|HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide|
|Section I–Common Health Problems|
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that pass from one person to another through sexual contact (e.g., vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and genital-to-genital contact).
Seventy-five percent of STDs are acquired in persons who range in age from 15 to 24 years old.
Common STDs in the U.S. are: Chlamydia; genital herpes; gonorrhea; hepatitis B; HIV/AIDS; human papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of genital warts; and trichomoniasis. The most common ones among college students are chlamydia and HPV.
Cases of syphillis, another STD, have reached an all time low. For information on this STD, access www.cdc.gov.
More than 1 STD can be present at the same time. Some can be present without symptoms. If you are sexually active or have ever had sex without adequate “barrier” protection (e.g. latex or polyurethane condom), you could have an STD and not even know it.
Signs, Symptoms & Causes
Chlamydia is caused by different strains of the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis.
About 25 percent of males have few or no symptoms, but can still transmit the disease. Symptoms may show up 2 to 4 weeks after infection and include: Watery, mucous discharge from the penis; burning or discomfort when urinating; and pain in the scrotum.
Seventy-five percent of females have few or no symptoms, but can still transmit the disease. When present, symptoms show up 2 to 4 weeks after infection and include: Slight yellowish-green vaginal discharge; vaginal irritation or pain or burning feeling when urinating; abdominal pain; and abnormal vaginal bleeding. In females, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause infertility. (See "Pelvic Inflammatory Disease" (PID))
The Herpes simplex virus (type 1 or type 2) causes genital herpes. Type 1 often affects the oral area, showing up as cold sores, but can affect the genital area, too. Type 2 usually affects the genital area, upper thighs, and area near the anus, but can also affect the oral area. The virus is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact from the site of infection to the contact site, but can also be spread during periods where there are no noticeable symptoms. Oral sex can spread herpes from the mouth to the genital area and from the genital area to the mouth.
Signs and symptoms (which may appear as early as 2 to 20 days after contact) include:
With outbreaks, especially the first one, there may be flu-like symptoms (swollen glands, fever, body aches). Subsequent outbreaks are usually milder and shorter. Stress, fatigue, illnesses, vigorous sexual intercourse, sunburn, etc. may trigger outbreaks.
Using a latex or polyurethane barrier (condom, dental dam, etc.) when you have sex or skin-to-skin contact may help prevent transmission, but this is not guaranteed.
The sores may be located on skin areas not covered by the latex or polyurethane barrier. The virus can also be transmitted when sores are not present. This is known as "viral shedding."
Gonorrhea is also called "the clap," "dose," or "drip." It is caused by a specific bacterial infection. If not treated, it can spread to joints, tendons, or the heart. In females, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is directly linked to infertility in females. (See "PID".)
Sixty to 80% of females have no symptoms. If symptoms are present, they appear 2 to 10 days after infection and include: Mild vaginal itching and burning; thick, yellow-green vaginal discharge; abnormal vaginal bleeding; burning when urinating; and severe pain in lower abdomen.
In males, signs and symptoms include: Pain at the tip of the penis; pain and burning during urination; and a thick, yellow, cloudy, penile discharge that gradually increases.
Hepatitis B is a virus that causes liver inflammation. The virus can be contracted from contact with infected blood or bodily fluids (e.g., having sex and/or sharing drug needles with an infected person, exposure to infected blood through cuts, open sores, and unsterilized instruments used for body piercing).
Sharing razors with an infected person and exposure to an infected person’s saliva may transmit the virus. Hepatitis B is not spread through food or water or by casual contact.
Three doses of Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent getting this virus. Consult your health care provider if you have not yet received this vaccine.
Some persons have no symptoms. When symptoms first occur, they are flu-like (fatigue, fever, appetite loss, nausea and vomiting, and joint pain).
Later, symptoms include jaundice, dark urine, and pale, clay-colored stools.
Early symptoms of HIV/AIDS:
Persons with AIDS are susceptible to many diseases, such as skin infections, fungal infections, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and cancer. These “opportunistic” infections are what lead to death in an AIDS victim. When HIV invades the brain, it leads to forgetfulness, impaired speech, trembling, and seizures.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) - Genital Warts
About 25 types of HPV can infect the genital area. Only a few types cause genital warts. Other types increase the risk for cervical cancer.
Often, there are no clearly visible signs or symptoms. Genital warts are often skin-colored, do not hurt, and may be located inside the vagina or the head of the penis, or in the anus. This makes them hard to see. To find out if you have genital warts, a health care provider can put a solution of acetic acid (vinegar) on the genitals.
HPV is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or (rarely) oral sex with an infected partner. You don’t get genital warts from touching warts on other parts of the body, such as the feet or hands.
Genital warts can appear several weeks after being infected or may not show up for months or even years. It is difficult, then, to know when the virus was contracted and which partner was the carrier.
Certain types of HPV have been associated almost exclusively with the precancerous form of cervical cancer and the cancer itself.
To lower your risk for getting HPV, use latex or polyurethane condoms, which are most likely to cover potentially affected areas of the body. (A diaphragm will not prevent transmission.)
Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite, not by bacteria or a virus.
In females, the protozoan can be present in the vagina for years without causing symptoms. If they do occur, typical symptoms include:
In males, symptoms are not usually present. Males may infect their sexual partners and not know it. When present, symptoms include:
For Hepatitis B:
While most people with this type recover, up to 10% can become chronic. (The person can spread the infection even though he or she has no symptoms.) This type can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure in some persons.
For HPV (Genital Warts):
Questions to Ask
Sexually transmitted diseases need medical care, not self-care alone. Along with medical care, do the following:
Medical care, not self-care alone, is needed to treat HIV/AIDS. Self-care measures include:
For Information, Contact
CDCNational AIDS Hotline (NAH)
American Social Health Association (ASHA)
CDC National Prevention Information Network (NPIN)
CDC National STD Hotline