • Itching.
  • Jaundice.


Trichomoniasis is caused by a microscopic, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who already has the infection. The organism usually infects the urinary tract in men, but often causes no symptoms in men. Trichomoniasis typically infects the vagina in women.


  • Clear, white, greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge.
  • Discharge from the penis.
  • Strong vaginal odor.
  • Vaginal itching or irritation.
  • Itching or irritation inside the penis.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.
  • Painful urination.


It is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi. This disease is common in sub-Saharan Africa among men who have frequent contact with prostitutes.


The infection begins with the appearance of painful open sores on the genitals, sometimes accompanied by swollen, tender lymph nodes in the groin. These symptoms occur within a week after exposure. Symptoms in women are often less noticeable and may be limited to painful urination or defecation, painful intercourse, rectal bleeding, or vaginal discharge.

Lymphogranuloma Venereum

It is a uncommon genital or anorectal infection that is caused by a specific type of Chlamydia trachomatis. Patients typically have tender glands in the groin, rectal or anal inflammation, scarring, and narrowing (stricture), which cause frequent small bowel movements (diarrhea) and a sense of incomplete evacuation of the bowels.

STD Facts

Sexually transmitted diseases can be transmitted by intercourse, kissing, oral-genital contact, and sharing sexual devices.

Aside from abstinence, the use of latex barriers, such as condoms, during intercourse and oral-genital contact (although not 100% effective) is the best means of preventing the spread of STDs.

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