Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Other Infections
What are STIs?
STIs are bacterial or viral infections caused by sexual contact (including vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex). STIs are easily spread and can cause a variety of symptoms. Some STIs can be treated and cured, but others cannot be cured. It is important to practice safe sex and know your partner’s sexual health to protect yourself from getting an STI.
Herpes is caused by a virus, which spreads to the nerve cells. When first infected, you may have flu-like symptoms with or without clustered blisters on the genitals, buttocks, or other areas. Herpes blisters can recur when you experience triggers, such as illness, stress, or hormonal changes. There is no cure for herpes, but the infection can be managed with antiviral medications that can make outbreaks shorter and less severe. Medication can also be taken daily to suppress the infection, which can reduce the number of outbreaks and reduce the risk of spreading herpes to someone else.
Gonorrhea & Chlamydia
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are caused by bacteria. Although these infections may not cause any symptoms, they can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) if untreated, which can cause long-term infertility or pelvic pain. When symptoms do occur, they typically present 2-21 days after sexual contact with an infected person. Common symptoms include vaginal discharge, painful urination, needing to urinate frequently, abdominal pain, vaginal burning or itching, irregular menstrual bleeding, or sore throat. Gonorrhea is treated with an antibiotic shot and pills. Chlamydia is treated with antibiotic pills. It is important to treat all your sexual partners within the last 60 days.
Hepatitis is caused by an infection spread through the blood or body fluids. The virus attacks your liver and may lead to long-term health problems. There is a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B infection, but no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C infection.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV is spread through sexual contact. The virus attacks your immune system, which makes you more likely to be sick with other infections or diseases. Symptoms may include flu-like symptoms 2-4 weeks after infection, or you may not have any early symptoms. There is no cure for HIV, but regular treatment can help you stay healthy and reduce the chance of spreading HIV to your sexual partners.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
HPV is the most common STI in the United States. HPV commonly causes no symptoms, however some types of HPV can cause genital warts. Additionally, certain types of HPV can cause cervical cancer or other forms of cancer. A vaccine is available which can prevent certain types of HPV.
Syphilis is caused by bacteria spread after coming in contact with a partner’s syphilis sore. Symptoms first appear as a painless sore which goes away without treatment after 3-6 weeks. If not treated, symptoms can progress to a rash on the palms or soles of the feet, warts on the vulva, and flu-like symptoms. Syphilis is treated with antibiotics for you and your sexual partner(s). Without treatment, the symptoms may disappear, but the disease remains and may reappear, causing severe heart problems, nervous system problems, or blindness.
If you have any symptoms of an STI or have come into contact with a sexual partner who is infected with an STI, please call your provider’s office. They can help direct your care and prevent the infection from spreading to more people.