Reviewed By: Dr. Kurt Kloss, MD
Last Reviewed Date: Sep 25, 2018
Last Modified Date: Sep 25, 2018
Published Date: May 02, 2018
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are more common in the U.S. than many people realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of reported new STD infections reached record-setting highs in 2016. The agency states that these diseases are becoming epidemic, and that the epidemic is getting worse, especially among young women, gay and bisexual men, and newborn infants, to whom some STDs can be transmitted before or during birth by infected mothers. While those groups may be at highest risk, the fact is, all people who are sexually active face the risk of being infected with common STDs.
So, what do you need to know to protect yourself? Perhaps the most important thing to be aware of, is that using protection consistently and correctly during vaginal, anal or oral sex can reduce your risk of STD infections. Secondly, using protection helps, but is by no means foolproof. Getting regular lab tests to screen for common STDs is essential to protecting your sexual health. The array of transmitted diseases that you should be getting tested for, is comprehensive.
Most Common STDs in the U.S.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
This is the most common STD in the U.S. It is a viral infection that can be caused by any one of the more than 40 types of HPV virus that exist today and are spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Most people who are sexually active will contract at least one of these viruses at some point in their lives. Most forms of the HPV virus are harmless and are easily cleared from the system by the immune system. However, some types of HPV can cause genital warts, cervical cancer, or cancers of the penis, mouth or throat.
A bacterial STD, chlamydia is another of the most commons STDs in the U.S. The bacteria at the root of chlamydia infections is spread from one person to another via vaginal, oral or anal sex. While it can cause symptoms, such as pain or burning during urination or discharge from the vagina or penis, it is often a silent disease, with infected people showing no signs or symptoms.
Another bacterial STD that ranks high on the list of common STDs in the U.S. is gonorrhea; a disease that can lead to long-lasting health issues if left untreated. Symptoms are common in most men, but infected women are less likely to exhibit signs. Burning or pain in urination and unusual discharge from the vagina or penis are at the top of noticeable symptoms.
This is another STD caused by bacteria. It is among the most common STDs and becoming more so, with a growing number of cases reported in recent years. You can become infected with this STD via contact with the sores it causes in early stages, typically via sexual contact. These sores may be in or around the vagina, on or near the penis, on the lips, inside the mouth, or in or around the anus. It can also be passed from an infected mother to an unborn child. Many people have no symptoms, but some will develop a syphilis sore shortly after infection, which is often mistaken for an ingrown hair or pimple. A rash sometimes breaks out on the body in the early stages of the disease as well.
This very common STD is caused by a virus that is passed very easily from one person to the next via sex and/or skin-to-skin contact. Risk of spreading the virus is greatest when an infected person is having an outbreak, which appears as one or more blisters or sores around the genitals, anus or mouth. However, the disease can also be spread when there are no visible signs of the disease, since the virus can be shed from the skin between outbreaks. Many people who are infected with herpes have no symptoms or very mild ones and are unaware of their condition.
Commonly called Trich, this common STD is caused by a parasite that spreads from person to person through sexual contact. Most people infected with this parasite have no symptoms. For the approximately 30 percent that do experience symptoms, these may include itching, burning and/or soreness in the genital area and discharge from the penis or vagina that may be yellow, white or greenish and typically carries a foul odor.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
This virus is transmitted by contact with blood or certain body fluids. It is most commonly spread through vaginal or anal sex and can be acquired during oral sex under certain circumstances. Over time, when left untreated, HIV infection can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is a disease that slowly destroys the immune system. People who are infected with HIV often show no symptoms for years. People who do have symptoms often have vague ones that can easily be mistaken for the flu, a common cold or other mild ailment.
About STD Screening Tests
Getting tested for common STDs is very important for anyone who is sexually active, and it is very easy. All it takes is a few lab tests, which are done by examining samples of urine for some screening tests and blood samples for others. You can see your doctor for testing or if you prefer a more confidential approach, you can order your own tests online or over the phone through private testing services, like Health Testing Centers.
So how often should you be getting tested. The CDC recommends that most adults are screened for common STDs once a year. More frequent screening may be wise for people who have more than one sexual partner or is sexually involved with someone who does. They state that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should be tested at least once for HIV. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent HIV testing, perhaps every 3 to 6 months. The CDC also advises that all pregnant women should be screened for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, chlamydia and gonorrhea to protect their own health and that of their unborn children.