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Chlamydia trachomatisCommon name: Chlamydia

What: The most common STD in America; it is caused by bacteria. An estimated 2.8 million Americans are infected each year, and women are frequently re-infected if their sex partners are not treated. Infections occur during vaginal, anal or oral sex; pregnant mothers can transmit it to babies during vaginal childbirth.Symptoms: Usually mild or absent, but can show one to three weeks after exposure. For women, symptoms include abnormal discharge or burning when urinating; further developed cases can mean lower abdominal or back pain, nausea, fever, pain during sex or bleeding between periods. For men, symptoms can include discharge from the penis, burning when urinating or irritation.Effects: If untreated, can damage women’s reproductive organs, resulting in abnormal pregnancies or infertility.Diagnosis: Urine or swab tests for men and women. Yearly screenings for women 25 and younger are suggested, because younger women and teens are more susceptible to the infection. All sexually active women and pregnant women should be screened. The CDC is currently reviewing data to determine if this recommendation should be extended to men as well.Treatment: Small doses of antibiotics.Prevention: Use of condoms will greatly reduce risk.

Genital HPV InfectionCommon name: HPV

What: An STD caused by the human papillomavirus, a group of viruses including more than 100 different strains. Thirty of these strains are sexually transmitted and can infect the genital area of men and women including the skin of the penis, vulva or anus, and the linings of the vagina, cervix or rectum.Symptoms: Most people who become infected with HPV will not have any symptoms and will clear the infection on their own.Effects: Some of the HPV strains are “high risk” types and may cause abnormal Pap tests. These “high risk” types may also lead to cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus or penis. “Low risk” strains may cause mild Pap test abnormalities or genital warts. Genital warts are single or multiple growths or bumps that appear in the genital area, and sometimes are cauliflower-shaped.Diagnosis: Most women are diagnosed with an abnormal pap smear. No tests are available for men.Treatment: There is no cure.Prevention: Abstinence. Condoms do not ensure protection.

Genital HerpesWhat: Genital herpes is an STD caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2. At least 45 million people in America have had herpes.Symptoms: None or minimal. Within two weeks of infection, can cause blisters on or near genitals, infections of the mouth and lips. Sores typically heal within two to four weeks, though that is not a sign of being infection-free. A second crop of sores or flu-like symptoms are also possible.Effects: For pregnant women, can cause fatal infections in babies, though with proper health care this is rare. May play a role in the spread of HIV.Diagnosis: Visual inspection by health provider, swab or blood test.Treatment: None. Antiviral medications can shorten and prevent outbreaks.Prevention: Herpes spreads during sexual contact when sores occur, though it can also spread from skin that does not appear to be infected. Condoms can reduce risk, but cannot protect against spread.

GonorrheaWhat: Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium that can grow in the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, urethra and urine canal (in men and women), mouth, throat, eyes and anus. More than 700,000 people in America get new infections each year; it is the second-most common STD in America.Symptoms: Sometimes none. Symptoms can occur two to 30 days after infection. Men can have burning when urinating, unusual discharge or swollen testicles. Many women have no symptoms or can mirror symptoms of a bladder or vaginal infection. Women can have burning when urinating, increased discharge or bleeding between periods. A sore throat can also be a symptom.Effects: Untreated, gonorrhea can cause women abdominal or pelvic pain, fever and abnormal pregnancies. In men, the infection can cause infertility. The infection can also spread to the blood or joints and can be life-threatening. People with gonorrhea are more likely to contract HIV.Diagnosis: Swab or urine test, though those tests will only determine the infection in isolated areas.Treatment: Antibiotics, though some drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea exist.Prevention: The infection spreads through contact; ejaculation does not have to occur. Condoms can reduce the risk.

Hepatitis BWhat: Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease caused by hepatitis B virus (HBV), which has infected 1 out of 20 people in the United States. People of all ages get hepatitis B and about 5,000 die each year from sickness caused by HBV.Symptoms: Sometimes none. Signs include jaundiced skin or eyes, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, joint pain.Effects: Some people develop a lifelong infection, which can increase the risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.Diagnosis: Blood test.Treatment: None for acute infections. There are antiviral drugs for chronic infection.Prevention: The infection is spread through sex, exposure to infected blood, from mother to baby during pregnancy; it is not spread by casual contact. Hepatitis B vaccinations are the best prevention. Condoms may reduce risk.

Human Immunodeficiency VirusCommon name: HIV

What: A viral infection that attacks a person’s immune system. It ultimately causes AIDS. On average, the infection takes 10 years to develop into AIDS, though that can vary widely among patients.Symptoms: The virus has almost no symptoms. Most people with HIV remain symptom-free for extended periods of time. A related condition, acute retroviral syndrome, can occur shortly after infection. Those symptoms include fever, malaise, enlarged lymph nodes and rash.Effects: Nearly every person with HIV can develop AIDS, though medications now available can stall that process. People with HIV are also more susceptible to other health problems, including various forms of pneumonia, encephalitis, tuberculosis and other conditions. The presence of HIV may limit the ability to treat other STDs.Diagnosis: Blood test.Treatment: There is no cure. If caught early enough, an array of anti-retroviral drugs can stem the infection’s progress, and in some cases, suppress the virus to undetectable levels. Still, a person remains infected. And the majority of people diagnosed with HIV already have developed AIDS.Prevention: HIV is transmitted through blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluid or breast milk. During sex, it can be transmitted orally, anally or vaginally. Correct condom use is highly effective in preventing the spread of HIV, though there are no guarantees.

SyphilisWhat: An STD caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. In America, cases are most common in women 20 to 24 and men 35 to 39.Symptoms: Signs can take years to show. Newer infections (10 to 90 days) can cause sores, which heal without treatment. Later, a rash and lesions will appear; the areas do not cause itching but occur, for example, as rough spots on the palms of hands or bottoms of feet. Fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches and fatigue may occur. Late-stage signs include problems with muscle coordination, internal organ damage, paralysis, blindness and dementia.Effects: Ultimately, the infection can cause death. The presence of syphilis also makes it easier to transmit and acquire HIV.Diagnosis: Examination by health-care providers or blood test.Treatment: Antibiotics will cure the infection in its early stages. The infection can reoccur.Prevention: Syphilis spreads through direct contact with a sore, which can exist on the external genitals, vagina, anus, rectum, lips and inside the mouth. Transmission can occur during vaginal, anal or oral sex. Pregnant women can pass the infection to their infants. Syphilis cannot be spread through casual contact. Condoms can reduce risk.

TrichomoniasisWhat: A common STD caused by a parasite that is most common among young, sexually active women. An estimated 7.4 million new cases occur each year in women and men.Symptoms: Most men have no symptoms; some may have irritation inside the penis, mild discharge or slight burning after urination or ejaculation. Women’s symptoms include a yellow-green vaginal discharge with a strong odor, discomfort during sex and urination, or itching. Symptoms usually appear in women within five to 28 days of exposure.Effects: The infection can increase a woman’s susceptibility to HIV.Diagnosis: A physical exam and laboratory test are required. The parasite is harder to detect in men than women.Treatment: A single dose of a prescription drug, metronidazole, can cure the infection. The infection can reoccur.Prevention: The parasite is transmitted during intercourse. Condoms can reduce risk.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.For more information: http://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm

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