Facts About STDs and Related Conditions

"Remember what you are taught and told." -Cup'ik Cultural Value

Remember, you can reduce your risk for an HIV/STD infection by:

  • Abstaining from sex (not having vaginal, oral or anal sex).
  • Sticking to one mutually-monogamous partner who has been tested and is not infected.
  • Using latex condoms (consistently & correctly) for both oral (penile) sex and penetrative (vaginal or anal) sex.
  • Using dental dams for vaginal oral sex and anal sex.
  • Using latex or latex-free medical gloves when touching another person's genitals.
  • Using lube during sex. Lube minimizes friction. Friction can cause irritation and tearing during sex which makes it easier to catch an STD.
  • Not sharing needles, syringes, razors or toothbrushes. 
The BEST thing to do is to prevent rather than treat HIV/STD infections. The 100% proven prevention for infections is not having any type of sexual intercourse, vaginal, oral, or anal (abstinence).

If you choose to have sex, protect yourself every time with latex condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners.

Did you know you can have an STD without below-the-belt penetration?

If you've had manual stimulation
AKA "handjob"/"fingering", you could be at risk for: 
         If you've had oral sex (vaginal or anal),
you could be at risk for:
  • Herpes

  • HPV

  • Pubic Lice

  • Scabies 

  • Herpes

  • Gonorrhea

  • Hepatitis

  • Syphilis 


To learn about each type of STD, click the STD to expand the box with information about that STD.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Quick Fact: Bacterial Vaginosis or BV is NOT an STD. BV is an infection that can hinder a girl’s sexual health.

How do I know if I have Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

This is a mild infection in girls in the vagina. Sometimes there are no symptoms. BV may cause pain while peeing, itching in or around the vagina, and a bad, fishy-smelling, white or gray discharge that is thin, more noticeable during a girl’s period or after sex. Vaginal discharge is normal for the body during different times in the menstrual cycle. But if any discharge or other symptoms are not normal, see your health care provider. BV is NOT a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) but the chances of a girl getting BV increases with the number of sexual partners.

How can I get it?

Girls develop Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) when there is an imbalance of “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. This can happen in different ways. Having sex does NOT mean a girl can get BV. Girls who have never had sex can get BV. Certain things can make getting BV more likely:
  • Douching (washing or cleaning out the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids)
  • new sex partners
  • many different sex partners (male or female)
  • cigarette smoking.

BV is not spread by toilet seats, sheets and clothing, hot tubs, saunas, steam baths, or swimming pools.

How can I get treated?

See a health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms that do not seem normal. The provider will ask you questions about your symptoms and then will examine you and maybe collect a sample of vaginal fluid with a cotton swab to be tested in a lab.

BV is usually treated with prescription antibiotics, vaginal creams, or suppositories.

If a girl is having sex with a male partner he will most likely not have to be tested for BV. But, Female partners should get tested.

What happens if I don't get treated?

Untreated BV can affect a girls sexual health by:

  • increasing the chances of getting an STD like herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV/AIDs
  • increasing the chance of pregnancy complications like premature birth, low birth weight, infection and possibly miscarriage.

Chlamydia

Quick Fact: Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STD in the United States. In 2010, 1,307,893 chlamydial infections were reported to the CDC.

NOTICE: The purple icon below contains GRAPHIC IMAGES of sexually transmitted diseases intended for educational and teaching purposes, and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

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To get a handout, click here.

How do I know if I have Chlamydia?

Most Chlamydia infections don’t cause signs or symptoms.

75% of infected women and 50% of infected men have NO symptoms.

Some symptoms might be abnormal discharge or a burning sensation when peeing.

For men and women the only way to know is to get tested. Some testing can be performed on urine. Other testing requires a small specimen be collected from the penis, vagina or cervix. Testing can give you a peace of mind and get you treated right away if necessary. Ask your primary care provider or try the new at-home testing service in Alaska. You can go to www.iwantthekit.org to request a testing it.

How can I get it?

