Decades ago, the United States embarked on a mission to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and, more importantly, to explain how to keep from getting infected. Despite these efforts, the prevalence of STDs in the United States broke all-time highs each year from 2014-2019, going from 1.9 million diagnoses in 2014 up to 2.5 million in 2019.
As women’s health experts, Ulas Bozdogan, MD, and our team at Advanced Endometriosis Center have seen the consequences of STDs, which include fertility issues, and we want to do our part to continue to raise awareness.
Here, we review five of the more common STDs in women and how we can go about treating these conditions to avoid long-term consequences.
1. Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Far and away, the most common STD among both women and men is HPV. There are more than 40 different HPV strains that can be spread sexually, including genitally, anally, and orally. In most cases, your body can successfully fight off an HPV infection, but if it can’t, you may develop gential warts. In rare cases, HPV can lead to changes in the cells on your cervix, which can lead to cervical cancer.
To combat HPV, we suggest availing yourself of the vaccine if you’re aged 13-26. For those who don’t have the vaccine, regular Pap tests and regular gynecological care can help identify if there’s a problematic infection.
Of the 2.5 million STD diagnoses in 2019, more than 1.8 million were chlamydia. This STD typically leads to vaginal discharge and pain during urination.
The good news is that, since the infection is bacterial, a quick course of antibiotics is usually all that’s needed to clear up chlamydia.
The second most reported STD among women is gonorrhea, which affected more than 616,000 men and women in the United States in 2019. When men are infected by gonorrhea, they typically show symptoms, such as discharge and pain during urination, but only 20% of women are symptomatic.
Here again, regular gynecological visits with us can help you stay one step ahead of an STD like gonorrhea. If we detect gonorrhea, we can quickly treat the infection with antibiotics.
This STD is one that’s a great cause of concern for women, since syphilis can be passed to a child. In total, nearly 130,000 people in the United States had a syphilis diagnosis in 2019, but cases of congenital syphilis quadrupled during 2015-2019, going from nearly 500 cases to 1,870 cases.
Syphilis is tricky to diagnose, because it comes in four stages, starting with a sore or rash and potentially ending with organ and nerve damage.
In any stage, antibiotics are the go-to treatment, but the earlier we can intervene, the better your outcome, especially if you plan on having children.
If you develop painful blisters around your vagina or anus, this could be a sign of herpes. Some people with herpes, however, are asymptomatic, but they can still easily spread the viral infection.
Since herpes is a virus, there’s no “cure,” but we can provide you with medications to better manage herpes outbreaks.
The bottom line is that any time you notice a change in your genitals, your urine, or anything else that looks suspicious, we urge you to see us. Untreated STDs can lead to future complications, including infertility, so the earlier we treat the STD, the more likely you’ll be to avoid long-term consequences.
If you have more questions about STDs or if you’d like to find out about testing, book an appointment online or over the phone with Advanced Endometriosis Center today. We have locations in New York City and Hackensack, New Jersey.