Learning about the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that affect women can help you recognize symptoms and receive treatment as soon as possible. In some cases, knowing how these diseases spread — through vaginal, oral or anal sex — and the risk factors can even help you prevent them entirely.
Accurate diagnosis and effective treatment are critical — the earlier, the better.
1. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Beyond its status as the most common STI women are diagnosed with, HPV infects over 40 million people globally. Consider these facts about HPV:
- People carrying HPV may show no signs or symptoms, making it easier to pass the infection to their partners unknowingly.
- Abnormal Pap test results or genital warts can indicate an infection.
- There are more than 100 kinds of HPV, and some strains have serious health consequences for women, like cervical cancer.
While HPV has no cure, you can ask your doctor for an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent infection if you are sexually active.
While gonorrhea is easy to treat with antibiotics, women are especially vulnerable to this infection as it impacts the cervix, causes pelvic inflammatory disease and can damage the reproductive system. Some women don’t notice symptoms immediately, making STD testing crucial. Signs of gonorrhea that women should look out for include:
- Painful sex.
- Abdominal cramps.
- A yellow or green discharge.
Chlamydia always tops the list of most common STIs for women and men because it often goes unnoticed. This bacterial infection can leave women asymptomatic with few or no symptoms. Individuals unwittingly spread the infection to their sexual partners, not knowing that this condition can put a woman’s reproductive health at serious risk.
Like gonorrhea, chlamydia has a straightforward treatment — oral antibiotics. Women who are sexually active should be aware of the condition’s most common symptoms, like vaginal discharge and painful sex.
Another STI prevalent among women is hepatitis. Although there are five main strains of this virus, hepatitis B and C can be passed sexually and cause severe health issues that impact liver health. Some people have no symptoms, so women often don’t realize they have the disease until it causes further problems. Signs that could point to infection include severe fatigue, fever, nausea and joint pain.
There is no cure for Hepatitis B, but it can be managed. New hepatitis C treatments show promise for curing the disease. There are also hepatitis vaccines. So, talk to your doctor to discuss your risk of infection.
5. Genital Herpes
Painful blisters and sores in the most private of areas — these are the telltale signs of genital herpes. The herpes simplex virus has two forms — HSV1 and HSV2. The second type is what causes genital sores. Other signs of genital herpes women should look out for are flu-like symptoms, skin rash and a pins and needles sensation.
There is no cure for herpes, although it can be managed with medication that can lessen the severity and frequency of outbreaks. Once women become infected, they are carriers for life, even if the herpes virus remains dormant. Testing ensures you don’t pass this STD on to others.
Most Common Signs of STDs in Women
Women are more likely to overlook STI signs than men — but why? In females, many STDs remain asymptomatic. This lack of obvious symptoms delays diagnosis and treatment.
Another concern is that typical signs of STIs resemble fairly common women concerns, such as yeast infection or irregular menstruation.
If you are a woman who is sexually active, it’s crucial to know the most common symptoms of STDs. These include:
- Painful urination.
- Changes in urine.
- Vaginal discharges.
- Painful intercourse.
- Bleeding or spotting between periods or after sex.
STD testing means you get the right diagnosis and treatment — but you must act fast.
STD Preventive Measures for Women
While women are at a higher risk for catching STIs, they can take several steps to protect themselves. After all, prevention is the best way to reduce the risk of developing STDs. Women can safeguard their health with simple preventive measures like:
- Speaking with their doctors about regular STI testing if they are having sex.
- Communicating with their partners about safe sex and sexual health.
- Encouraging sexual partners to receive regular STD testing.
- Avoiding sex if they believe their partner may have an infection.
- Committing to mutual monogamy with one sexual partner or considering abstinence.
- Carrying a condom or another barrier method to use during sex.
- Avoiding substances like drugs and alcohol before sex to prevent unsafe sexual practices.
Receive STD Testing and Treatment at Hamilton Health
Hamilton Health Center proudly provides patients of all genders with essential health services, empowering our community to lead happier, healthier lives. Our skilled and compassionate professionals provide the highest level of health care, including judgment-free STD testing and STD prevention education. We also maintain a safe and comfortable setting for women’s health services.
If you want to learn more about our comprehensive care, book an appointment online or call us at 717-232-9971.