FAQ: Frequently Asked STD Questions
Do I Have An STD?
As a general rule, it's very difficult to self-diagnose an STD. If you're experiencing any fever, burning or pain while urinating, swelling, or strange discharge you should speak to your primary care physician (see Common STD Symptoms. ) If you suspect you have an STD, you may want to speak to your last partner to see if they've been having similar symptoms. Never wait if you think you have an STD! Most of them can be handled with a simple round of antibiotics if caught early enough.
What Is An STD?
STD is an acronym meaning “sexually transmitted disease.” These diseases can be contracted through any sort of sexual contact, even if there is no direct intercourse. Some STDs can be transmitted by other means, such as sharing needles with someone who is infected, but that type of transmission is more uncommon.
Are There Cures For STDs?
Good news – yes! Most STDs are very easy to treat, especially if you go to your doctor immediately after noticing the symptoms. There are, unfortunately, a few STDs that cannot be cured, such as HIV/AIDS and some forms of Hepatitis, but these STDs can be controlled with medication. It's important to note that an STD like Syphilis only shows symptoms for a brief time, before lying dormant and ravaging your body without any outward signs – therefore it's imperative that you visit your doctor immediately if you notice any uncomfortable, unpleasant, or painful changes in your body after sexual activity.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms of STDs?
STDs have a wide variety of signs and symptoms – ranging from completely innocuous to very obvious. There are dozens of possible tells for each type of STD and this fact can make a diagnosis difficult. Some of the more common symptoms may include:
- Painful Urination – Any time you experience difficulty when trying to urinate, or a burning sensation, you may be showing symptoms of Chlamydia or Gonorrhea; this uncomfortable feeling is very common in both. If the urine is also dark and foul smelling, you may also have a Urinary Tract Infection, or the STD may be affecting your kidneys – you should always seek medical attention for any abnormalities during urination.
- Excessive Itchiness – This is a very common symptom of Scabies. If the itchiness is such that you're beginning to break the skin in an effort to relieve it, and you're finding it difficult to fall asleep or being woken in the night, you need to visit a doctor. Scabies often presents with small, visible, black bugs on the skin. It's very easy to treat, and can often be relieved with a simple topical cream.
- Genital discharge – Any time you have excessive, foul-smelling, or strangely colored genital discharge you need to visit your doctor. It's common to have strange discharge with Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, and other STDs such as Syphilis have been known to present with this sign as well. For women, this could be a sign of Vaginosis, which tends to come along with an STD.
- Bumps or Warts – These are very common signs of Genital Warts. These bumps may come in any manner of sizes, colors, and shapes. It's never normal to have bumps on your genitals, or in the genital area, and you should see your doctor. Genital Wartsare not relegated to directly on the genitals, strange bumps on any part of your body that you've involved in sexual activity warrant a trip to your primary care physician.
- Rash – This sign is most often attributed to Syphilis. The rash may be anywhere on your body, any size and any color. You should immediately go to a doctor if you see any sort of rash on your skin to rule out second stage Syphilis. It's also possible to see this sign with Scabies, and in some cases with Crabs, both brought on by skin irritation from the parasites.
- White Spots – White spots, especially in the pubic hair, is a very common sign of Crabs and, less often, Scabies. You should rule out dandruff if you aren't experiencing any other symptoms such as itchiness or redness; but if you are experiencing either additional symptom a trip to your doctor is in order.
- Unpleasant Odor – Often, an infection comes with a cloying odor. It's most common for this odor to come with discharge, or it may just be a radiating smell. If you begin to notice a strange smell emanating from your genital area you should immediately contact your doctor to rule out an STD or Urinary Tract Infection.
Can I Get An STD More Than Once?
Yes. Some STDs will give you a natural resistance to reinfection, but there is nothing stopping you from catching the STD once again. The only way you will be protected from catching the STD a second time, is by practicing safe and responsible sex.
Can I Get An STD From A Public Toilet?
This is a very common urban myth, believed by a lot of the general public. It's been suggested that this is possible, but so rare that there are no proven examples of it actually happening. You would have to sit on the toilet seat moments after someone else did, or the virus would die from lack of biological matter. As a general rule, a quick wipe of the toilet seat is enough to protect you although some prefer to line the seat with toilet paper.