Chlamydia can be passed from person to person during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Ejaculation does not have to happen for the infection to be passed from one person to another. Chlamydia can also be passed from mother to baby during childbirth.

How can I get treated?

Chlamydia infections can be easily cured with antibiotics. Untreated gonorrhea can increase a person’s risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Please see a health care provider if you think you may have gotten infected.

Completing the prescription antibiotic treatment all the way is important, even when the symptoms go away or you start to feel better. Finishing the antibiotic treatment and abstaining from sex for seven days after treatment are important because infections can spread if not cleared up completely.

Contacting any sexual partners to let them know they should be tested, and treated if necessary, is important too.

What happens if I don't get treated?

About 10 to 15 percent of women with untreated Chlamydia will develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive organs and cause chronic pain, infertility, and ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.

Genital Herpes (Herpes simplex virus Type 1 or Type 2)

Quick Fact: One out of every five Americans has had a Herpes infection.

NOTICE: The purple icon below contains GRAPHIC IMAGES of sexually transmitted diseases intended for educational and teaching purposes, and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Warning
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How do I know if I have Herpes?

Most people don’t know they are infected with Genital Herpes. If you do have symptoms, they may include sores, followed by flu-like symptoms or a fever and swollen glands. Most people diagnosed with Genital Herpes will have several (typically 4 or 5) outbreaks in the first year. Over time, the outbreaks occur less frequently, or are less irritating than the initial outbreak. The only way to know for sure is to get tested. Genital Herpes can be diagnosed by visual inspection, or by testing a sample.

How can I get it?

You can get Genital Herpes from sexual contact. The person infected does not need to have a visible sore to infect the other person, and sometimes might not even know they are infected.

    81.1% of infected individuals do not know about their infection. 16% of people aged 14-49 have an HSV-2 infection.*


The virus can be shed from skin that looks normal.

How can I get treated?

Herpes cannot be cured, but antiviral medicine can shorten/prevent outbreaks and reduce transmission to partners. Currently, there is no vaccine available against Genital Herpes. The good news is that the disease is reported as 

What happens if I don't get treated?

Herpes can cause painful genital sores. It can also cause potentially fatal infections in babies. Herpes can make people more susceptible to HIV infection, and can make HIV-infected individuals more infectious. 


Source: CDC - Herpes

Gonorrhea or "the clap" - hard to spell, easy to catch

Quick Fact: Gonorrhea rates are highest among sexually active teenagers and young adults.

To get a handout, click here.

NOTICE: The purple icon below contains GRAPHIC IMAGES of sexually transmitted diseases intended for educational and teaching purposes, and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Gonorrhea in men - epididymitis
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How do I know if I have Gonorrhea?

Most gonorrhea infections don’t have any signs or symptoms. Symptoms may include a burning sensation when peeing. It can also cause white/yellow/green discharge from the penis, painful or swollen testicles, or increased vaginal discharge/vaginal bleeding between periods.

The only way to know is to get tested. Some testing can be performed on urine. Other testing requires a small specimen be collected from the penis, vagina or cervix. Testing can give you a peace of mind and get you treated right away if necessary. Ask your primary care provider or try the new at-home testing service in Alaska. You can go to www.iwantthekit.org to request a testing kit to be mailed to you.

How can I get it?

Gonorrhea can be passed from person to person through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Ejaculation does not have to happen for the infection to be passed from one person to another. Gonorrhea infections can occur in the mouth, throat, eyes, anus, cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. It can be passed from mother to baby during childbirth.

How can I get treated?

Gonorrhea infections can be easily cured with antibiotics, like the common cold. Untreated gonorrhea can increase a person’s risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Completing the prescription antibiotic treatment all the way through is important, even when the symptoms go away or you start to feel better. Finishing the antibiotic treatment and abstaining from sex for seven days after treatment are important because infections can spread if not cleared up.

Contacting any sexual partners to let them know they should be tested, and treated if possible, is important too.

What happens if I don't get treated?

