“Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die!”
While Mean Girls wasn’t exactly truthful, there is a little risk when it comes to the no-pants-dance.
Don’t be embarrassed: millions of people contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) each year within the United States. You probably are not the first—nor the last—person to ask your doctor what to do next. After a slight moment of honesty, there’s good news: most STDs are curable, and all of them are treatable when cared for properly.
There’s a Reason Mom Said Carry Condoms…
If you’re wondering about how this could happen to you, chances are probably good that, at some point, you’ve had unprotected sex. Your chosen partner may have never used a condom, which means that you’re also partnering up with anyone they’ve chosen to do the dirty with, and that can get pretty messy. Some STDs can even be transferred through oral or anal sex, so you’re really just not safe unless you know your partner is.
Even if they weren’t showing any signs, they could still be a carrier for some STDs. The best bet: always use a condom, and to get tested regularly. If you’re in a serious, long-term relationship, you may both want to be tested before you stop using them.
What’s it Look Like?
There are many, many different kinds of sexually transmitted diseases and infections out there, and they all look different. Here’s a list of the most common and some warning signs your body may be giving you:
- Chlamydia is a bacterial infection of the genital tract, which typically has few (if any) signs or symptoms. If they do show up, it’s typically one to three weeks after exposure and fairly mild. They could include: painful urination, abdominal pain, genital discharge, and pain during sex.
- Gonorrhea is more than just the subject of a Lil’ Wayne song, it’s another bacterial infection that takes place in your genital tract. Symptoms typically start arriving two to ten days after exposure, although sometimes it could take up to one month. Signs include: cloudy or bloody discharge, pain or burning during urination, abnormal menstruation, painful bowel movements, or anal itching.
- Trichomoniasis, also known as Trich, is a common infection caused by parasites. It commonly infects men without showing any symptoms, although if they are present, they are mild. They include green, clear, white, or yellow discharge, vaginal odor or itching, painful urination, and pain during intercourse.
- HIV is a big, bad acronym that has terrified most people as a precursor to AIDS. It is an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus, which affects your body’s ability to fight off viruses and may lead to AIDS. Symptoms typically do not appear after the initial exposure, and can masquerade as a cold or other illness. Early signs include fever, headache, sore throat, and fatigue. More persistent symptoms may show later. They are diarrhea, weight loss, persistent fatigue, night sweats, persistent headaches, and unusual infections. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS.
- Herpes is a highly contagious virus that often shows little to no signs. When present, herpes breaks into “episodes,” with the first usually being the worst. In some cases, only one episode is experienced. Those symptoms include small red bumps in the genital and nearby areas and pain or itching around the genital area. There is no cure. In some cases, this is mistaken for genital warts: a condition caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). For genital warts, however, the signs are different: small, flesh or grey colored swelling in your genital area, warts that grow close together, itching or discomfort in the genital area, and bleeding with intercourse.
- Hepatitis is a contagious viral infection that comes in A, B, and C divisions and affects your liver. While some people have never experienced symptoms, others do weeks after exposure. Possible signs could be fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, and muscle or joint pain.
- Syphilis is a bacterial infection that affects several parts of your body and occurs in four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. It is also possible to have congenital syphilis, where a mother has passed it to her baby. Primary signs include a painless sore where sexual contact was made, and enlarged lymph nodes. Secondary signs include a rash anywhere on your body, fever, fatigue, and soreness. The latent period may or may not occur: it is when there is an absence of all symptoms. Tertiary includes neurological and cardiovascular problems, which can severely damage the body.
While that list was probably horrifying and scary, it will be even worse if you let your STD or STI go untreated. Even if you are not currently showing any symptoms, visit your doctor to be tested just in case. Often, infections will get worse without treatment.
Treatment for most STDs and STIs include antibiotics, bed rest, and abstinence. Some STDs, however, cannot be cured, and treatment options will include a life of medication and honesty with future partners. Even while an STD is being treated, you are still infected and may pass it to someone else. STDs will also impact your immune-system, and the likelihood of contracting more STDs or STIs in the future.
Don’t compromise your health for a little healthy fun: visit a doctor to discuss your sexual health and be tested for any sexually transmitted diseases.