All about Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Causes, Precautions, and Solutions to STDs

  • Apr.21.2021
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What Is an STD and What Does an STD Do?

STDs or Sexually Transmitted Diseases, also known as STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are infections or diseases caused by sex or sexual activity. Some STDs are transferable without having sex, but all can be transmitted through sexual activity that is not protected. STDs can range in severity, treat-ability, and symptoms depending on the infection and the person being infected. In almost all cases, STD transmission is preventable. If you are concerned that you have an STI or just want to make sure that you are informed about STIs and sexual safety, read on for more information on STD and STI transmission and treatment.

The Definition of Sexually Transmitted Disease

The definition of sexually transmitted disease (STD) or what is now more commonly referred to as an STI is an infection that is caused by sexual intercourse or interaction. There are many different kinds of STIs and they will all be listed below to understand how to prevent and treat each one. STIs are sexually transmitted, but many people wonder “Can I get STDs without intercourse?” The answer is yes. While intercourse is one of the main causes of STD transmission, other sexual acts can spread STDs and there are also ways to spread some STDs without any sexual interaction at all. Depending on whether the STI is viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic, there may be different ways and levels of transmission. For STD causes and symptoms, read about each STI below to see how it can be identified and how it is spread from person to person.

What Are the Symptoms of STD?

facts about std

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, you might be infected with an STI, which means that you should go to the doctor’s office to get a verified diagnosis and treatment. While some of these symptoms could have multiple causes and many STIs have overlapping symptoms, some symptoms are more serious than others and some may not mean that you surely have an STI. This is why going to get diagnosed is very important if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Common STD Symptoms:

  • Abnormal discharge (green, yellow, unusual texture, or with a foul odor)
  • Itching and or burning of the genital region
  • Rash, bumps, lesions, or warts on or around the genitals, anus, or mouth
  • Lower abdominal pain and cramping
  • Genital discomfort or pain during sex or while peeing
  • Swelling or pain in the testicles
  • Bleeding from the penis

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms which are potential effects of STDs, see your doctor figure out the best course of treatment.

Ways to Contract STDs

While not all STDs or STIs spread in the same way, they are all transmissible through sexual activities. Sexual activities are not exclusive to vaginal penetration with a penis. This means you can spread STDs through anal sex, oral sex, and digital fingering or shared sex toys. Some STDs can be spread in ways that do not require any sexual activities. How are STDs contagious? There are different ways to contract STDs. For example, public lice can be spread via sharing clothes and has even been transmitted from a toilet seat. Other STIs like HIV and syphilis can be spread through sharing needles, breastfeeding, and childbirth.

Can STDs Be Spread through Saliva?

Very few STDs are transmissible through saliva. The most common STD that can be spread through kissing is the herpes simplex virus which can cause cold sores on the lips and mouth. While most STDs are not transmitted through the sharing of saliva, they can be transmitted from genitalia to mouth in many cases, so while kissing is usually safe, oral sex can cause the spread of STDs so you do have to think about sexually transmitted diseases when you are partaking in oral sex. It is possible to transmit oral herpes to the genitals and genital herpes to the mouth, so if you or your partner is having a herpes outbreak, abstain from sex until the outbreak has cleared after which you should use a barrier method of protection.

Can STDs Kill You?

While most STDs are treatable and do not result in a fatality, there are some STDs that if left untreated can cause serious illness and even death. STDs like HIV and syphilis are examples of infections that can eventually cause death, but if you catch these infections early enough you can usually avoid death and serious illness. This is why it is extremely important to prevent the spread of STDs by practicing safe sex and to go to the doctor immediately if you are experiencing STD symptoms to prevent the worst consequences of STDs. These consequences and health risks are also why it is so important to get tested regularly and to report to your recent partners if you find out you have an STD so they can get tested and treated if need be.

Is There Such a Thing as an Incurable Sexually Transmitted Disease?

