Whether your doctor tells you that you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or a sexually transmitted disease (STD), it’s not a happy day. Nobody wants either, even though some STIs and STDs can be cured. Both STIs and STDs are on the rise though, with about 26 million new cases in the United States alone each year.
What’s the difference between them? And should you act differently, depending on whether you have an STI or STD?
Rafiq Mian, MD, an expert and discreet OB/GYN, helps you understand how STIs and STDs affect your own health and the health of your intimate partners. He and our team at Mian OB/GYN & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, are here for you, whenever you need treatment or testing for STIs and STDs or to answer any questions you have.
What an STI is
An STI is an infection that’s transmitted through sexual or intimate activity. You don’t actually have to engage in sexual intercourse to contract some STIs. Some types of viral infections — including herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV) — can be transmitted through intimate touching, such as fingering or oral sex.
If you have an STI, you don’t necessarily have any symptoms. In fact, you may be shocked to learn you have an STI because you didn’t notice any changes or symptoms. Some STIs can be cured with a course of antibiotics, whether they’re in symptomatic or asymptomatic stages.
Curable STIs include:
Currently incurable STIs include:
- Hepatitis B
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes)
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
Depending on your age, you may be able to prevent HPV infection with a vaccine. Even incurable STIs can be managed, so it’s important to determine if you have one as soon as possible to prevent it from developing into an STD.
What an STD is
An STD is the physical manifestation of an STI. You may only realize that you have an STI after your bloodwork comes back. The infection is present in your body, but it hasn’t yet caused symptoms.
If you have an STD, however, you probably already suspect you have it, even before you get screened for STIs and STDs. An STD is the disease that results from the infection. All STDs start with an STI.
The most common STDs are:
- Herpes outbreaks (i.e., blisters or sores on genitalia)
- Genital warts (from HPV)
- AIDS (from HIV)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, from gonorrhea, chlamydia, or trichomoniasis)
An HPV infection is also the most common cause of cervical cancer, which is why all sexually active women should have regular Pap tests to catch that potentially deadly disease in an early, treatable phase.
What to do if you have an STI or STD
Whether you have symptoms or not, if you have an STI or STD, you can pass the infection to an intimate partner during sex play or intercourse. You must be more vigilant than ever about practicing safer sex techniques, including using condoms every time you have intercourse, to avoid infecting your partner or spreading your own infection.
If you have a curable STI, we either give you a course of antibiotics to kill the bacteria that causes it or antiviral medications to kill the virus behind your STI. Some incurable STIs — such as herpes, Hepatitis B, and HIV — can also be managed with antiviral medications.
Curing or managing your STI or STD keeps you safer and keeps your intimate partners safer, too. If you have an STI or STD, you may wish to join a support group to help you manage the emotional impact of your infection and help you adjust to possibly new behaviors and routines.
Keep ahead of your sexual health with regular testing for STIs and STDs at Mian OB/GYN & Associates, and always let us know if you notice new or unusual symptoms. Call us or use our online booking form today.