Common STDs and STIs

 Peachtree Gynecology – Patient Education


Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

BV is a condition caused by an imbalance of the bacteria that normally live in the vagina. Symptoms may include vaginal discharge, foul odor, pain, itching, or burning, but many women have no symptoms. BV can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can cause babies to be born prematurely in pregnant women. It also can spread to a woman’s internal reproductive organs (ovaries and fallopian tubes) where it causes pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to infertility (making it difficult or impossible to become pregnant).


This STD is caused by specific bacteria. Symptoms may include genital sores, vaginal discharge, a burning feeling when urinating, and swollen lymph nodes in the groin. It can be spread by vaginal or anal sex or skin-to-skin contact with sores. Chancroid can be treated with antibiotics.


This is one of the most common STDs. It is caused by specific bacteria. It can be spread by vaginal or anal sex and pregnant women can pass it on to their babies during delivery. Symptoms may include vaginal discharge and burning during urination but most women do not have any symptoms. Chlamydia can be successfully treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can spread to a woman’s upper, internal reproductive organs (ovaries and fallopian tubes) and cause PID.  Yearly chlamydia screening is recommended for all sexually-active women under the age of 26, as well as for older women with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners.

Genital Warts

HPV (human papillomavirus) is the name of a large group of viruses that cause infections in the genital area that can lead to genital warts (low risk HPV), cervical cancer, or cancer of the vulva, vagina, and anus (high risk HPV). Genital HPV is spread easily through skin-to-skin contact during vaginal or anal sex. Condoms do not totally prevent transmission. It is important to detect HPV early and get treatment to prevent health problems. Regular Pap tests are a good way to detect HPV. HPV vaccines are available for low risk HPV and high risk HPV types.


This bacterial STD can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Symptoms may include a yellowish or greenish vaginal discharge and a burning feeling when urinating. Gonorrhea can also affect the anus and the throat. Many women have no symptoms. Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can cause PID and infertility. All sexually-active women should be screened for gonorrhea.


Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Some types of hepatitis are caused by viruses and can be sexually transmitted, including hepatitis A (HAV), hepatitis B (HBV), and hepatitis C (HCV). HAV goes away on its own, but HBV and HCV can become chronic (long-term) and very serious. Because HBV and HCV often have no symptoms, most people are not aware that they have the infection. There is also a vaccine to prevent HAV and HBV, but not for HCV.


This STD is caused by a virus that lives in the nerves. There are two common types of herpes. Herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) usually causes cold sores around the mouth but can also be found in the genital area. Herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2) usually causes sores in the genital area. Symptoms include itchy or painful blisters. The virus is spread through skin-to-skin contact with sores, but it may also spread even before sores can be seen on the infected person. In most people, the sores come and go, but the virus stays in the body for life. Genital HSV-2 infection is more common in women than men. There is no cure for herpes, but antiviral drugs can prevent outbreaks if taken daily and can shorten outbreaks and make them less severe if taken as soon as symptoms begin.


HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. More than 25 percent of HIV+ people do not know they are infected. Many of them look and feel healthy and do not think they are at risk. However, you are at risk and should be tested if:

  • You have ever had vaginal, anal, or oral sex without a condom
  • You have ever shared needles or syringes to inject drugs
  • You are uncertain of your partner’s status or your partner is HIV+
  • You are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant
  • You have ever been diagnosed with an STD
  • You have hepatitis C

If left untreated, HIV can cause serious illness and death. If you test HIV+ there are effective medications to help you stay well. But you cannot get the health care and treatment you need if you do not know your HIV status.

Pubic Lice (“crabs”)

Pubic lice live in the pubic hair and can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. They can also be spread through infected clothes and bedding. Symptoms may include intense itching and seeing lice or eggs in the hair. Pubic lice can be treated with over-the-counter medications. However, pregnant women must use products specially designed for them. Contaminated clothes, bedding, and towels should be washed in hot water to kill lice and eggs and to prevent reinfection.


This STD is caused by specific bacteria. It can be spread by vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The disease has various phases. People with primary syphilis (early disease) may have pain-free open sores, called chancres, in the genital area or around the mouth. The sores usually heal on their own in 3-6 weeks. People with secondary syphilis (a later stage of the disease) often have a rash and flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, syphilis can proceed to the latent stage during which it may have no visible symptoms but can cause damage to the heart, brain, and other organs. Syphilis can be successfully treated with antibiotics in its early stages. Without treatment, it can hurt your body’s organs, leading to severe illness and even death.


This STD is caused by a parasite. It can be spread by vaginal sex. Trichomoniasis is a common cause of vaginal infections. Symptoms may include a foamy, foul-smelling vaginal discharge Trichomoniasis can be successfully treated with antibiotics.