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What are STDs?
Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, can be equally scary for both men and women. They are usually transmitted by having unprotected sexual intercourse with a partner who also is infected. Because of anatomic differences, manifestations of STD symptoms in women and men may differ. The following are common examples of these diseases and the symptoms that accompany each infection.
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A genital tract infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae often displays the same symptoms for both men and women, although these symptoms may not always be present in some women. These include frequent urination, thick and cloudy discharge from the genitalia and dyspareunia, or painful sex. Pain during urination may also be experienced as well as bleeding between menstrual periods.
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Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that may not present with noticeable symptoms. Many men and women with this infection may not be aware that they have the disease, thus, they can spread it to their partners. Symptoms are often similar to that of urinary tract infections which manifest with urinary urgency and painful urination. Some affected men and women may also experience abdominal pain as well as genital discharges.
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Symptoms of HIV infection in both men and women include fatigue, diarrhea, weight loss, shortness of breath, headaches, night sweats, coughing, chills and fever. Some of the earliest signs of this infection are the presence of swollen lymph nodes and flu-like manifestations. These symptoms may come and go for many months. Because HIV infection lowers the body's immune system, affected men and women frequently become prone to other infections.
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Syphilis is caused by Treponema pallidum. Between 10 to 90 days the date of infection, a sore or ulcer usually appears on the genitals or mouth, depending on which one has been exposed to the bacteria. During this stage the infection is usually contagious. In some individuals, the infection may resolve without syphilis treatment. There are many cases, however, which can proceed to a secondary syphilis that appear many weeks or months later. Symptoms during this stage include rashes in the palms and feet, hair loss, fever, sore throat and headache. A latent stage may then follow which can last for as long as 20 years. A tertiary stage may also occur where many organs are affected such as the heart, eyes, ears and nerves.
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Herpes often presents as blisters and ulcers developing on the skin of the genitalia or the mouth. Before these blisters and ulcers appear, tingling, itching and reddening of the affected area may be observed. Blisters in herpes are often very painful when touched. Affected women may seldom know they are infected due to mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
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When to Seek Medical Help
Treatment with most STDs are often effective when given early. This can also prevent complications like infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease. But because most STD symptoms in women are frequently mild, they are often not given medical intervention sooner. Women are thus, encouraged to get a medical evaluation when they experience burning or painful urination, unusual vaginal discharges, presence of sore or ulcer in the genitals and having swollen lymph nodes in the groin area. Knowing that a partner has STD is also a strong indication to seek immediate medical evaluation.
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Mayo Clinic: Sexually Transmitted Diseases, www.mayoclinic.com/health/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/DS01123
MedicineNet.com: Sexually Transmitted Disease in Women, www.medicinenet.com/sexually_transmitted_diseases_stds_in_women/article.htm
MedlinePlus: Sexually Transmitted Diseases, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sexuallytransmitteddiseases.html