9 Things You Might Not Know About STDs

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN on June 22, 2021
  • Couple embracing
    Surprising Facts About STDs, or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
    Sexually transmitted diseases are increasingly referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but the terms are often used interchangeably. Doctors believe STI may be a more accurate description because people may be infected but not show signs of any disease. Some STDs don’t have obvious symptoms or they may be hard to pinpoint. Whether you call them STIs or STDs, some facts about sexually transmitted diseases may surprise you. Keep reading to learn more STD facts.
  • Virus infection
    1. There are more than 35 types of STDs.
    Most of us know the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, but there are many more. Some others include trichomoniasis, genital herpes, and genital warts. Some people include conditions like pubic lice in this category as well. Infections like hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS can be STDs, but they can also be spread through body fluids by nonsexual means, such as blood transfusions. There are about 20 million new cases of STDs diagnosed in the United States each year. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even parasites can cause STDs.
  • pharmacists advising young couple
    2. Older teens and young adults account for half of STD cases.
    Anyone who is sexually active can contract an STD, but half of STDs diagnosed in the U.S. are among people ages 15 to 24. The number of people affected by STDs is rising, especially among men. There was a 9% increase in infected men from 2016 to 2017. If you are sexually active and not in a monogamous relationship or with a partner who has had other sexual partners, it is important to get tested at least once a year. If you have been diagnosed with an STD, it is important not only to get treatment, but to protect future sexual partners.
  • Having Consultation With General Practitioner
    3. STDs can make you infertile.
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year about 24,000 women are infertile because of STDs. Women who contract infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea but aren’t treated might not be able to get pregnant. These infections can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. This causes scarring in the fallopian tubes, preventing eggs from being fertilized by sperm or from getting to the uterus once they are fertilized. Men may also become infertile if the STD causes scarring in or near the testes.
  • Cropped side view of woman sitting on toilet with head in hands
    4. STDs don’t always cause symptoms.
    Many people believe they must see sores or other signs if they have an STD. But there are several sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia or HIV, without symptoms, or the symptoms are so vague, they could be mistaken for something else. Other STDs, like gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis, cause symptoms once they’ve been in your body for a certain period of time, for weeks or even months. As a result, you may not have recently been sexually active when symptoms appear and therefore may overlook STDs as a possible cause.
  • Young Caucasian couple drinking coffee and talking on couch
    5. Any type of sexual activity can spread STDs.
    You don’t have to have vaginal intercourse to contract an STD. Any type of sexual activity can result in infection. The only way to reduce the risk of contracting an STD while being sexually active is by using latex condoms and/or dental dams every time you have sex: vaginally, anally or orally. Keep in mind condoms may not prevent the spread of genital herpes if the sores are located where skin touches outside of the condom coverage. There are vaccines against HPV and hepatitis B infection, but you still need to use barrier protection to prevent the spread of other STDs.
  • family celebrating pregnancy
    6. STDs can affect unborn children and newborns.
    If you are pregnant, you should be tested for common STDs even if you have no symptoms. Some STDs, like HIV and hepatitis B, can be transmitted to unborn babies. Other STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be passed on too, but they can also cause other complications, such as premature birth, stillbirth, and low birth weight. Babies whose mothers have syphilis have a high rate of complications after birth. Many of these infections can be treated while you are pregnant. In some cases, your doctor may advise that your baby be born by cesarean section, particularly if you are HIV positive.
  • woman washing eyes and face in bathroom with towel on head
    7. Your eyes can be affected by STDs.
    How might you get an STD in your eye? If you touch body fluid or genitals that are infected with an STD and you rub your eye, you can spread the infection to your eye. The most common STDs that can infect your eyes are chlamydia and gonorrhea. You can also have problems with your eyes from syphilis, as it attacks your body internally. It can cause permanent damage, even blindness. People living with HIV can develop a serious viral eye infection called cytomegalovirus retinitis (CMV).
  • man-with-hand-on-head
    8. It only takes one time to get an STD.
    It only takes one sexual encounter to become infected with an STD. If you are sexually assaulted, it’s extremely important you undergo a medical examination as soon as possible after the assault. Some women and men are reluctant to report assaults for a variety of reasons. However, your health is paramount and you should be tested for possible infections. If you did get an STD, the earlier it is detected, the earlier you can be treated, lessening the risk of complications.
  • Close-up of penicillin prescription bottle label
    9. Not all STDs can be cured.
    Bacterial STDs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, can be treated with antibiotics, although they must be treated early to reduce the risk of complications. STDs like hepatitis B and HPV do not have a cure (but preventive vaccines are available). Others, like HIV, can be managed with medications. Regardless of what type of STD you have, it’s vital you know about the infection so you can seek treatment and take extra precautions to avoid spreading the infection to your partner or partners. If you are sexually active, speak with your doctor for more information about STD prevention and treatment.
9 STD Facts You Might Not Know | Sexually Transmitted Diseases

About The Author

Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN, has been writing health information for the past 20 years. She has extensive experience writing about health issues like sepsis, cancer, mental health issues, and women’s health. She is also author of the book Just the Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Medications and How to Take Them Safely.
  1. STDs/STIs. American Sexual Health Association. http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/
  2. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis)
  3. 6 Surprising Facts About STDs. Rush University Medical Center. https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/6-surprising-facts-about-stds
  4. STDs and HIV – CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/hiv/stdfact-std-hiv.htm
  5. Male infertility. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-infertility/symptoms-causes/syc-20374773
  6. Sexually transmitted disease (STD) symptoms. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/in-depth/std-symptoms/art-20047081
  7. The Eye and STIs. Canadian Association of Optometrists. https://opto.ca/health-library/the-eye-and-stis
  8. Reported STDs in the United States, 2017. High Burden of STDs Threatens Millions of Americans; Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/factsheets/STD-Trends-508.pdf
  9. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. HealthyPeople.gov; Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/sexually-transmitted-diseases

Was this helpful?
Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 22
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.