How to recognize and deal with sexually transmitted diseases


Millions of people suffer from Sexually Transmitted Diseases, or STDs, but are often too embarrassed to talk about them. Here's frank, clear information about STDs from OB/GYN Dr. Jennifer Wu of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

How to recognize and deal with sexually transmitted diseases

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) affect millions of people each year. The most common STDs are gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. While even thinking about STDs and whether you may have one is scary, knowing the facts can make a big difference in your long-term health. Here’s what you need to know:

People who are sexually active with multiple partners and are not using barrier protection are at most risk. Teenagers are a large part of this group, because they don’t always practice safe sex and they are more likely to have multiple partners. It is recommended that women who are sexually active with multiple partners get screened yearly or immediately after they have engaged in unprotected sex. If you discover that you have an STD, both you and your partner would most likely be treated with antibiotics.


Approximately 350,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported to the CDC in 2006, but because not everyone is getting tested for STDs, experts believe the actual numbers are twice that.

The symptoms for gonorrhea are burning with urination, abnormal discharge or pelvic pain. Pelvic pain indicates a very severe infection. Untreated gonorrhea can lead to a serious infection as the disease may spread to a woman’s fallopian tubes and cause infertility.


There were 1,000,000 cases of chlamydia reported to the CDC in 2006; experts think the actual rate of infection is as high as 2,000,000 cases.

Chlamydia is often called the silent disease because many people with chlamydia have no symptoms. Chlamydia can affect the urethra, the vagina, the cervix and the fallopian tubes. Symptoms include burring with urination, abnormal discharge and pelvic pain. If you are experiencing any of these systems you should see your doctor to determine if you have chlamydia. Women with chlamydia who aren’t treated are likely to develop pelvic inflammatory disease. Pelvic inflammatory disease occurs when the infection spreads and causes scarring to the uterus and fallopian tubes. Untreated chlamydia can result in infertility.


Trichomoniasis is the most common STD. About 7 million women and men have trichomoniasis. Women who have trichomoniasis will often experience a frothy yellow or green discharge coming from their vagina. But some people won’t have any symptoms.

Understanding STDs, what causes them, and how to treat them will help you stay in control of your health.


Hi, there. I'm Denise Richardson for Sexually transmitted diseases affect millions of us every year. And yet it's not something we're all well-informed about.


Here to help us learn what we can know is gynecologist, Dr. Jennifer Wu. Thank you so much for being with us. STDS. What are the most common?


The most common STDS are gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas.


Let's start with gonorrhea.


About 350,000 cases were reported to the CDC in 2006. But we actually think that the actual numbers are twice that. Because not everyone is getting tested for STDS.


Now, who is most susceptible to gonorrhea?


Well, patients that are sexually active with multiple partners, who are not using barrier protection, are probably most susceptible.


I understand that teenagers are a large part of that group.


Teenagers are probably not always using protected sex with condoms. And they are having a higher number of sexual partners than, say, someone in their 50s or 60s.


Dr. Wu, how do you know you have gonorrhea?


Occasionally, patients will have burning with urination. They may have an abnormal discharge. Or they may have pelvic pain. That actually usually indicates a very severe infection, if the patients are having pain.


And how do you treat it?


Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics. A patient and the partner should both be treated, and they should abstain from sex during treatment.


And what if it's not treated?


Untreated gonorrhea can develop into a very serious infection. The infection can spread upwards. It can spread to a woman's Fallopian tubes, and it can scar them shut, thus causing infertility in the future.


If you go you gynecologist and you have an exam, will it be picked up?


It depends on the exam that you're having. I usually recommend to young, sexually active women who have multiple partners that they should have an STD screen at least once a year. Or if they've had unprotected sex, that they should have an STD screen after that.


Let's move on to chlamydia. What is it?


It's caused by bacteria that's spread through contact. It can infect the urethra, the vagina, cervix, uterus, and unfortunately also the Fallopian tubes. There were a million cases reported to the CDC in 2006. But those are the reported cases. We actually think the rate of infection may have been as high as 2 million cases.


How do you know you have chlamydia? It's often called a silent disease, because many patients don't have any symptoms. Some of the symptoms include burning with urination, an abnormal discharge, pelvic pain.


What about treatment?


Treatment is with antibiotics. An infected person and her partner would need to be treated.


And if you're not treated?


If chlamydia goes untreated, it has a very high rate of pelvic inflammatory disease, which is when the infection spreads upwards towards the uterus and Fallopian tubes. This can lead to scarring in the Fallopian tubes and infertility.


Let's move on to trichomiasis. What is it?


Trichomiasis is a trichomonas infection, which is a parasitic infection. And it's spread through sexual contact. And it's very common. It's the most common STD. About 7 million women and men a year are infected.


And how do you know you have trichomiasis?


Women with trichomonas, they will often complain of a frothy yellow or green discharge. But some patients don't have any symptoms.


If you don't have symptoms, does that mean that you have a mild case?


Not necessarily. Even without symptoms, patients can wind up with scarred Fallopian tubes and infertility.


And how do you treat that?


It's treated easily with oral antibiotics. And usually, an infected patient and her partner would be treated.


And if you don't get it treated?


This infection can also spread upwards into the uterus and Fallopian tubes, causing pain, but less commonly causing scarring and infertility.


Dr. Wu, this is scary information, but vital. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Denise Richardson for

meet theexpert
  • Dr. Jennifer Wu

    Dr. Jennifer Wu Obstetrician-Gynecologist Dr. Jennifer Wu is a practicing board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist in New York City. She is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a member of the American Medical Association and the New York Country Medical Society. more about this expert »

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