While many STDs can clear up after a course of antibiotics, one of the more unsettling facts about STD transmission is that many STDs do not have cures. While every STD has some level of treatment available, there are STDs, particularly viral STDs like HPV, herpes, and HIV which are not curable. While many strains of HPV and herpes can go under the radar and rarely cause any symptoms let alone serious illness, the treatment is typically given for these viruses is enough to ensure that your life will still be full and happy with the occasional discomfort or soreness. Some strains of HPV, however, can cause cervical cancer. This is why most adolescent girls are given a vaccine against the strain of HPV that is linked to cervical cancer, as catching this strain is far more serious than other strains, many of which rarely present any symptoms or ailments. Vaccines are a very effective preventative measure that can give people immunity against viruses.

There has recently been a scientific breakthrough to be celebrated around the world, and this is the very first HIV vaccine to undergo clinical trials with the promise of fully functioning to immunize people against HIV. HIV is one of the most deadly untreatable STIs which can progress into AIDS and is responsible for many deaths since the 1980s. Even without a cure or a currently available vaccine, the treatments available today make it possible for those who are HIV positive to live much longer and happier lives.

How Can You Get STD Protection?

std protection

In an ideal world, everyone would be able to prevent the spread of STDs by getting regularly tested (even without symptoms), using protection during sexual activities, and going to the doctor if they experience any symptoms. While not everyone always has access to STD tests or protection at all times, there are plenty of free or inexpensive services that are made to be accessible for those who can’t afford things like condoms, STI screening, and other preventative measures. It is best to get tested for STIs even in the absence of symptoms each time you have sex with a new partner or every 6 months. The barrier method is the only way to prevent the spread of STIs and even then it is not 100% effective. Condoms can sometimes tear, break or fail to work due to improper usage.

Many people also avoid using condoms for oral sex, anal sex, both of which are activities that can cause the spread of STIs. It is important to wash your hands and sex toys as another preventative measure to protect against STIs.

STD Info: What Are the Symptoms of Each STD?

what is an std


Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD and it is cured with antibiotics.

Symptoms include green or yellow discharge from the penis or vagina, abdominal pain, and or burning or pain during sex or urination. Some people with chlamydia do not experience any symptoms. If left untreated chlamydia can cause serious infection of the cervix, urethra, uterus, some treatments, or testicles.


Gonorrhea, much like chlamydia is a common bacterial STI that can be cured with antibiotics. While many people do not have any symptoms, symptoms can include unusual discharge, pain when urinating or having sex, itching, discomfort, and sore throat.


Herpes is a virus that is not curable but extremely common. There are treatments that can help with outbreaks, but once you get herpes you have it for life. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people currently live with herpes. It can be passed from mouth to genitals, genitals to mouth, and genitals to genitals. Condoms are not 100% effective against the spread of herpes because often herpes outbreaks are not localized to only the genitals themselves. Herpes sores can be on the inner thighs, buttocks, and mouth. If you or your partner is experiencing an outbreak of sores, it is recommended to abstain from sexual activities to prevent the spread. When there is no active outbreak, a condom or other barrier method should prevent contagion.


Syphilis is a bacterial infection that often goes unnoticed. It starts out with a sore that is relatively painless on the genitals, anus, or mouth. This sore is extremely infectious. Syphilis can be easily treated and cleared with antibiotics if it is found soon enough, but if it goes untreated for too long it can cause blindness, severe illness, and even death.


HIV or human immunodeficiency virus is a serious STI that can lead to AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome if left untreated. Currently, there is no cure for HIV which is a virus that hinders the immune system and can leave those infected with HIV unable to fight off simple viruses and bacteria that most people with healthy immune systems would be able to fight off. HIV presents flu-like symptoms, fatigue, fever, chills, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. If you are at high risk for HIV it is important to get tested frequently. Vaccines are undergoing clinical trials for HIV but have yet to become available.


HPV or human papillomavirus is a common STI that comes in many different strains. Some strains can be dangerous causing cancers such as cervical or uterine cancer while others are relatively harmless. There are vaccines against many of the more dangerous strains of HPV which are administered to adolescents. HPV can cause genital warts which will usually clear up on their own. It is important to screen for HPV to understand whether you have a more or less dangerous strain.

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