Untreated gonorrhea can develop into pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive organs and cause chronic pain, infertility, and ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, which is a life-threatening situation.

Hepatitis A, B, and C

Quick Fact: Hepatitis is caused by a group virus that attack the liver.

How do I know if I have Hepatitis?

Sometimes a person with Hepatitis has no symptoms at all. The older you are, the more likely you are to have symptoms.

If you have symptoms, they might include:

  •     yellow skin or yellowing of the whites of your eyes
  •     tiredness
  •     loss of appetite
  •     nausea
  •     abdominal discomfort
  •     dark urine
  •     clay-colored bowel movements
  •     or joint pain

How can I get it?

Hepatitis A can be spread via fecal-oral or during sexual activities such as oral-anal contact with an infected person. It can sometimes be caught through food or water contaminated with feces (poop) from an infected person.

Hepatitis B is transmitted through activities that involve contact with infected blood (e.g.: sharing needles to inject drugs) or bodily fluids during vaginal, anal and oral sex (e.g.: semen and saliva).

Hepatitis C can be spread through contact with infected blood like sharing needles to inject drugs, blood transfusions, hemodialysis with contaminated blood. It can also be transmitted through bodily fluids during vaginal/anal/oral sex. A mother can pass hepatitis to her baby during the birthing process if she is infected.

How can I find out if I have Hepatitis?

You can find out through a blood test or physical exam.

How can I get treated?

Hepatitis cannot be cured. Some symptoms can be treated, and some infections (such as Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B) can be prevented with vaccination.

What happens if I don't get treated?

Hepatitis can cause permanent liver damage, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) / AIDS (Aqcuired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)

Quick Fact: HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. 32% of all HIV cases diagnosed through 2008 in AK were in people under 30 years. For more information on HIV in AK, go to http://www.epi.hss.state.ak.us/hivstd/default.stm.

To get a handout, click here.

How do I know if I am infected with HIV?

Many people do not have any symptoms when they are first infected with HIV - Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Some people have flu-like symptoms after a month or two: fever, headache, tiredness, and enlarged lymph nodes, but those symptoms usually disappear within a few weeks.

A person infected with HIV can feel fine for up to around ten years after infection until the point where they become extremely sick from not having immune system defense anymore. This is known as the "incubation period". If a person's immune system is almost nonexistent, it is known as AIDS - Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome.

How can I get it?

HIV can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, by sharing needles, or from mother-to-child during birth or breast feeding. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is passed through blood or bodily fluids such as: semen, breast milk, and vaginal secretions.

Remember, HIV cannot be transmitted by hugging, shaking hands, or contact with sweat, saliva, toilet seats, door knobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, sauna, steam baths, shared clothing or eating.

How do I find out if I am infected?

Blood, saliva, or urine lab tests are available. Some tests are rapid and provide results within an hour. Others provide tests within a couple weeks.

How can I get treated?

HIV cannot be cured. But, there are medications that can slow the progress of the disease.

What happens if I don't get treated?

HIV infections that result in the development of AIDS can cause seizures, difficulty swallowing, confusion, diarrhea, fever, vision loss, nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, weight loss, headaches, or coma.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Quick Fact: 50% of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their life. There are over 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital area.

NOTICE: The purple icon below contains GRAPHIC IMAGES of sexually transmitted diseases intended for educational and teaching purposes, and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

 

Warning
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To get a handout, click here.

How do I know that I have HPV (Human Papillomavirus) or "Genital Warts?"  

Most people will not develop any signs or symptoms of HPV. But sometimes, certain symptoms such as genital warts (growths or bumps in the genital area) can occur. Other HPVs can cause cervical cancer or other less common cancers. Testing for HPV is mainly available when women are screened for cervical cancer at certain ages, and with certain pap smear test findings. There is no general test to find HPV on the genitals or in the mouth or throat.

How can I get it? 

HPV is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or possibly oral sex. A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sexual contact with an infected person. It is possible to get more than one type of HPV.

How can I get treated?

There is no cure for HPV, but genital warts can be treated or removed. However, HPV can be prevented through are HPV vaccines for girls age 9-26. It protects females against 70% of all HPVs that cause cervical cancer and 90% of all HPVs that cause genital warts. A vaccine (Gardasil) is now also available for boys ages 11-26 that prevent most genital warts and anal cancers.

What happens if I don't get treated?

Besides potentially causing cervical cancer and genital warts, HPV can make people more susceptible to HIV infection, and can make HIV-infected individuals more infectious.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Quick Fact: Each year, more than 750,000 women in the United States will develop PID. Up to 10-15% of these women may become infertile as a result of PID.

NOTICE: The purple icon below contains GRAPHIC IMAGES of sexually transmitted diseases intended for educational and teaching purposes, and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Warning
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How do I know if I have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)?

There are a range of symptoms, from more severe to very mild to no symptoms at all. It is difficult to diagnose PID because the symptoms are often subtle and mild and there are no precise tests.

Some symptoms include:

  •     pain/tenderness in the lower abdomen
  •     bad-smelling, abnormally colored vaginal discharge
  •     pain during sexual intercourse
  •     spotting between periods
  •     chills or fever
  •     nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  •     loss of appetite
  •     backache and maybe difficulty walking
  •     painful and frequent urination
  •     pain in upper right abdomen

How can I get it?

Most develop PID as a result of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like chlamydia or gonorrhea, when bacteria move upwards from the vagina or cervix (opening to the uterus) into the reproductive organs. Untreated STDs increase the chance of developing PID.

How can I get treated?

If you are experiencing symptoms of PID contact your health care provider immediately. The provider will do a physical exam along with a pelvic exam to look for a painful cervix, abnormal discharge from the cervix, or pain over one or both ovaries. Also, a swab of fluids from the cervix or vagina may be collected to test for STDs like chlamydia or gonorrhea. Ultrasounds or CAT scans of the lower abdomen may be performed to exam reproductive organs to diagnose a growth on the ovaries called tubo-ovarian abscess (TOA) or abnormal pregnancies called ectopic pregnancy.

PID can be cured by prescription antibiotics.
Severe cases of PID with fever, vomiting, those not responding with prescription antibiotics, or when a girl is pregnant, will require a hospital stay and antibiotics delivered through the vein in an IV. Sometimes surgery needs to be performed if there are growths called abscesses from a tubo-ovarian abscess (TOA) or if there is an ectopic pregnancy.

What happens if I don't get treated?

Untreated or unrecognized PID can spread to the reproductive organs. Untreated, and especially repeated PID can lead to long-term reproductive problems:

  •     Infertility
  •     Chronic pelvic pain
  •     Scarring in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus
  •     Ectopic pregnancy
  •     Tubo-ovarian abscess (TOA)

Pubic Lice or "crabs"

Quick Fact: Pubic lice can live not only in pubic hair, but in eyelashes, beards, armpits, or other areas with coarse hair. Like head lice, they can be found in different forms, the nit (egg), the nymph, and the adults.

How do I know if I have Pubic Lice?

The symptoms include itching in the genital area and visible nits/lice around hairs.

How can I get it?

Pubic lice is most commonly spread through sexual contact in people who have gone through puberty. Pubic lice found on children may be a sign of sexual abuse or living in a household where an adult has pubic lice.

Pubic lice may be spread through contact with towels, bedding, or shared clothing in an infested household. 

Pubic lice cannot be spread through smooth surfaces like toilet seats, as they cannot survive without the warmth of the human body for very long. They cannot "jump" from person to person.

How can I get treated?

Immediately schedule an appointment with your provider. They may find only a few nits or lice in the region, as they tend to not move as much as head lice do. They will prescribe a medicated lotion or mousse to apply to clean skin and hair. Make sure to follow the directions as provided.

To ensure that you don't spread any remaining lice, you can machine-wash and machine-dry your clothing, bedding, and towels. If you do not have a washing machine, use boiling water to wash items, hang-dry, and store them in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks.

All partners and people with whom the infected person has shared towels, bedding, or clothing should be made aware in case they develop symptoms.

If you have had pubic lice, you should also get tested for other STDs. 

What happens if I don't get treated?

Untreated pubic lice can lead to a large infestation, and can result in infected wounds from constant scratching, including bacterial/viral STDs. 

Bacterial and viral STDs have their own risks and treatments, see other definitions on this page.

Syphilis

Quick Fact: If left untreated Syphilis can reappear 10-30 years after infection began.

NOTICE: The purple icon below contains GRAPHIC IMAGES of sexually transmitted diseases intended for educational and teaching purposes, and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Warning
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How do I know that I have Syphilis?

Stage 1: Primary Syphilis
People infected will develop a painless, reddish-brown, sometimes wet sore or sores on the mouth, vagina, penis, rectum, breast or fingers. This type of sore is called a chancre (pronounced: /shang-ker/). People may notice chancres anywhere from 10 days to 3 months after contact with someone with syphilis. The average time of first symptoms is 3 weeks. Sometimes swollen glands appear in the first stage.

During this stage, syphilis is VERY contagious –easily given to other people. The sore(s) may be difficult to see, since they are in areas like the mouth, under the foreskin of the penis, or on the anus. Syphilis can be spread without knowing during this stage, because people can be infected and not know.

Stage 2: Secondary Syphilis
At stage 2 if syphilis is untreated, a rash anywhere on the body develops as well as flu-like symptoms. The rash usually does not cause itching. Stage 2 symptoms show up 1 week to 6 months after stage 1 sores heal. The symptoms go away with or without treatment, but without treatment the infection will progress to Stage 3 and possibly 4. Syphilis is still contagious and easily spreadable during stage 2.

Stage 3: Latent or "Hidden" Syphilis
If still untreated, someone with syphilis will experience the latent or “hidden” stage. During this stage, symptoms go away while the disease is still there and “hiding” in the body. Syphilis can stay in the body in this latent stage for years.

Stage 4: Tertiary Syphilis
If syphilis still has gone untreated, a person can develop tertiary or late-stage syphilis. The spirochete bacteria spread to other parts of the body and damage the brain, eyes, heart, spinal cord and bones. Symptoms of syphilis in the late-stage are: difficulty walking, numbness, gradual blindness, and even death.

How can I get it?

Syphilis is passed through direct contact with a syphilis sore on the external genitals, vagina, and anus or in the rectum. The bacteria (spirochete) are very small and can live almost anywhere in the body after a person is infected and leads to major organ. A person can get syphilis through direct sexual contact whether vaginal, oral, or anal sex, with a person who has syphilis.

How can I get treated?

Infections can be cured with antibiotics. Antibiotics can stop the infection and prevent further damage, but damage already done cannot be repaired. Blood tests or other laboratory test are available to detect an infection.

What happens if I don't get treated?

If left untreated, late stage syphilis can cause brain damage, paralysis, heart disease, and death. Having untreated syphilis increases the chances of getting HIV since HIV can enter the body more easily through the syphilis sores.

If a woman is pregnant and has untreated syphilis, the baby is in danger of major birth defects or death.

Trichomoniasis - "trich"

Quick Fact: About 70% of infected people do not have any signs or symptoms.

How do I know if I have Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is one of the most common STDs. Usually there no signs or symptoms. Symptoms show up 5 to 28 days after contact, but there are differences between men and women.

There may be a feeling of itching, burning, redness or soreness of the vagina called vaginitis, pain in the abdomen, pain during urination or vaginal intercourse, or a thin, smelly discharge that is clear, white, yellowish, or green.

There may be pain or itching inside the penis or pain during urination or after ejaculation.

Testing can give you a peace of mind and get you treated right away if necessary. Ask your primary care provider or try the new at-home testing service in Alaska. You can go to www.iwantthekit.org to request a testing kit.

How can I get it?

