Other Health Risks of Sexual ActivityClick here to schedule an appointment
An unwanted pregnancy may not be the only side effect of being sexually active. Risks to your health include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is the most common STI with more than 40 different types. HPV is so common that at least 50 percent of sexually active people are infected at some point in their lives. You may have HPV without any symptoms and fight off the infection naturally, but infections also may lead to genital warts, warts in the throat, or cervical cancer. Each year about 12,000 women are afflicted with cervical cancers, most of which are related to HPV. While there is no treatment for the virus, there is treatment for the diseases it causes.
Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STD reported in the United States with 2.8 million new infections annually. In the early stages, chlamydia may appear symptomless but if untreated may cause silent, long-term damage to a woman’s reproductive organs, leading to infertility, ectopic pregnancies, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Teen girls and young women are particularly susceptible to chlamydia because their cervix has not fully matured. The higher the number of sexual partners, the greater the risk of contracting the disease. Chlamydia also increases the risk of contracting HIV if you’re exposed to it. Chlamydia itself, however, is easily treated through antibiotics.
Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium and infects more than 700,000 people annually. Any sexually active person is susceptible to gonorrhea, but it afflicts teens, young adults, and African Americans more frequently. Most women who are infected have no symptoms, but it may be accompanied by a burning sensation when urinating, vaginal discharge, or bleeding between periods. Untreated gonorrhea may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. The infection also can spread to the blood and joints and become life threatening. Antibiotics have been used successfully as treatment, although drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea have surfaced recently.
HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus and may lead to AIDS (auto immune deficiency syndrome), the stage when the body has difficulty fighting off opportunistic infections and cancers. In recent years, women accounted for about 25 percent of all human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections. HIV can be contracted through unprotected sex with someone who carries the virus, and most women contract it through unprotected heterosexual sex. Although there have been medical advancements in the drugs used to treat and control HIV, there is no cure. Early detection and treatment is critical.1
1Source: Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov)