Infection: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

views updated

Infection: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also called venereal diseases, are contagious illnesses transmitted by vaginal or anal intercourse and by oral sex. Some STDs can also be transmitted by kissing, by an infected mother to her child during childbirth or breastfeeding, or by sharing needles used for intravenous drugs. Some doctors prefer the term “sexually transmitted infection” (STI) to STD because a person can be infected, and possibly infect others, without having obvious symptoms of a disease.

Sexually transmitted diseases can be caused by a variety of disease agents. Some—such as AIDS, genital herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection—are caused by viruses. Others—including syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia—are caused by bacteria. One type of STD, pubic lice or “crabs,” is caused by a parasite.

Sexually transmitted diseases can cause long-term health problems if not promptly diagnosed and treated. Women may find themselves unable to have children. Such diseases can also cause blindness or other lifelong disabilities in children born to mothers with STDs. Some types of HPV infection increase a woman's risk of cervical cancer. In addition, any sexually transmitted disease is a risk factor for HIV infection and AIDS—a disease that still has no cure.

SEE ALSO AIDS; Chlamydia; Genital herpes; Gonorrhea; HPV infection; Lice infestation; Syphilis

About this article

Infection: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Updated About content Print Article