If you’ve had unprotected sex, it’s best to talk with your health care professional about getting tested. This could mean giving a urine sample or a blood test.
Remember that many, if not most, STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia don’t cause symptoms. And HIV can lead to serious problems if left untreated.
How do STIs get into your body?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are diseases caused by bacteria and viruses that can be passed from one person to another through penis-and-vagina sex, oral sex, anal sex or even open-mouthed kissing. They can also be spread through nonsexual close contact, such as sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs, or by using contaminated body piercing and tattoo equipment. Some STIs, such as herpes and HIV, can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, while others, like hepatitis A and hepatitis B, spread through the blood.
STIs can affect anyone who has unprotected sex and can cause serious health problems. Some STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis can be cured with medicine. Others, including HPV, herpes and HIV, can’t be cured but can be treated to reduce symptoms and prevent them from spreading to other people. Symptoms of STIs can appear anywhere from a few weeks to months after sex, and many people don’t have any symptoms at all. That’s why it’s important to get regular STI screenings.
There are many ways to protect yourself from STIs, including condoms and dental dams during oral and anal sex. Always use a condom that is made from latex or polyurethane and be sure to put it on correctly: erect the tip, then roll it all the way down the erect penis to ensure that sperm (semen) doesn’t leak out before you pull it off.
How do STIs get out of your body?
The bacteria, viruses or parasites that cause STIs usually spread from person to person during sexual contact. But some STIs, such as herpes, HIV and syphilis, can also spread through nonsexual contact. They can pass from mothers to their babies during childbirth or through blood transfusions or shared needles.
Viral infections are not cured and will remain in the body for life, but bacterial infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be treated with antibiotics. Untreated STIs can cause long-term health problems, including infertility and sterility. They can also cause hepatitis A or hepatitis B, which may lead to liver cancer.
The most reliable way to prevent STIs is to use condoms during all sexual activity, even when having anal or oral sex. You should also limit the number of sex partners you have and get tested regularly for STIs. Vaccines for human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis A and hepatitis B can help prevent many STIs, but they do not protect against herpes or HIV. Avoiding alcohol and drug use and getting a regular sex exam can also help prevent STIs. And make sure to talk to your sex partner about getting tested and treated for STIs, too. Symptoms of STIs often don’t show, so they can go untreated until they cause complications or your doctor diagnoses them.
What are the symptoms of an STI?
Symptoms of an STI can vary and affect different parts of the body. It can take days, weeks, or months for symptoms to show up, depending on the type of STI and where it was contracted.
Common STIs include bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, hepatitis, HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), and syphilis. Some STIs, like hepatitis B and chlamydia, can be asymptomatic, meaning there are no symptoms. Because asymptomatic STIs can cause infections that are hard to detect, routine testing for STIs is important.
Many STIs can be diagnosed through an exam or using a swab in the mouth or genital area. Some tests can be done at home, making them easy to use and very convenient for people with busy schedules.
The best way to prevent STIs is to always use condoms during and after any sexual contact. If you have a partner, talk openly with them about STIs and how they can be prevented. You should also limit the number of partners you have, practice safe sex and use proper hygiene. Washing your anus and vulva after each time you have sex can help reduce the risk of infection. Be sure to rinse and clean all areas of the skin where you have contact with your partner, including adolescent boys. Lastly, avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes and razors with your sexual partners.
How long do STIs last?
A health care provider will diagnose an STI through a physical exam and testing. They will ask personal questions about your sex history — it is important to answer honestly to get the help you need. They may take a fluid sample from skin sores, a discharge from the vagina or penis, or a blood test to find out if you have an infection that infects your blood.
It can take days, weeks or months for the symptoms of some STIs to show up. This timeframe is called the incubation period. It is also possible to have an STI with no symptoms at all. This means you can still spread the infection to others through oral, vaginal or anal sex, as well as by skin-to-skin contact, like cupping or massage.
It’s a good idea to get tested for STIs at least once every year. Your healthcare provider can recommend a testing schedule that’s right for you. It is also important to encourage your sexual partners to get tested regularly. Getting tested can prevent unintended infections and help both you and your partner practice safer sex techniques. It can also make it easier to detect an STI early, so that you can start treatment right away. Most STIs can be treated successfully with antibiotics. However, some STIs, like HIV, require lifelong treatment.