Trichomoniasis is passed from a person who is infected to another person through sexual intercourse - from a penis to a vagina, from a vagina to a penis or from a vagina to another vagina. It is not common for the parasite to infect other body parts, like the hands, mouth or anus.

How can I get treated?

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or if your partner may have trichomoniasis, please see your healthcare provider to get tested. Your provider will exam you and swab for fluids in the vagina and penis to be tested. In Alaska, you can also go to www.iwantthekit.org to request a testing kit. Trichomoniasis can be treated with antibiotics. Remember to complete all medications before engaging in any sexual contact and make sure that all your sex partners get treated as well. Even if your symptoms are gone you can still have the infection.

What happens if I don't get treated?

Getting trichomoniasis can make it easier to get HIV. Usually, if you are being tested for trichomoniasis your doctor will test for other STDs like chlamydia or gonorrhea since these infections occur together.

In pregnant women, having trichomoniasis can lead to a baby being born early or with a low birth weight.

Urinary Tract Infections - "UTI"

Quick Fact: NOT an STD.

How do I know if I have a Urinary Tract Infection?

First, to understand bacterial urinary tract infections (UTI), you need to know what the urinary tract is. Urine is your body’s way of filtering out salts and waste products. Usually urine has no bacteria, otherwise known as sterile. Urine, or pee, starts forming in the kidneys, travels down the ureters, and into the bladder. When urine exits the body, it passes through the urethra – a small tube from the bladder to the outside of the body.

There are three types of UTIs. Depending on the type of UTI, a person can experience different symptoms. The most common UTI is in the bladder and causes discomfort.

You may feel:

  • The need to pee (urinate) a lot
  • Feeling the need to go to the bathroom and very little or no urine comes out
  • Pain, discomfort or a burning sensation during urination
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • In girls, pain above the pubic bone
  • In boys, a full feeling in the rectum
  • Bloody, cloudy, or smelly urine
  • Fever, chills
  • Feeling tired or shakiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the back, around the waist

If you are experiencing any symptoms like these, see your healthcare provider.

How can I get it?

Sometimes bacteria, like E. Coli, can enter the body by the urethra and get into the bladder or kidneys. When bacteria begin multiplying in the bladder or kidneys, this is called a UTI or Urinary Tract Infection. UTIs are more common in women than men, because the urethra in women is closer to the rectum and vagina and bacteria can enter more easily.

During sexual intercourse, bacteria from the vaginal area can enter the urethra and into the bladder where the bacteria begin to grow and flourish leading to a UTI. UTIs are NOT transmitted during sexual contact – you can’t get a UTI from someone else. However, women who are sexually active get UTIs more often because bacteria enter the urethra easily.

Also, a woman may get a UTI by wiping back to front after a bowel moment because bacteria in stool can enter the urethra and cause an infection. Wipe front to back every time! Using spermicides (or condoms treated with spermicide) and diaphragms may cause more UTIs too.

Again, remember UTIs are NOT STDs. There is no way to get a UTI from another person.

How can I get treated?

If you are experiencing symptoms of a UTI, see your health care provider. Your health care provider may collect a sample of your urine. UTIs can only be treated with antibiotics. The antibiotics will kill the bacteria but sometimes the symptoms will continue for a few days. For that, there are painkillers specifically for UTIs, although they do turn your pee orange. Normal painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen should work just fine too.
Also, avoiding sexual intercourse for a week or more may help inflammation and the pain to go away. 
During your treatment drink lots of water. Stay hydrated! Drinking 100% cranberry juice is helpful too. Remember to look out for 100% cranberry juice though - most juices say they are cranberry juice but really they are made of very little cranberry juice and a lot of sugar. The high levels of sugar in these juices can actually cause more problems if you have a UTI. Try to avoid coffee and spicy or salty foods, which make you less hydrated.

If you smoke, it’s always a good idea to quit smoking, especially if you have a UTI or keep getting UTIs. Smoking can cause bladder problems. See our section on tobacco here. Alcohol can also dehydrate you, so avoiding that is good too.

What happens if I don't get treated?

