What’s the Difference Between STDs and STIs?

March 23, 2020

Sexually transmitted diseases are a taboo subject. Despite the fact that their incidence continues to rise in the United States at an alarming rate, being a statistic still carries a stigma. As a result, if you suspect having one — or if you’ve recently been at risk — you may feel scared, isolated, and afraid to ask questions. However, finding out is essential to obtain adequate treatment. That said, there are so many different types of sexually transmitted diseases, it’s easy to become confused. What’s the difference between an STD and an STI? And, how do you know if yours has a cure?

What’s the difference between STDs and STIs?

The terms sexually transmitted disease (STD) and sexually transmitted infection (STI) are often used interchangeably. And, while they both require sexual contact for transmission, they aren’t always the same.

Technically speaking, an infection occurs when bacteria or a virus enters the body. Once these microbes have caused damage to the cells in your body, it develops into a disease. When the infection has developed into a disease, you’ll experience symptoms of illness. Sometimes, a person can live with an infection for years — without being aware of it — precisely because they haven’t noticed any signs. This is why getting tested is so important if you’re sexually active.

While sexually transmitted infections can affect people in any age group, 15 to 24-year-olds account for half of all new cases in the United States. And according to the World Health Organization, more than one million of them are acquired every single day.

Examples of Sexually Transmitted Infections and Diseases

When listing examples of sexually transmitted infections, the list reads like most of the conditions you’ve been hearing about since health class in middle school. The most common ones include:

1. Herpes

Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which can affect the genitals, anus, and skin on other parts of the body. HSV-1 is known as oral herpes, while HSV-2 is known as genital herpes. People who experience symptoms usually start to notice them between two and 12 days after exposure. These include painful and itchy blisters, fever, and vaginal discharge. There is no cure for herpes, but the condition can be controlled with medication.

2. Gonorrhea

When gonorrhea develops from infection to disease, you could experience a white, yellow, or green vaginal discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, and spotting between periods. If you contracted the infection during anal sex, you may also experience anal itching and pain during bowel movements. Fortunately, the infection and the disease can be cured with antibiotics.

3. Syphilis

Syphilis develops into a disease in stages. During the initial (primary) stage, you’ll notice painless sores. They generally go away — seemingly on their own — after a couple of weeks. However, the virus remains in the body until you receive treatment. During the secondary stage, you’ll experience flu-like symptoms — such as feeling exhausted, having a sore throat, fever, and chills. During the third stage, the disease could affect the central nervous system and may cause additional infections in the heart or liver.

4. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States. When symptoms develop, they include unusual vaginal discharge, burning while urinating, and painful sexual intercourse. As with gonorrhea, chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics — specifically, with Penicillin.

5. Trichomoniasis

This sexually transmitted infection is different from other types of STIs, since it usually spreads exclusively from genitals to genitals contact — whereas most STIs can also be transmitted through oral or anal sex. It can make you more susceptible to contracting other sexually transmitted diseases and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). However, if diagnosed early, it can be cured within a week through the use of medication.

6. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is the most common STI in the United States. It’s so common, most sexually active people will contract it at some point in their life. In many cases, it goes away on its own. However, if you’re infected, you should get treatment as soon as possible, since complications may include genital warts and/or cervical cancer.

7. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

HIV weakens a person’s immune system by destroying the cells that fight disease. It’s transmitted through bodily fluids, breast milk, or sharing needles to inject intravenous drugs. Diagnosing it during its viral stage — with antiretroviral therapy — can make it possible to live with the virus for years (or sometimes even decades) without having it turn into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

OB-GYN Women’s Center can provide screening and treatment

We understand that this is a difficult subject to talk about. We also understand that when faced with the possibility of an STI or STD, things can get really scary. At OB-GYN Women’s Center, we aim to make all of our patients feel comfortable. And getting answers to all your questions is the first step in getting the treatment you need.

Contact us to schedule an appointment. Because something worse than having a sexually transmitted disease is to leave it untreated and have it turn into a more serious condition.