Nobody wants to hear that they have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or sexually transmitted disease (STD). Practicing safe sex and getting screened regularly helps reduce the odds of getting or suffering complications from STIs and STDs. Nevertheless, every year, there are about 26 million new cases of STIs and STDs in the United States.
At Mian OB/GYN & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, our expert team wants you to stay STI and STD free. Or, if you do develop an STI or STD, our caring and experienced OB/GYN, Rafiq Mian, MD, recommends immediate treatment to either cure or manage your infection.
Is there a difference between STIs and STDs? How can you tell? And what should you do about it?
An STI comes first
If your doctor tells you that you have an STI, that means that you’ve become infected by an organism during sexual activity. An STI doesn’t have symptoms (yet). That’s why it’s important to be screened regularly for STIs and STDs: You can catch an infection before it becomes a disease.
You don’t have to have intercourse to contract an STI. Intimate touch, such as fingering or even dry rubbing while naked, is sufficient to transmit both the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and human papillomavirus (HPV).
If your doctor catches it in an early stage during regular STI and STD screening, an STI can often be cured. For those that can’t be cured, early detection can help you manage symptoms, including outbreaks.
Your doctor can cure STIs that are caused by bacteria and other types of pathogens. Your doctor prescribes antibiotics and other medications to completely cure STIs such as:
However, other STIs are caused by viruses and aren’t curable at this time. Many can be treated, though, to reduce the number of outbreaks and prevent complications. Incurable, but manageable STIs include:
- Hepatitis B
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
If you don’t catch and treat an STI soon enough, it then progresses to being an STD.
An STD means you have symptoms
Once there’s physical evidence of your STI, it’s progressed to an STD. All STDs start with an STI. That’s why it’s important to catch STIs as soon as possible. Curing a curable STI stops it from becoming an STD. Managing an incurable STI slows disease progression and reduces the risk for complications.
You may know, even before your screening results come back, that you have an STD. Unlike STIs, STDs change the way your body looks and feels. If you have an STD, you may notice symptoms in and around your genitals, such as:
- Pain while urinating
- Lumps or growths
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Unusual penile discharge
- Unusual anal discharge
The same treatment protocol for STIs applies to STDs. However, you may also need other treatments to ease symptoms.
How to prevent STIs and STDs
Even though STIs and STDs are common and everyone who is sexually active can be at risk, you can reduce your risk by practicing safer sex. Some measures you can take to prevent STIs or reduce the risk for complications include:
- Getting an HPV vaccine (depending on your age)
- Getting regular Pap smears (women only)
- Getting STI and STD screens at least once per year
- Using a condom for every act of intercourse
- Limiting the number of sexual partners
- Contacting your doctor if you have unusual symptoms
Be sure you’re STI free and catch any problems or potential STDs as soon as possible by calling us or using our online form to book an STI and STD screening today.