Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Females
Chlamydia can affect the urethra, rectum, throat, vagina, and cervix in women. Symptoms include burning with urination, vaginal discharge or bleeding, abdominal pain, and pain during sexual intercourse. Chlamydia can lead to blindness and eye, lymph node, and respiratory infections. It can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, or ectopic pregnancy. Chlamydia may also not cause any symptoms. Chlamydia is usually treated successfully with antibiotic medications. Both sexual partners should be treated to stop spreading the disease to each other.
Genital herpes can affect the labia, vagina, cervix, anus, mouth, and inner thighs in women. Genital herpes causes repeated outbreaks of small blisters on the genitals, rectum, or areas of nearby skin. You may experience tingling, burning, or itching before the blisters appear. Your skin may appear red and then blister. The blisters are filled with clear fluid. When the blisters break, painful sores can result. Symptoms may also include severe headache, fever, muscle aches, feeling tired, and loss of appetite. You may experience vaginal discharge and painful urination. Complications may cause brain or spinal cord infection.
Genital warts are caused by infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). In females, HPV can cause warts on the vulva, urethra, vagina, cervix, and anus area. Visible warts look like raised flesh-colored growths that appear individually or in clusters. The growths may grow large and have a “cauliflower-like” appearance. Your doctor may detect warts in the vagina or on the cervix; they are flatter in appearance. You may experience itching, increased vaginal discharge, and abnormal vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse. Some women may not have symptoms.
Gonorrhea (“The Clap”)
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is spread through any type of sexual contact with an infected person. The bacteria thrive in warm moist areas and can grow in the fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, urethra, vagina, and eyes. You may experience a thick green-yellow colored vaginal discharge, vaginal itching or burning, increased urination, and burning or pain while urinating. You may have bleeding between your menstrual periods. You may have a fever or sore throat. Sexual intercourse may feel painful. You may have severe pain in your lower abdomen if the infection spreads to your fallopian tubes.
Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV)
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is a viral infection that gradually destroys the immune system and progresses to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV can be transmitted in blood, semen, and vaginal secretions during oral, vaginal, and anal sex. A pregnant mother can transmit HIV to her developing baby during pregnancy. A nursing mother can transmit HIV to her baby in her milk during breast-feeding. Sharing needles for IV drug use can also spread HIV and AIDS.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pubic lice are small six-legged creatures that infect and lay eggs in pubic hair. They cause moderate to severe itching in areas with pubic hair. The itching may be worse at night. You may develop a bluish-gray colored skin rash from constant scratching. Pubic lice are treated with a prescription wash. Your partner should be treated as well. You should treat or dispose of your affected clothes or linens, as they may transmit the lice.
Bacteria cause syphilis and the infection has several stages. The first stage causes painless crater-like sores on the labia, cervix, anal area, or mouth. The sore may leave a slightly depressed scar. Some people that do not have primary stage syphilis treated develop second stage syphilis. Second stage syphilis can cause headache, rashes, fever, joint pain, hair loss, and flu-like symptoms. There may be no visible symptoms while the bacteria multiply during second stage syphilis. Tertiary syphilis, the final stage, can cause dangerous brain, nervous system, heart, skin, and bone infections.
Trichomoniasis is a parasite that is transmitted by penis to vagina or vulva to vulva contact with an infected person. You may develop a heavy, frothy, foamy, foul smelling, green-white or yellow colored vaginal discharge. Your vaginal area or inner thighs may itch. Your labia may be swollen. Sexual intercourse may be uncomfortable.
Consistent and correct use of male and female condoms can help prevent the spread of STDs, although it is not a guarantee. Condoms may not prevent some types of infections, and certain types of condoms may be more effective for preventing specific STDs. For more information, please refer to the “Symptoms” section of this article.
A vaccine is available to prevent the four types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, but it does not protect against all types of the virus that causes genital warts. You should still use prevention methods to prevent HPV even if you have been vaccinated. The vaccine is not effective for women that already have HPV, and the vaccine does not cure cervical cancer. There is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B, but not hepatitis C.
If you have a STD, let your potential sexual partner know. You can mutually agree on condom use and low-risk sexual activity. You should also know your partner’s sexual, STD, and IV drug use history. Again, you and your partner should both be tested for STDs before having sexual contact. If you develop a STD, it is important to let your former partners know that they should get tested as well. By doing so, you can help stop the spread of STDs.
Contact your doctor if you suspect you have or were ever exposed to a STD. Let your doctor know if you are pregnant. It is very important to receive prompt diagnosis and treatment.
Am I at Risk
STDs are spread from an infected person to another person during oral, vaginal, or anal sexual contact. Female or male condoms can help reduce the spread of certain STDs, but not all types of STDs. People considering having sexual relations should be tested for STDs before having sexual contact with another person.
_____ The highest incidence of STDs occurs in people that are between the ages of 15 and 24.
_____ Women experience a higher rate of STDs than men.
_____ People of minority groups have higher rates of STDs. The rates are the highest among African-Americans and Mexican-Americans.
_____ Sexual activity at a young age is associated with an increased risk for getting STDs.
_____ People that have sexual contact with many different partners have an increased risk for contracting a STD. Sexual contact includes any type of intimate activity, not just sexual intercourse.
_____ Having unprotected sex, sex without condoms, increases the risk of getting a STD.
_____ You are at risk for contracting a STD if you do not know if your partner has one or not. Some people may have a STD and may not know it because they may not have symptoms; however, they may still transmit the disease. It is important that people considering having sexual contact receive female gynecological or male genital examinations specifically for STDs before having sexual contact.
_____ Participating in anal intercourse increases your risk for getting a STD.
_____ Your risk for STD is greater if your partner is an IV drug user.
_____ If you have a STD, you may be more vulnerable to infection with other types of STDs.
____ Using drugs or alcohol in a situation where sex might occur increases the risk of participating in high-risk sex and increases your chance of contracting a STD.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.