Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections spread by sexual contact. This includes genital skin-to-skin contact and vaginal, oral, and anal sex. If you're pregnant, you can also spread them to your baby before or during the birth.
STIs are common. But they don't always cause symptoms. And if they are not treated, they can lead to health problems. Testing and treatment are important to help protect the health of you and your partner(s).
STIs caused by bacteria can go away with treatment. STIs caused by viruses can be treated to relieve symptoms, but treatment won't make them go away.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Take medicines exactly as prescribed.
- If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Don't stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
- Tell your sex partner(s) that they will need treatment. For certain STIs, your doctor may be able to prescribe treatment for your partner(s) also.
- Don't have sexual contact while you have symptoms of an STI or are being treated for an STI.
- Don't douche. Douching changes the normal balance of bacteria in your vagina. It may increase the risk of spreading the infection to your uterus or other reproductive organs.
How can you prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
You can help prevent STIs if you wait to have sex with a new partner (or partners) until you've each been tested for STIs. It also helps if you use condoms and if you limit your sex partners to one person who has sex only with you.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have sudden, severe pain in your belly or pelvis.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have new belly or pelvic pain.
- You have a fever.
- You have new or increased burning or pain with urination, or you cannot urinate.
- You have pain, swelling, or tenderness in the scrotum.
- You are pregnant and have any symptoms of an STI.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You have unusual vaginal bleeding.
- You have a discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus.
- You have any new symptoms, such as sores, bumps, rashes, blisters, or warts in the genital or anal area.
- You have itching, tingling, pain, or burning in the genital or anal area.
- You think you may have been exposed to an STI.
- You have a sore throat or sores in your mouth or on your tongue.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter M049 in the search box to learn more about "Exposure to Sexually Transmitted Infections: Care Instructions".
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine