Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)

Each year, there are about 20 million new STD infections in the United States. Anyone who is sexually active, including oral sex, can get an STD. Get the facts about STDs below.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a common STD in the United States that is easy to cure with the right medicine. It is caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. Anyone who is sexually active can get chlamydia, by having vaginal, oral or anal sex. Most people who have chlamydia don’t know it, since the disease often has no symptoms. This is why it is important to get tested regularly if you are sexually active, and get treated if you are infected. Chlamydia can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant if left untreated; it can also cause discharge from the penis of an infected man.

You can get infected with chlamydia again after being treated if you have unprotected sex with someone with the infection.

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Gonorrhea is another common STD, sometimes called “the clap” or “the drip.” Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea, by having vaginal, oral or anal sex. Many times, gonorrhea has no symptoms, so it is important to get tested regularly if you are sexually active. The right medication can cure the infection. Gonorrhea has developed resistance to most of the antibiotic drugs prescribed to treat it, therefore getting the correct treatment is important. Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious health problems in both women and men.

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Syphilis is a STD caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum.  You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.  Syphilis is often called the ‘great imitator’ because it has so many possible symptoms. Many of the symptoms look like symptoms from other diseases.

1st Stage: 1-12 weeks after infection, a painless sore will appear where you were infected.  The sore can be anywhere in genital area, inside vagina, rectum, or mouth. The sore will go away without treatment, but the infection is still causing damage to your body.  Because the sore is painless and may not be visible, many people with syphilis do not recall noticing a sore.

2nd Stage: 2-12 weeks after the sore has healed, you may get a rash on your hands, feet, or whole body.  A red, blotchy rash is common with this stage and sometimes called a “palmar-plantar rash” because of the location on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet.  You might have flu-like symptoms, or rapid patchy hair loss. Even though the symptoms will go away, you still have syphilis until you get treated. Syphilis can eventually cause death.

3rd Stage: After the second stage, many people with syphilis can go a long time with no symptoms at all.  This “latent period” does not mean you no longer have syphilis. The infectious sores may return. Untreated syphilis can damage your internal organs.  Syphilis can continue to cause damage to your body for decades if untreated.

Neurological symptoms: Neurological symptoms can happen at any stage of syphilis.  Some people with syphilis may have confusion, depression, headaches, or numbness. Syphilis can also cause serious permanent eye damage or blindness.

You should get tested regularly if you are pregnant, are a man who has sex with men, have HIV infection, and/or have partner(s) who have tested positive for syphilis. Pregnant women should get tested throughout their pregnancy because the infection can cause serious problems in a baby.

Genital herpes is a common STD, and most people with genital herpes infection do not know they have it.  Around one in five adults in the United States has genital herpes. Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum, or mouth.  The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take weeks to heal. You can get genital herpes from an infected partner, even if your partner has no symptoms. There is no cure for herpes.  Medicine can make outbreaks less frequent. When you take medicine, it is less likely you will spread herpes to a sex partner.

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Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD in the United States.  There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers.  Some health effects caused by HPV can be prevented with vaccines.

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Get Tested

For more information on STD testing, visit our testing page.  To find a testing site near you, use the locator to the right.  For testing or other health services at a local health department, click here.  For specific questions about STDs or testing locations call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline at (800) 533-4148.

Last Updated: January 23, 2020