Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) might be difficult to talk about, but it’s important to realize the risks they pose and how common they are. The total combined cases of reported chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reached the highest number ever in the United States in 2018.
The increase in those three STDs, also called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, is affecting teens and young adults the most. More than half of gonorrhea and chlamydia cases are in people under the age of 25, and nearly one in four teenage girls has an STD.
“What’s often not understood is that many of these STDs can have long-term consequences, especially for women,” says Sangini S. Sheth, MD, MPH, a Yale Medicine obstetrician-gynecologist. Having had an STD puts a woman at higher risk for a wide range of conditions, including pelvic pain, fertility problems and increased risk of ectopic pregnancies (when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus). For men, STDs raise the risk for lifelong infections, infertility and possibly cancer.
Since many STDs have no symptoms, people can unknowingly spread infections to their sexual partners. At Yale Medicine, we diagnose and treat women, men and young adults with STDs, and our physicians are involved in numerous research projects related to improving protection from various STDs.