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Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are passed from person to person by sexual activity. Although STDs are most often spread through vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse, skin-to-skin contact is enough to transmit many STDs.

STDs affect an enormous number of people throughout the world, regardless of age, sex, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity. Approximately 19 million new infections occur each year in the United States, and about half of these infections are in people aged 15-24. Roughly 50% of people in the United States will have at least one STD during their life.

People at higher risk for STDs are those who do not use condoms, have more than one partner, or have sex with people who have multiple partners, use intravenous drugs, and/or share needles. You can decrease your risk for getting an STD by using condoms every time you have sex (even during oral sex), limiting your number of sexual partners, or abstaining from sexual activity. If you think that you or your partner may have an STD, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can decrease your chance of spreading the infection and can prevent possible complications.

There are many types of STDs, and all have slightly different symptoms. STDs that cause prominent skin changes are discussed here. For example:

  • Genital warts, caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), and molluscum contagiosum appear as small, painless bumps or growths.
  • Genital herpes (herpes simplex virus), primary syphilis, chancroid, and lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) cause open sores, blisters, or ulcerations in the genital region.
  • Pubic lice and scabies mites can cause itchy, red bumps in the genital region.
  • Gonorrhea can cause a discharge from the vagina, penis, or rectum.

Important infections that are not discussed here include chlamydia, HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, and certain forms of gonorrhea, which you can learn more about by using the VisualDxHealth Trusted Search functionality in the menu bar.

Searching for pictures of genital warts or other STDs? Click any of the pictures of sexually transmitted diseases below to learn more.

References/Trusted Links:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual CDC Report Finds High Burden of Sexually Transmitted Disease, Especially among Women and Racial Minorities. Updated February 3, 2009. Accessed March 26, 2009.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends in Reportable Sexually Transmitted Disease in the United States, 2007. Published January 2009. Accessed March 26, 2009.

Rosen T. Sexually transmitted diseases 2006: A dermatologist's view. Cleve Clin J Med. 2006 Jun:73(6):537-, 542, 544-5.

Best Matches - Click a disease below to see additional images and learn more.
Genital Wart (Condyloma Acuminatum) Genital warts (condyloma acuminata) are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which has over 100 different strains. Subtypes number 6 and 11 cause 97% of genital warts and are considered…
Gonorrhea, Primary Infection Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhea. It is a contagious sexually transmitted disease spread by unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an infected…
Genital Herpes Genital herpes is a recurrent, lifelong skin infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are 2 types of HSV: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2…
Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV) Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is an uncommon sexually transmitted disease caused by certain types of the bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It is spread through having unprotected vaginal, oral…
Molluscum Contagiosum Molluscum is a common painless and usually harmless viral infection of the skin. Although it is painless and usually goes away after several months, some cases can last a few years.
Pubic Lice (Pediculosis Pubis) Pubic lice (pediculosis pubis), also known as crab lice or crabs, is a louse (a type of wingless, bloodsucking insect) that can live and multiply (infest) on skin that grows pubic hair. Pubic lice most commonly…
Primary Syphilis Primary syphilis is a disease caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacterium (a spirochete) called Treponema pallidum. It causes disease when it penetrates broken skin of the genitals or the mucous membranes of…