BODY WATCH : Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases


About 4 million Americans are infected each year. Many people have no symptoms, but symptoms for women can include vaginal discharge, burning during urination, lower abdominal pain and bleeding. Symptoms for men can include discharge from the penis, burning during urination, and pain and swelling in the testicles. Treatment is with antibiotics.


About 3 million Americans are infected each year. Symptoms include a heavy discharge in women; men may be asymptomatic. Special medications are used to treat the infection.


About 1.1 million Americans are infected each year. Symptoms include discharge, burning during urination and the need to urinate often. Treatment is with antibiotics.

Genital warts

Overall, about 40 million Americans have the disease, with about 500,000 new cases occurring each year. Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus. The symptoms are the appearance of flesh-colored, painless warts, although the warts are sometimes inside the vagina and are not noticeable. There are many options for treating genital warts.

Hepatitis B

About 100,000 to 200,000 Americans infected each year. The infection often causes no symptoms or illness, although some people become carriers and can infect others. Infection can cause jaundice, nausea, fatigue and dark urine. A few people go on to get chronic liver disease. The only treatment is rest and a special diet to repair damaged cells. A vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis B infection and is recommended for all newborns, adolescents and health-care workers.


About 120,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The first symptom is usually a sore or chancre on the genitals. Treatment is with antibiotics.


An estimated 35 million Americans have herpes simplex type 2 (the type most commonly sexually transmitted). Symptoms in the initial outbreak include inflamed skin, followed by the appearance of painful blisters that may tingle or burn. Some people also experience flu-like symptoms with the first outbreak. There is no cure for herpes but the infection can be controlled with the drug acyclovir.

HIV infection

Each year about 450,000 new AIDS cases are reported; about 1 million Americans are infected with HIV. Infected people are often asymptomatic for many years. The only way to know for sure if you are infected is to have a blood test. Early symptoms of the developing disease include frequent flu-like infections and, in women, frequent yeast infections. There is no cure for HIV infection, but several treatments are used to alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

SOURCE: The American Social Health Assn.

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