colds and the flu,
sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are some of the
most widespread infections both in the United States and the world. STIs affect
both men and women, and almost half of all STIs occur in people younger than 25
years old. Exposure to an STI can occur any time you have sexual contact with
anyone that involves the
genitals , the mouth (oral), or the rectum (anal).
Exposure is more likely if you have more than one sex partner or do not use
condoms. Some STIs can be passed by nonsexual contact, such as by sharing
needles or during the delivery of a baby or during breast-feeding. Sexually
transmitted infections (STIs) are also called sexually transmitted diseases
STIs are a worldwide public health concern because there is
more opportunity for STIs to be spread as more people travel and engage in
sexual activities. Some STIs have been linked to an increased risk of certain
cancers and infection with
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Pregnant women can
spread STIs to their babies. Many people may not have symptoms of an STI but
are still able to spread an infection.
STI testing can help find problems early on so that treatment can begin if
needed. It is important to practice safer sex with all partners, especially if
you or they have
high-risk sexual behaviors. See the Prevention section
of this topic.
If you think you may have symptoms of an STI:
- Do not have sexual contact or activity while
waiting for your appointment. This will prevent the spread of the
- Women should not douche. Douching changes the normal
balance of bacteria in the vagina. Douching may flush an infection up into your
uterus or fallopian tubes and cause
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Common sexually transmitted infections
There are at
least 20 different STIs. They can be caused by viruses, bacteria, and protozoa.
Some of the most common STIs in the U.S. are:
STIs can be treated and cured, but STIs caused by
viruses usually cannot be cured. You can get a bacterial STI over and over
again, even if it is one that you were treated for and cured of in the
Sexually active teens and young adults
active teenagers and young adults are at high risk for STIs because they have
biological changes during the teen years that increase their risk for getting
an STI and they may be more likely to:
- Sexually active teens and young adults:
- Ages 15 to 24 years old get almost half of
all new STIs each year.
- Have the highest rates of
chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- Syphilis rates
have increased the most in people ages 15 to 24.
- About 1 out of 5 women and 1 out of 9 men get genital herpes, and it is
more common in women than in men.
- New HIV infections have increased in people ages 13 to 29.
It is important to seek treatment if you think you may
have an STI or have been exposed to an STI. Most health departments, family
planning clinics, and STI clinics provide confidential services for the
diagnosis and treatment of STIs. Early treatment can cure a bacterial STI and
If you are a parent of a teenager, there are
many resources available, such as your health professional or family planning
clinics, to help you
talk with your teen about safer sex, preventing STIs, and being evaluated and
treated for STIs.
Risks specific to women with sexually transmitted infections
In women, STIs can cause a serious infection of the uterus and fallopian
tubes (reproductive organs ) called
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID may cause scar
tissue that blocks the fallopian tubes, leading to
pelvic abscess, or
chronic pelvic pain.
pregnant women may cause problems such as:
- Low birth
- Premature delivery.
- Infections in their newborn
baby, such as
pneumonia, eye infections, or nervous system
Risks specific to men with sexually transmitted infections
Any child or
vulnerable adult with
symptoms of an STI needs to be evaluated by a health
professional to determine the cause and to assess for possible sexual
If you have symptoms of an STI or
have been exposed to an STI whether by oral, anal, or vaginal sexual
activity, check your symptoms to decide if and when you should
see a doctor.