Each year, there are more than 20 million newly-diagnosed cases of sexually transmitted diseases and infections in the United States. When left untreated, STDs and STIs can have serious and potentially life-altering consequences. Physicians recommend yearly testing at minimum to prevent major health problems including pelvic inflammatory disease, increased HIV chances, infertility, and even brain damage. It is especially important to be tested and treated for STDs and STIs if you are currently pregnant or plan to be pregnant in the future.
1. Who is at highest risk?
According to the CDC, those at highest risk for STDs and STIs include adolescents and young adults, men who have sex with men, and some racial and ethnic minorities.
2. What are the symptoms of common STDs and STIs?
The most common STDs and STIs in Dallas County are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. If you suspect you might have one of the infections listed below, it’s important to see your doctor or visit an STD/STI testing clinic as soon as possible.
- Chlamydia. Early infections can often have few or no symptoms. Some symptoms are mild and can be easy to miss. Those infected may experience one or more of the following:
- Painful urination
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Vaginal discharge
- Penile discharge
- Testicular pain
- Painful sexual intercourse in women
- Bleeding between periods and/or after sex in women
- Gonorrhea. Gonorrhea can affect multiple parts of the body, although it is most common in the genital tract. It often causes few or no symptoms, especially at first. Some symptoms could include:
- Genital tract infections in women:
- Painful urination, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, bleeding between periods or after sex, increased vaginal discharge
- Genital tract infections in men:
- Painful urination, pus-like discharge from penis, pain or swelling in one testicle
- Infections in other parts of the body:
- Rectum: itching, pus-like discharge, bright red blood on toilet paper, straining during bowel movements
- Eyes: eye pain, sensitivity to light, pus-like discharge from one or both eyes
- Throat: sore throat, swollen lymph nodes
- Joints: if joints are infected by bacteria, they may be warm, red, swollen, and extremely painful
- Genital tract infections in women:
- Syphilis. Syphilis has three stages that vary in symptoms. You may even have syphilis and not show symptoms for years. Syphilis can be life-threatening. Symptoms and stages include:
- Primary syphilis. Small sores called chancres, usually in genital area. Chancres heal on their own in a few weeks, but that does not mean the infection is over.
- Secondary syphilis. After the chancres heal, those infected may experience a non-itchy rash that eventually covers the whole body. Symptoms can also include sores in the mouth or genitals, muscle aches, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms may come and go for up to a year.
- Latent syphilis. If syphilis has still not been treated after the secondary phase, it moves to the latent stage. The infected person will have no symptoms. This stage can last for years.
- Tertiary syphilis. This stage affects 15-30% of people who don’t get treatment. This is when the disease can cause brain and nerve damage, as well as damage to eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, and bones.
- Congenital syphilis. Babies born to women with syphilis can become infected through the placenta or during birth. While they may have few or no symptoms at first, it can lead to deafness, teeth deformities, and a condition that causes the bridge of the nose to collapse.
3. How can I prevent STDs and STIs?
According to the CDC, here’s how you can prevent STDs and STIs:
- Practice abstinence. The only 100% way to prevent STDs is not to have sex.
- Use condoms. You can still get certain STDs and STIs even with correct condom usage, but it will lower your chances.
- Have fewer partners and make sure you both get tested regularly.
- Get vaccinated. Speak with your doctor about your vaccination options.
- Make STD and STI testing an annual priority.
4. How can I get tested?
Contact your doctor, or if you live in Dallas County, click here to learn more about the county’s free STD/STI testing.
Thrive Women’s Clinic does not perform STD testing, but we can make referrals and address concerns or questions relating to STDs/STIs, abortion, pregnancy, sex, etc. Contact us to schedule an appointment for pregnancy testing today. From Oak Cliff to Garland and Irving to Park Cities, our four Dallas-area clinics will offer a convenient location for you.
*Information about STD/STI symptoms is from the Mayo Clinic.