The sooner you get treated for UTIs, the sooner they disappear. A urinary tract infection can become very severe if it gets into your kidneys. If there is an untreated kidney infection, it can lead to kidney damage, or even develop into a blood infection, which are both life-threatening.

How do I avoiding getting a UTI?

  • Going to the bathroom often and not holding urine for a long time
  • Keeping their genital area clean and dry (breathable underwear like cotton)
  • If sexually active, go to the bathroom both before and after sex, wash (no douching!) the genital area to remove bacteria, and if using lubrication or lube using a water-soluble lubricant
  • Not using feminine hygiene perfumes or douches which bother the urethra.
  • Not using strong, perfumed soaps and bubble baths which irritate the vaginal area. Taking showers or plain baths are best.
  • Changing tampons and pads regularly during periods.
  • Keeping the vaginal area dry by not wearing wet swimsuits or nylon underwear- cotton crotches are best.

Vaginal Yeast Infections

Quick Fact: NOT an STD.

How do I know if I have a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

Yeast infections can happen to any woman. Women who are not sexually active can get yeast infections.Yeast infections in the vagina are caused by a yeast, candida albicans.

Symptoms include:

  • Itching or pain in the vagina
  • Redness, swelling, or itching of the vulva – folds of skin outside the vagina
  • Thick, white, “cottage cheese” discharge that usually has no smell but can smell like bread or yeast
  • Pain or burning while peeing or during sex

If you are experiencing any symptoms, see your doctor to get treated.

How can I get it?

Yeast can over grow because of:

  • Stress
  • Taking antibiotics
  • Pregnancy
  • Prior to menstruation or periods, because of hormone changes
  • Tight clothing or underwear
  • Nylon- or polyester-material underwear, which traps heat and moisture
  • Using perfume or scented soaps or douching
  • Having uncontrolled diabetes, because yeast grow easier with high blood sugar

A yeast infection is NOT a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Sometimes, very rarely, yeast infections can spread during sex from one person to another.

With men, infections can happen on the head of the penis or beneath the foreskin of guys who are uncircumcised. Keeping these areas clean and dry may prevent a yeast infection. Men with diabetes or taking antibiotics can get yeast infections more often.

If a guy has a yeast infection,  he may experience:

  • Redness, pain, or itching on the tip of the penis
  • Slight discharge or pain while peeing

How can I get treated?

If you have any symptoms see your health care provider. They can make the right diagnosis and figure out if you have a yeast infection or not. Your provider may collect a urine sample to make sure the infection is not a UTI, and may swab the vagina to examine the discharge under a microscope.


If you have a yeast infection, your doctor may prescribe a pill, cream, or suppository to put in the vagina. If you are using a cream or suppository, you should wait to have sexually intercourse until after your treatment. The medication weakens condoms and diaphragms.


You can buy medications and tests for yeast infections at the store or local drugstore, but they are expensive. Going to a healthcare provider can let you know if you have other infections going on. If not properly treated, you can develop other infections because of the yeast infection. Also, store bought or “over the counter” (OTC) medications should not be used by anyone younger than 12 or women who may be pregnant.

What happens if I don't get treated?

The sooner you get treated for yeast infections, the sooner they disappear. They can lower your immune system function, which may cause you to get sick in other ways.

How do I avoiding getting a vaginal yeast infection?

Women can prevent yeast infections by:

  • Not wearing tight clothing, stretchy exercise gear or pantyhose.
  • Not wearing nylon/polyester material underwear, which traps heat and moisture; all-cotton underwear are best.
  • Not using feminine hygiene perfumes or douches which bother the vagina.
  • Not using strong, perfumed soaps or bubble baths which irritate the vaginal area, or washing too deeply with soap. Taking showers or plain baths are best.
  • Changing tampons and pads regularly during periods.
  • Keeping the vaginal area dry.
  • Don’t take leftover antibiotics or someone else’s antibiotics.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar levels under control.

For all above information: Thank you to Project Red Talon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Nemours TeensHealth on Sexual Health for use of information.