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 syphilisyphilis.
STDs often happen without symptoms, particularly in women. However, STDs may have the following signs and symptoms:
STDs are caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites spread primarily (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 the microorganisms that cause them, include:
These conditions or characteristics put you at risk for developing STDs:
Sexually active adults ages 18 - 28. Teens are at highest risk for acquiring an STD for the first time.
Having a sexual partner with an STD. In many cases, the person may not have symptoms.
Having many sexual partners, or a partner who has many sexual partners.
Having sex without a condom or other protection.
Having one STD increases the chance of getting another.
Living under stress from poverty, poor nutrition, or lack of health care.
Having anal intercourse increases risk for HIV, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
Having a weakened immune system.
Using IV drugs and sharing needles.
Your health care provider will do an examination and check for physical signs of disease. Blood tests and tests of discharge or fluid or material 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 with these actions:
Anyone diagnosed with an STD should be treated, avoid sexual activity while being treated, notify all recent sexual partners, complete the course of any medications prescribed, and take a follow-up test.
STDs are generally treated with antibiotic and antiviral medicines. Your doctor may recommend suppressive medications if you have HSV or HPV. These therapies reduce the number and length of outbreaks, as well as the rate of transmission.. See also:
Some CAM therapies can be helpful for STDs -- as treatment along with conventional medicines, as prevention, to improve 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 to use for your condition, and about how herbs and supplements may interact with prescription and non-prescription drugs.
None of these CAM approaches offers a cure or a single treatment option. You should not use these therapies instead of seeing your doctor and getting conventional medications. Even during treatment, STDs remain highly contagious -- and you must take the necessary precautions so that you don' t transmit the STD to your sexual partner (see "Prevention" section).
Always tell your health care provider about the herbs and supplements you are using.
These supplements may help when you have an STD:
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to diagnose your problem before starting any treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses many herb combinations to strengthen and tone the immune system, and as antiviral agents. 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, many complications can result from not treating STDs. 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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