The Most Common STIs and How They Spread

Sexual health is key to your overall health. That’s why it’s important to understand one of the major health issues linked to sex: sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You may have heard of syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia, but the most important fact to know is that the most common STIs are curable, and others can be managed.

Defining STIs

STIs are infections that spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex. In some cases, STIs can pass from person to person without intercourse through genital touching. STIs are caused by either viruses, bacteria or parasites. While the terms STI and STD (sexually transmitted disease) are often used interchangeable, there is a difference between the two: STIs are typically asymptomatic infections. Once the infection causes long-term symptoms, it becomes an STD.

One out of every five people in the U.S. has an STI, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without testing, however, many may be unaware they have an infection.

River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department offers testing and treatment for common STIs.

6 of the Most Common STIs

The World Health Organization reports more than 30 different viruses, bacteria and parasites that spread through sexual contact. Some of the most common include:

  • Chlamydia—a bacterial infection affects both sexes, but it can be more serious for women. Chlamydia can damage a woman’s reproductive system and, in some cases, prevent pregnancy. This STI is curable.
  • Gonorrhea—like chlamydia, it is caused by bacteria, and it’s curable. Without treatment, gonorrhea can affect fertility in both men and women and cause other health problems.
  • Herpes—a viral STI that can affect the genitals or mouth. No cure exists, but medications can control outbreaks.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)—the most common STI. This infection usually clears on its own, but it can sometimes cause genital warts or cancer. That includes cervical cancer in women, penile cancer in men and oral cancers among men and women. No treatment for HPV exists, but a vaccine can prevent it.
  • Syphilis—another bacterial STI which, if left untreated, can cause sores and rashes and, eventually, organ damage. Antibiotics can cure syphilis.
  • Trichomoniasis—a curable STI caused by a parasite. Most people with this infection don’t have symptoms, but it can increase the risk of getting other STIs, including HIV.

Preventing and Treating the Most Common STIs

Not having sex is the only certain way to prevent STIs, but you can take steps to your risk, including:

  • Get tested for STIs and be sure your partner does, too.
  • Have sex only with someone who doesn’t have an STI and has sex only with you.
  • Use a condom when having vaginal, anal or oral sex, but know that condoms aren’t 100% effective at preventing any STI.

If you have STI symptoms, such as pain when urinating, unusual discharge, or genital blisters or sores, you may wonder whether to visit the ER or a walk-in or urgent care center. River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department can perform tests for most common STIs and offer medications to treat or manage many STIs.

Learn how River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department delivers high-quality care when you need it most so you can get on with life.

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