Nobody ever wants to get a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but if you’re sexually active, you’re always at risk. Even if you use protection. That’s why gynecological check-ups — including STD tests — are an essential part of women’s health.
At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida, our compassionate OB/GYNs — Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD — understand that worrying about an STD may stop you from getting the care you need. But treating an STD (also known as sexually transmitted infection, or STI) quickly protects your health. Here’s why.
Millions of new STD infections occur in the United States every year. You can catch an STD any time you have intimate contact with another person. Some STDs are passed through bodily fluids, but others — including herpes — can be transmitted through skin-to-skin intimate contact. STDs include:
There are also other, less common types of STDs. You may have more than one STD at a time.
Just as you sometimes develop a cold or flu when you’re in contact with someone who’s been infected with a virus, you catch an STD from someone else who has an infection. Unfortunately, many people who have STDs aren’t even aware that they’ve been infected, and so can pass the infection to you unwittingly.
That’s why simply asking somebody if they have an STD or not won’t protect you. Many STDs have no symptoms initially, particularly in men. Unlike colds and flus, though, STDs don’t simply run their course and disappear. They linger and can wreak havoc on your body.
An STD is caused by a pathogen. The pathogen may be a virus, bacteria, or even a parasite. Treatment for your STD depends on the type of pathogen that caused your infection.
When your body tries to fight any type of infection, it initiates an immune response that causes inflammation. The inflammation as well as the pathogens at the root of the STD can damage your reproductive organs, causing scars and blockages.
If you wait too long to treat a curable STD like syphilis or gonorrhea, for instance, you may become infertile. Delaying treatment also raises the risk that you’ll pass the STD to somebody else.
When you get a Pap test as part of your well-woman exam, we look for evidence of changes to your cervix that could indicate the presence of cancer. The main cause of cervical cancer is an HPV infection.
Infections don’t always stay localized. They can travel through your bloodstream to affect other organs. Complications of STDs include:
An STD also taxes your immune system, which may make it more difficult to fend off other types of infections.
If you’re pregnant and have an STD, you could be putting your baby at risk, too. Some infections — such as gonorrhea and syphilis — can pass to your developing fetus in the womb. Others are transmitted during vaginal birth.
Be sure to let us know if you think you have an STD if you’re pregnant. We may make accommodations during your delivery, including arranging for a cesarean birth. We always test for STDs before and during pregnancy, to protect your and your baby’s health.
If you have unpleasant symptoms, such as vaginal discharge or itching, or if you’re worried because you had unprotected sex, getting an STD test gives you peace of mind. Either you discover that you’re infection-free, or — if you do have an infection — you get the care and treatment that you need to manage or cure the STD.
Just as you wouldn’t feel ashamed for catching a cold or flu, there’s no reason to feel ashamed that you have an STD. Sex is a normal part of human expression. However, sex also has risks.
Whether or not you currently have an STD, you can reduce your risk for future infections by using condoms. Both the male (external) and female (internal) condoms minimize your risk by preventing the exchange of bodily fluids. Ways to minimize the risk of STDs include:
If you’re worried about an STD, get the answers you need to feel in control of your health again by contacting the Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville office nearest you. You can book your STD test by phone or online form today.