If you are intimate with others, you are at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), which is also sometimes called a sexually transmitted infection (STI). These are contagious infections transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. In some cases – such as with genital herpes and HPV – skin-to-skin contact is enough to pass along the infection.
Many STDs have no symptoms, especially in women, so it can be difficult to know if you’ve been infected. Periodic testing is recommended for anyone with multiple sexual partners, even if you are having protected sex. At Women's HealthFirst in northwest suburban Chicago, we offer safe and confidential STD testing and treatment.
Why STD Testing & Treatment Is Important
It’s important to screen for and treat an STD, so you don’t unknowingly spread it to others, as well as to prevent serious complications like infertility, long-term pelvic pain, problems during pregnancy, and cancer.
Most birth control methods do not protect against STDs. The only form of contraception that protects against STDs are condoms – and errors with condom use are all too common. For example, condoms are often put on too late (midway through sexual activity) or removed too early (before sexual activity is completed). Failure to inspect a condom for damage prior to use can lead to a tear or rip – as can failing to leave room at the tip for semen.
Before having intercourse with someone new, it is important to talk with them about STD risks and whether they have ever had an STD.
There are many different types of STDs. If you don’t see the STD you are concerned about below, talk to your OB-GYN provider at Women’s HealthFirst. We can provide or order the specific type of STD screening you need.
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that causes mild early symptoms in women. When left untreated, however, chlamydia can cause irregular vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics, although treatment cannot reverse any permanent damage already caused by the STD.
One of the more well-known of STDs, genital herpes is caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV), type 1 or type 2. It produces painful outbreaks in the genital area, as well as around the anus, buttocks, and thighs. Sores can also appear on the mouth or lips as a result of oral sex with an infected person. Once infected, the virus remains in you for life.
There is no cure for genital herpes – but antiviral treatment can reduce symptoms, outbreaks, and the likelihood of spreading the infection. It is important to note, however, that you can become infected with genital herpes even if your partner is not currently displaying any symptoms of an outbreak. That’s because many people with genital herpes experience few, if any, symptoms – so, most people with the infection may not even be aware they have it.
Sometimes called “the clap,” gonorrhea is an STD that causes mild early symptoms in women. When left untreated, however, gonorrhea can cause abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is treated with antibiotics.
HPV infections are the No. 1 sexually transmitted disease in the country. Nearly everyone will contract HPV after becoming sexually active.
There are more than 100 types of HPV. Some of these viruses are spread through sexual contact, others through intimate, skin-to-skin contact. Some types of HPV can cause cancer. An HPV infection is typically classified as either low-risk or high-risk:
- Low-risk HPV are treatable infections that includes HPV 6 and 11, which are associated with genital warts. These infections are diagnosed upon visual exam.
- High-risk HPV infections may lead to cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, or penis. HPV 16 and 18, for example, account for nearly all instances of cervical cancer. High-risk HPV infections often come with no symptoms. Pap smears and/or HPV tests can diagnose these infections in women; there is currently no approved test to detect HPV in men.
There is no cure or treatment for HPV itself. However, most HPV infections go away on their own. If you had an abnormal Pap smear or HPV test indicating the presence of high-risk HPV, and the infection does not go away, this can lead to precancerous changes your doctor may need to remove. It is critical to schedule regular follow-up visits with your OB-GYN if you have an abnormal Pap smear or positive HPV test.
Vaccines protect against some types of HPV, including the types associated with genital warts and some types that can cause cancer. The most helpful time for women or men to get the vaccine is prior to becoming sexually active.
This is an infection affecting a woman’s reproductive organs. It is usually caused by the same sexually transmitted bacteria that causes gonorrhea and chlamydia. Once a woman is exposed to the bacteria that causes PID, the bacteria travel from the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
An estimated 10% of women diagnosed with PID will become infertile, due to scarring of the fallopian tubes. PID can also cause complications during pregnancy. Young women are most often affected.
Antibiotics can treat most cases of PID, although more severe cases may require hospitalization or surgery.
A common STD caused by a parasite, trichomoniasis – often abbreviated as “trich” – can lead to vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina), which is painful and itchy. It also commonly causes a vaginal discharge that may be greenish-yellow in color, with an unpleasant smell. Occasionally, trichomoniasis occurs with no signs or symptoms at all.
The good news is that a trich infection is easy to cure with antibiotics. It requires treating your partner, as well, to avoid becoming reinfected. Left untreated, a trich infection can make you more susceptible to contracting other STDs.
Safe, Confidential STD Tests and Treatment
If you are sexually active – especially if you have multiple partners – it is recommended that you receive periodic STD/STI screening at your OB-GYN’s office.
STD and STI Screenings in Buffalo Grove, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Barrington & Bartlett, IL
The providers at Women’s HealthFirst provide comprehensive women’s healthcare services, including the full range of STD tests and treatments. Call us at (847) 808-8884 to schedule your visit or request an appointment now. Are you an existing patient of ours? Simply use our patient portal to message your provider team or request an appointment.
We have five conveniently located clinics throughout northwest suburban Chicago.