I Have An STD; Did My Partner Cheat On Me?
It is possible, but not the only explanation. If you and your partner have been in a monogamous relationship for a significant amount of time, one of you may have had this STD the entire time without any flare-up until now. Some diseases, such as Syphilis can lie dormant for as long as twenty years.
How Do I Avoid Contracting An STD?
The honest truth? Abstinence is the only way to avoid contracting an STD with absolute certainty. However, abstinence is for many people not a choice they're willing to make, therefore the second best method is the proper use of a condom. A condom can protect against most STDs, except for Genital Warts which can be spread by direct contact with your partner's genital area. You should always receive regular, full STD testing – while that won't protect you from contracting STDs, it will catch any that you already have and both allow you to receive treatment and keep you from passing the STD on to your partner.
How Many People Have STDs?
The most commonly given answer to this question is one out of four people. It should be noted that some people choose to treat their STDs at home without ever seeing a doctor, which means the numbers are often lower than the true count.
Can I Get An STD If I'm A Virgin?
If you're a virgin who is not in any way participating in sexual activity, the chances of you contracting an STD are astronomical. However, many people use “virgin” as a term for not participating in anal or vaginal sex. Many men and women claim to be virgins even if they're involving themselves in oral sex, which isn't true. A virgin is someone engaging in zero sexual activity with a partner. If you're in any way engaging with a partner – orally, or even just touching – your chances of an STD will increase dramatically.
Do All STDs Have Signs or Symptoms?
No. It's possible to have an STD, and never show any outward signs, or feel any symptoms. Or, in some cases, you may feel the symptoms but not attribute them to an STD. For example, Syphilis is well known for having mild “flu-like” symptoms during the first stage and very minor signs during the second stage, often never alerting a carrier to the infection. This is why it's important to get frequent STD testing, to make sure you haven't contracted an asymptomatic STD.
Are Condoms Effective Against All STDs?
Condoms are not, unfortunately, effective against all STDs. Some, such as Genital Warts, are not relegated to just the penis or vagina and those are the two places protected by a condom. However, condoms are extremely effective against most STDs and wearing one is an excellent way to prevent the vast majority.
Can I Get An STD Even If My Partner Has No Symptoms?
An STD with no symptoms is referred to as “asymptomatic” and is unfortunately very common. Your partner may simply not realize what the discomfort is if their pain tolerance is high, or they may attribute it to the wrong cause. In some cases, the STD may simply be dormant and symptoms may come later. It's important to ask that your partner receive STD testing before you ever engage in intercourse, for your own protection.
Are Cold Sores Really Herpes?
Yes; they're termed “Herpes Simplex” and are fairly common. It's possible to pass this type, Virus-1, on by kissing – or by performing oral sex. Often Herpes Simplex isn't transmittable if there isn't a breakout, but in some cases it may still be passed to your partner. Therefore you should be very careful if you get cold sores and should discuss the possibility with your partner before ever engaging in activity.
Can I Get An STD From Kissing?
Generally it's not going to happen with anything other than Herpes. However, if you're kissing a partner who has Gonorrhea of the throat, it may transmit to you. Kissing is, mostly, not a common method of STD transmission – but again you should be open with your partner, ask questions, and seek testing if you notice anything awry.
Can I Get An STD By Engaging In Oral Intercourse?
Unfortunately, yes, you can. It's a popular myth, especially among younger age groups, that oral sex will keep you from contracting any STDs and it's simply untrue. You can contract Gonorrhea via oral sex, only it will affect your throat instead of your genital area. Herpes and Genital Warts can both be passed along orally, affecting your throat, mouth, and lips instead of genitals. You may also contract Scabies using this method, as you will be very close to your partner's skin. Syphilis is also a concern with oral sex, as many people have small cuts in their mouths from chewing too quickly or biting into a sharp chip, and then may be directly contacting a small infected lesion without realizing it. Therefore, oral sex is no less likely to leave you with an STD than vaginal or anal sex.
Should I Get Tested For An STD?
If at any time you suspect you have contracted an STD, you absolutely need to go to a doctor. It's recommended that sexually active men and women also participate in annual testing to be sure they have a clean bill of health. If you switch partners often, it's also been suggested that you should receive testing before beginning a new relationship.