The Deadly Symptoms of the Most Common STDs Today

The NY Department of Health estimates that 110 million Americans — over one-third of the U.S. population —  currently live with a sexually transmitted disease. Most are easy to take care of and won’t affect your long-term health, however, even common STDs can wreak havoc on your body if left untreated.

These common STDs can lead to serious health conditions, many of which result in early death. There are easy steps you can take to prevent contracting an STD as well as the associated long-term, deadly symptoms.

1. Birth defects and infertility

Young woman is asking advice in her gynecologist

A young woman is asking advice from her gynecologist. | iStock.com/YakobchukOlena

Chlamydia — the most common curable STD — affects nearly 2.8 million Americans each year. It is dangerous because it is asymptomatic. It’s common for sexually active women to have chlamydia for weeks, months, and even years without knowing it.

Untreated chlamydia infections can spread into women’s’ fallopian tubes and cause them to become blocked at the ends. It can also lead to scar tissue development on the fallopian tubes. These problems may result in infertility or increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Next: What seems like a harmless STD can cause major internal damage.

2. Organ damage

Syphilis can wreak havoc on your body. | Mike Simons/Getty Images

Syphilis — once thought to be eradicated in the U.S. — mostly affects men and is most common among men with same-sex partners. Untreated syphilis unfolds in multiple stages, the first of which is characterized by small sores that spread bacteria. Without treatment, you’ll develop late-stage syphilis.

Late-stage syphilis can take up to 20 years to develop and extensively damages vital organs including the brain, heart, nerves, liver, and bones.

Next: Certain diseases can actually lead to cancer if neglected.

3. Cervical cancer

injecting injection vaccine vaccination medicine flu woman docto

The HPV vaccine is becoming a necessity. | scyther5/iStock/Getty Images

HPV is the most common STD: studies done before the vaccine estimated that 75% of the sexually active population contracted HPV at some point in their lives. Most strains of HPV are harmless and easy to treat. In fact, many cases of HPV resolve on their own.

There are nearly 40 strains of HPV that are considered “high-risk” and linked to different cancers including cervical, anal, penile, and throat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all boys and girls ages 11 to 12 get vaccinated to prevent HPV infection.

Next: This STD can lead to a fatal disease.

4. Weak immune system

HIV isn’t the death sentence it used to be, but it’s still incredibly serious. | iStock/Getty Images

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was once called a “death sentence” due to its association with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It’s no longer referred to as a death sentence. However, HIV is still an incurable disease that may lie dormant for over a decade.

HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids like semen, vaginal secretions, breast milk, and blood. The early stages of HIV have symptoms including fatigue, rapid weight loss, and high fever. The only real way to be certain you have the disease is to get tested, as the second stages of HIV are generally asymptomatic and can lead to AIDS.

Next: If you notice these symptoms, catch the disease before it gets worse.

5. Liver cancer

woman in gray undershirt feeling pain

Hepatitis B can lead to horrible liver problems. | iStock.com/GeorgeRudy

There are five well-known strains of hepatitis. The hepatitis B virus, HBV, is sexually transmitted through bodily secretions and blood. Nearly 70% of those affected with HBV will show symptoms including jaundice, loss of appetite, vomiting, fatigue, and abdominal pain. The World Health Organization estimates 257 million people worldwide are living with HBV.

Untreated HBV can cause a chronic liver condition that puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis (late stage scarring of the liver) and liver cancer.

Next: These common STDs increase your risk of damaging your reproductive organs.

6. Pelvic inflammatory disease

female reading pregnancy test

This disease can lead to infertility. | Source: iStock

Untreated chlamydia and bacterial vaginosis can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Bacterial vaginosis isn’t universally considered an STD, however, it is associated with having new or multiple sexual partners. Initial symptoms include gray or white discharge, a strong “fishy” odor following intercourse, and itching and burning in the vaginal area.

BV infection increases a woman’s risk of PID. The CDC states that when bacteria like chlamydia and gonorrhea move from a woman’s vagina or cervix into her reproductive organs, it can lead to infertility and permanently damage the organs.

Next: Here’s how you can prevent these common STDs from affecting you

7. Practicing safe sex

A view of condoms

If you practice safe sex, you’ve got a good chance of avoiding a lot of these dangers. | Chris Jackson / Pool/Getty Images

While the only full-proof way to prevent STDs is abstinence, that isn’t a realistic option for many people. Practicing safe sex is a simple and effective solution if done correctly. Use latex condoms everytime you have sex, get your Hepatitis B and HPV vaccinations, and get routine testing for common STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

It’s important for women to get tested for HPV annually whether or not you’re sexually active starting at age 21. For more information on STD prevention, visit the CDC’s STD information page.

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