Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are contracted from person to person through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. STDs are extremely common. In fact, 20 million new cases are reported in the United States each year, with 50 percent of these cases generally affecting people between the ages of 15 and 24.
The good news is that most STDs are curable and even those without a cure can be effectively managed or minimized with treatment.
There are many different STDs, such as:
- genital warts
- pubic lice
- molluscum contagiosum
- lymphogranuloma venereum
If you haven’t heard of some of the above, it’s because many of these STDs are uncommon. The eight most common STDs are:
- hepatitis B
- herpes simplex virus
- human papillomavirus (HPV)
Out of these eight infections, only four are incurable.
Most STDs are curable through the use of antibiotics or antiviral medications. However, there are still four incurable STDs:
- hepatitis B
Even though these infections can’t be cured, they can be managed with treatment and medication.
Most cases of hepatitis B don’t cause symptoms and most adults can fight the infection on their own. If you have hepatitis B, your best option is to speak to your doctor about checking your liver and your medication options to lessen symptoms. Immune system modulators and antiviral medications can help slow the virus’s damage to your liver.
Herpes is one of two chronic viral STDs. Herpes is very common — over 500 million people are estimated to have herpes worldwide.
Herpes is spread through skin-to-skin contact. Many people with herpes may not know they have it because they show no symptoms. However, when there are symptoms, they come in the form of painful sores around the genitals or anus.
Luckily, herpes is very treatable with antiviral medications that reduce outbreaks and the risk for transmission. If you have herpes and are showing symptoms, talk with your doctor about the right antiviral medications for you.
HIV is the other chronic viral STD. Thanks to modern medicine, many people with HIV can live long, healthy lives with practically no risk of infecting others through sex.
The main treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy. These drugs reduce the amount of HIV in the blood to undetectable levels.
Human papillomavirus is extremely common. About 9 out of 10 sexually active people will contract HPV. About 90 percent of these infections go away within two years of detection. However, HPV is still incurable and, in some cases, it can lead to:
Many children are vaccinated to protect against different forms of HPV. Pap smears for women check for HPV once every few years. Genital warts can be removed with creams, liquid nitrogen, acid, or minor surgery.
Contracting an STD, even an incurable one, can be manageable. Many are treatable, even curable, through antibiotics or antiviral medications, and some STDs clear up on their own.
With most STDs, you may not show any signs or symptoms. For this reason, it’s very important to get tested for STDs on a regular basis for your own safety, the safety of your partner(s), and general public health.
The best treatment for STDs will always be prevention. If you have an STD or think you might have one, speak with your doctor to discuss your options.