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4 Minutes Read

What Is The Difference Between An STD And An STI?

STDs or STIs are conditions that spread through sexual contact. These diseases have been a growing problem around the world for years now. But is there a difference between STDs and STIs, or are these two referring to the same thing?


When people refer to STDs or STIs, they are usually referring to the same phenomenon. However, there is a minor difference between the two terms. STD, which stands for sexually transmitted disease, refers to a lifelong process of disease development. Typically, the word STD is used for those sexually transmitted diseases which progress into full-blown conditions and last for a long period of time, sometimes even for life. STIs, on the other hand, are simple infections that are transmitted through sexual activity and are usually short-lived.


As is evident, there is a minor technical difference between the two terms. However, this technicality does not make much difference, and both terms are usually used interchangeably.


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN STD AND AN STI

As mentioned before, there is no difference between an STD and an STI, as both of these terms are often used interchangeably. Both of these terms refer to disease conditions that are acquired through sexual contact.


Traditionally, sexually transmitted diseases, or infections, have been referred to by many names - such as venereal diseases. The terms STDs and STIs are both meant to represent the same thing which is why there is no significant difference between the two.


However, technically there does exist a major distinction between these two terms. STI, as the name suggests, only refers to an infection that is transmitted through sexual contact. STD, on the other hand, stands for the disease process that follows the initial transmission of infection through sexual contact. But why is this distinction important?


The distinction between an STI and an STD is based on one simple fact: not all sexually transmitted infections progress to become full-blown diseases. In fact, some sexually transmitted infections do not cause any symptoms at all. This is true for the majority of sexually transmitted diseases. Most people experience symptoms of an STI just once and never again, thinking that they're symptom-free for the rest of their lives.


Another reason why a distinction is often made between STIs and STDs is that the word disease does not have a good reputation. Diseases are thought to be debilitating conditions that stick to patients for the rest of their lives. Infections, on the other hand, are treatable conditions that exist for only a limited period.


Using the term, STD can increase a patient's anxiety levels and send them through the roof. It might even make them worried about the social stigma that is so often associated with the term STD. On the other hand, letting a patient know that they have a sexually transmitted infection gives them hope that it can be treated or managed at the very least. Hence, it is very important to make a distinction between the two terms.


ARE STIs CURABLE?

Sexually transmitted infections range from mild conditions which resolve on their own to severe conditions which need to be treated aggressively. Even severe conditions have a range of severity. Some STIs are completely curable, while others can only be managed symptomatically.


As a general rule of thumb, STIs caused by bacteria, parasites, and fungi are generally curable. These infections include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and even syphilis. On the other hand, sexually transmitted infections caused by viruses are often incurable and can only be treated symptomatically. These infections include HIV, HPV, and herpes.


However, despite some STIs not having a cure, there are drugs that can manage even a severe STI effectively. Treatment regimens have been established that help individuals keep the STI symptoms at bay and even reduce their infectivity.


CAN YOU HAVE AN STD/STI WITHOUT KNOWING?

Yes, it is entirely possible to have an STD/STI without ever knowing. Most people with HIV in the United States, for example, are not even aware that they have HIV. Similarly, many people in the US living with herpes do not know their own STD status. 


As mentioned before, sexually transmitted infections do not always progress to become full-blown, chronic diseases. Sometimes, people who acquire sexually transmitted infections never develop even a single symptom. Most people with STDs living in the United States and around the globe are not even aware of their positive STD status.


The most effective way to treat a sexually transmitted infection is to detect it early and start appropriate treatment as soon as possible. Not knowing if you have an STD can be dangerous for you as well as those around you.


Common signs and symptoms of an STD include genital discharge, headaches, body aches, and chronic fatigue. The best way to deal with these uncommon symptoms is to talk to a healthcare provider. You can always reach out to a healthcare provider online through various telemedicine hotlines and apps. 


I TESTED POSITIVE FOR AN STI. WHAT TO DO NOW?

If you test positive for an STI with an at-home STI test kit, it does not conclude that you are infected. Any positive or negative test result on an at-home STI test kit needs to be validated by a healthcare professional. Therefore, visiting your doctor at the earliest signs of an STI is the best way to go about it.


You should also know how to recognize the earliest signs of an STI. The most common symptoms of an STI include constitutional symptoms, i.e. flu-like symptoms. There are also some specific symptoms of every STI, such as genital discharge, burning micturition, and genital or oral rash.


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