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Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infectious diseases that are spread through sexual contact. STDs are among the most common infectious diseases in the world today. There are more than 20 types, affecting more than 13 million men and women in the United States each year. Some of the most common STDs include chlamydia infection, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), and syphilis.
Signs and Symptoms
Many times, someone with an STD has no symptoms. That's especially common in women. However, STDs may have the following signs and symptoms:
What Causes It?
STDs are caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites spread most often (but not always) through sexual contact. Some STDs can be passed from a mother to her baby during delivery and through breast-feeding while infected. Others may be passed by sharing infected needles. Some of the most common STDs, and what causes them, include:
Who's Most At Risk?
These conditions or characteristics put you at risk for developing STDs:
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Your health care provider will do an examination and check for physical signs of disease. Blood tests and tests of discharge from a genital sore can help find what is causing the infection so you can get the right treatment.
You can reduce your risk of getting an STD by:
Anyone diagnosed with an STD should be treated, avoid sexual activity while being treated, notify all recent sexual partners, finish any medications prescribed, and take a follow-up test.
STDs are generally treated with antibiotic and antiviral medicines. If you have HSV or HPV, your doctor may recommend suppressive medications that you take even when you don't have an outbreak. They reduce the number and length of outbreaks, as well as the likelihood that you'll pass the infection to someone else. See also: HIV and AIDS.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Some CAM therapies can help treat STDs -- along with conventional medicines, to prevent infection, to boost the immune system, or to reduce certain complications, such as arthritis from gonorrhea.
Some CAM therapies can help treat specific STDs, including human papilloma virus and herpes viral infections. Check with your health care provider about which supplements might work for you, and about how herbs and supplements may interact with prescription and non-prescription drugs.
CAM therapies don't offer a cure or a single treatment for any STD. You still need to see your doctor and take conventional medications. Even during treatment, STDs remain highly contagious. You need to take precautions so that you don't transmit the STD to your sexual partner (see "Prevention" section).
Nutrition and Supplements
These supplements may help when you have an STD:
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of your health care provider.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) uses many herb combinations to strengthen and tone the immune system, and to fight viruses. Check with your health care provider for more information on TCM.
Homeopaths use various homeopathic remedies to treat STDs. However, no scientific studies have looked homeopathy for this purpose. An experienced homeopath would consider each individual case and may recommend treatments to address both the underlying constitution and the specific symptoms of the STD.
Many STDs can be treated effectively when they are diagnosed early. However, if you don't get treatment you can have many complications.
Some types of STDs often come back. Some can cause permanent damage to the reproductive organs and infertility. Having other STDs increases the risk for becoming infected with HIV. Some bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat some STDs.
Depending on the type of STD you have, your health care provider may want to see you for follow-up visits to be sure the disease has not come back or to continue your treatment. If you are pregnant, an STD can cause serious complications for your unborn baby. Your health care provider will discuss treatment options with you.
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Review Date: 7/7/2012
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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