Sexual health screenings are recommended regularly in order to maintain your sexual and overall health. Usually, your doctors will make recommendations on when you need to get certain screenings based on your age, history, and current lifestyle. If you are sexually active, your doctor will often suggest getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 million sexually transmitted diseases are acquired daily worldwide.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Specifically for women, sexually transmitted diseases can pose a serious risk to reproductive health if left untreated. Many STDs don’t have alarming symptoms— sometimes, you may experience no symptoms at all! Here at Raleigh OBGYN, we urge all women who are sexually active to be tested regularly. To learn more about the most common sexually transmitted diseases and what to do about them, continue reading.
According to the CDC, chlamydia often presents with no symptoms. However, if it goes untreated, it has the potential to cause serious health problems and even permanently damage a woman’s reproductive system. Because of this, it is imperative to get tested regularly if you are sexually active. When chlamydia does present symptoms, they may include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Penis discharge
- A burning sensation while peeing
- Pain or swelling in one or both testicles
- Rectal pain
- Abnormal bleeding
Luckily, chlamydia is curable and can be detected with a simple laboratory test. The treatment for chlamydia is usually antibiotics, and when taken correctly, it has a success rate of 95%. It is important to note that repeat infection with chlamydia is common, and just because you got it once doesn’t mean you’re immune. Always using protection during sex and getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases at least once a year is highly recommended.
Gonorrhea is considered one of the more common sexually transmitted diseases, with more than 3 million US cases yearly. This specific STD tends to target areas of the body that are warm and moist. Gonorrhea, like chlamydia, may present with no symptoms. However, those who do show symptoms may experience:
- Pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis, testicle(s), or vagina
- Pain during urination or intercourse
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- A pus-like discharge from the penis
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Rectal bleeding or discharge
Although gonorrhea is highly treatable, it will not go away by itself. It is also important to note that babies of infected mothers can be infected during childbirth. Getting tested for STDs before trying to conceive is always a good idea.
3. Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is an STD that can be spread through blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and saliva. Only about half of people who are infected with Hepatitis B experience symptoms. These symptoms may include:
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
- Loss of appetite or nausea
- Bloated or tender belly
- Dark-colored urine
- Extreme fatigue
- Pain in joints
Luckily, there is a vaccine against this STD, and most adults in the United States can fully recover if they do contract it. Keep in mind that the vaccine for Hepatitis B does not protect you against Hepatitis A or Hepatitis C. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information regarding the different strains of Hepatitis.
4. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
The National Cancer Institute states that HPV is a group of more than 200 related viruses. These viruses can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex and fall into two categories: low-risk HPV and high-risk HPV.
- Low-risk HPV: Often causes warts on or around a person’s genitals, mouth, throat, or anus. This type of HPV often causes no disease.
- High-risk HPV: This type of HPV can lead to cell changes that, if left untreated, can lead to several types of cancers. Some of these cancers include cervical cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, and more.
Similar to Hepatitis B, there is an HPV vaccine. This vaccine protects you against infection from two low-risk HPV types and seven high-risk HPV types. The CDC suggests that in most cases— 9 out of 10 times— HPV goes away on its own within roughly two years. However, it is always recommended to see your doctor should you show signs of HPV.
If you have any questions about getting screened for STDs, talk to your women’s healthcare provider. They can help you determine which screenings you need to get and when. Raleigh OB/GYN has over 45 years of experience serving the women in our communities and is here to help. If you have questions about sexually transmitted diseases or STD testing, set up an appointment to talk to your doctor. You can schedule an appointment through our website or give us a call at (919) 876-8225.