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November 17th, 2017

Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise

By uclahealth

In the 1940s, sexually transmitted diseases (STD) like syphilis were rampant. A public awareness campaign, combined with effective antibiotics, almost eliminated syphilis and slowed the progression of other STDs. But decades later, STDs are back and reaching record highs.

Symptoms often go unnoticed

2016 marked the third year in a row that STD rates have risen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The good news is these diseases still respond well to antibiotic treatment.

The bad news is they often go unnoticed, and untreated, because symptoms may not be so obvious:

Syphilis:

  • Rashes or sores in the genital region
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches

Gonorrhea:

  • Discharge from vagina or penis
  • Increased frequency of urination or pain with urination
  • Sore throat
  • Pain or swelling in the genital region
  • Often there are no symptoms

Chlamydia:

  • Discharge from vagina or penis
  • Increased frequency of urination or pain with urination
  • Pain or swelling in the genital region
  • Sore throat
  • Red or swollen eye(s)
  • Often there are no symptoms

Untreated STDs cause long-term health problems

While antibiotics can be an effective treatment for STDs, some of these infections are becoming more resistant to antibiotics. Since symptoms are often not present or mimic a cold or flu, many people don’t seek treatment.

The consequences of an untreated STD include:

  • A higher chance of getting or transmitting HIV
  • Long-lasting abdominal or genital pain
  • Infertility
  • Passing the disease to a fetus during pregnancy, which can result in serious health complications or death for newborn babies

You can prevent STDs

Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are spread through sexual contact – oral, vaginal or anal. But they are also passed through childbirth. While anyone who is sexually active is at risk, the CDC says there are three groups who have a higher likelihood of having an STD:

  • All young people between the ages of 15 and 24
  • Homosexual or bisexual men
  • Pregnant women

The only way to completely prevent getting an STD is to avoid sexual contact. Beyond that, the correct use of condoms can help you lower your chances of infection. You are also safer when you are in a sexual relationship with only one individual who is not sexually active with others. If you are at risk for STDs, get tested.

UCLA Health’s primary care practices or OB/GYN specialists can provide annual exams for men and women, as well as provide testing and treatment if you have symptoms or risk factors. They can also offer tips to help patients take care of themselves, their partners and their unborn children.

Tags: chlamydia, genital warts, gonorrhea, Healthy Living, HIV, OBGYN, rashes, sex, sexual health, sexually transmitted diseases, STD, syphilis, Wellness

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