Facts About Sexually Transmitted Infections

What You Need to Know to Protect You and Your Family

IMAGE So you know all about protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? Just use a condom, right? Well, what you do not know about STIs could hurt you or your sexually active teen.

STI 101

What Are STIs?

STIs are infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or other organisms. STIs caused by bacteria can be cured with antibiotics. Those caused by viruses cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be treated.

How Are STIs Transmitted?

STIs are usually spread through sexual contact, including vaginal, oral, and anal sex. The viruses and bacteria that cause STIs are normally carried in the semen, vaginal fluids, or blood. They enter the body through tiny tears or cuts in the mouth, anus, or genitals. STIs can be passed from person-to-person even without having sexual intercourse. For instance, someone can contract herpes or genital warts through skin-to-skin contact with an infected sore or area.

How Can STIs Be Prevented?

There is only one 100% effective way to be sure that you stay STI-free—no sex or intimate physical contact with anyone. If you are sexually active, you can reduce your chance of getting an STI by avoiding high-risk behaviors like unprotected sex, and sex with multiple partners. A latex condom should always be used when having sex.It's important to use a condom consistently and correctly. Vaccines are available for some infections. If you have questions about condom use or vaccination schedules, talk to your doctor.

Symptoms of STIs

When to See a Doctor Right Away

You should see a doctor right away if you have:
  • Abnormal or strong-smelling discharges, pus, or odors from the vagina, penis, or rectum
  • Boils, blisters, polyps, growths, sores, or warts in these areas
  • Burning sensations in these areas
  • Bleeding in these areas
  • Irritation, tenderness, swelling, rashes, itching in these areas
  • Painful intercourse
  • Vaginal yeast infections
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Sexual contact with someone who has a known STI

Other Possible Symptoms of an STI

Other symptoms of a STI may include:
  • Weight loss that is constant, rapid, or unexplained
  • Coatings of the mouth, throat, or vagina
  • Abdominal pain, muscular pain, aching joints, general weakness, feeling tired
  • Coughs, chills, night sweats, or fevers
  • Bowel problems, diarrhea, vomiting, appetite loss, nausea
  • Vaginal pain
  • Headaches, lightheadedness, vision loss, hearing loss, mental disorders
  • Discolored skin, hair loss, jaundice
  • Swollen glands, sore throat, fatigue

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