Why are Sexually Transmitted Infections Important?

Unprotected sex can come with more risks than just unwanted pregnancy. If you notice that something seems wrong after unprotected sex, it’s important to get the care you need from your gynecologist who can ensure you remain healthy and free of sexually transmitted infections in the future.

STIs are passed on from a sexual partner who carries one, meaning you should practice safe sex and get regular screenings. STIs can negatively affect your health if left untreated, and you can pass them on to other partners if you’re unaware that you’ve contracted one. For these reasons, it’s important to know what types of STIs exist, how you can come into contact with them, and how they can be treated with the help of your gynecologist.

⁣Despite all the roadblocks we rise…Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — are generally acquired by sexual contact. The organisms (bacteria, viruses, or parasites) that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can have a range of signs and symptoms, including no symptoms. That’s why they may go unnoticed until complications occur or a partner is diagnosed. Signs and symptoms that might indicate an STI include:

  • Sores or bumps on the genitals or in the oral or rectal area
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Unusual or odd-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Pain during sex
  • Sore, swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the groin but sometimes more widespread
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Rash over the trunk, hands or feet

Sometimes these infections can be transmitted nonsexually, such as from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth, or through blood transfusions or shared needles.
STDs don’t always cause symptoms. It’s possible to contract sexually transmitted diseases from people who seem perfectly healthy and may not even know anyone who is sexually active risks some degree of exposure to a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Factors that may increase that risk includes:

  • Having unprotected sex. Vaginal or anal penetration by an infected partner who isn’t wearing a latex condom significantly increases the risk of getting an STI. Improper or inconsistent use of condoms can also increase your risk.
    Oral sex may be less risky, but infections can still be transmitted without a latex condom or a dental dam — a thin, square piece of rubber made with latex or silicone.
  • Having sexual contact with multiple partners. The more people you have sexual contact with, the greater your risk. This is true for concurrent partners as well as monogamous consecutive relationships.
  • Having a history of STIs. Having one STI makes it much easier for another STI to take hold.
  • Anyone forced to have sexual intercourse or sexual activity. Dealing with rape or assault can be difficult, but it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible so that you can receive screening, treatment, and emotional support.
  • Misuse of alcohol or use of recreational drugs. Substance misuse can inhibit your judgment, making you more willing to participate in risky behaviors.
  • Injecting drugs. Needle sharing spreads many serious infections, including HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
  • Being young. Half the STIs occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24.
  • Men who request prescriptions for drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. Men who ask their doctors for prescriptions for drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra, Revatio), tadalafil (Cialis, Adcirca), and vardenafil (Levitra) have higher rates of STIs. Be sure you are up to date on safe sex practices if you ask your doctor for one of these medications.

Transmission from mother to infant

Certain STIs — such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, and syphilis — can be passed from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or delivery. STIs in infants can cause serious problems or even death. All pregnant women should be screened for these infections and treated.

Complications

Because many people in the early stages of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI) experience no symptoms, screening for STIs is important in preventing complications.
Possible complications include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Eye inflammation
  • Arthritis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Infertility
  • Heart disease
  • Certain cancers, such as HPV-associated cervical and rectal cancers have an infection.

When to see a doctor

See a doctor immediately if:

  • You are sexually active and may have been exposed to an STI
  • You have signs and symptoms of an STI