According to the CDC (2000), an estimated 15 million people each year contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Treatment and prevention are essential in preventing long-term complications. STDs, if left untreated, can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and multiple complications for newborns whose mothers transmit the disease to them. Below is a list of warning signs of STDs that no woman should ignore.
1. A sore, wart, or rash in the genital area of you or your partner
This may seem like an obvious warning sign, but unfortunately it is often ignored. Skin rashes and lesions often come at the onset of a sexually transmitted disease, but the lesions may disappear within a few days. However, the infection itself is left untreated. The person assumes it was an allergic reaction or normal skin irritation and does not investigate the real possibility of having an STD. If you notice a rash or lesion on you or your partner, it is essential to have an STD workup done.
2. Painful or frequent urination
Painful or frequent urination is one of the most common symptoms of STDs, particularly gonorrhea. Women often mistake this symptom as a sign of having a urinary tract infection. They may try home remedies, such as drinking cranberry juice or taking mild pain relievers such as Tylenol. Unfortunately, as with genital sores, these symptoms may appear at the onset of the disease and then disappear. This leaves the person still infected and untreated. Any time you experience urgency, burning, or pain with urination, a visit to the doctor is warranted.
3. Abnormal period
An abnormal period is another sign of an STD. If you notice increased flow or pain at menses, this may indicate an STD. If your period has always been regular and you experience bleeding at an unusual time, this is also something that may need to be investigated. Heavy and prolonged bleeding should not be ignored.
4. Abnormal discharge
With an STD, women may notice an increased vaginal discharge. There may be other causes, such as a yeast infection or vaginitis. If you've never had a yeast infection before, now is not the time to start self-diagnosing. Get to the doctor and get it looked at.
5. Pelvic pain
Other symptoms of STDs are easier to ignore than this one. Pelvic pain can range from mild to severe. If you are experiencing pelvic pain, especially in combination with other symptoms, contact your health care provider.
6. Foul odor
Funky or unusual odor may be cause for concern. Using feminine hygiene products may cover up the odor, but they will not treat an underlying infection. Although this may be embarrassing to discuss with your health care provider, it is important to get a proper diagnosis.
7. No symptoms
Women quite frequently have no noticeable symptoms at all. Eighty percent of women with gonorrhea have no symptoms until the disease is advanced. All women should have annual pap smears. If you are sexually active, discuss including an STD work-up with your annual exam when you talk to your health care provider.
Preventing Sexually Transmitted Diseases
STDs are largely preventable. Taking the following precautions can lower your chances of contracting an STD:
- Always use a new condom during sexual intercourse.
- Put a condom on when your partner is erect and before any genital contact.
- Use only water-based lubricants, i.e. KY Jelly. Oil-based lubricants such as vaseline and lotions can cause condoms to weaken or break.
- Withdraw penis while still erect, holding the condom firmly at the base.
- Female condoms can also be used.
- Spermicides such as contraceptive films, foams, or gels are not effective in preventing STDs
- STDs, particularly genital herpes, can be spread through oral sex. A dental dam or condom should be used at all times during oral-genital contact.
Not all STDs can be cured. HIV, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts are examples of STDs that cannot be cured at this time. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. It is imperative that both you and your partner are treated. Take any and all prescribed medication. You should abstain from all sexual contact until you and your partner are disease-free. A follow-up visit is usually required to determine this.