Teen sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a serious health concern. Half of all new cases of sexually transmitted diseases occur among teens, with about 1 in 4 teens becoming infected each year. Teens are more susceptible to STDs than adults because their bodies are still developing.
Teen sexually transmitted diseases are easily spread by contact with the penis, vagina, anus, or mouth, or with bodily fluids. Abstinence from sexual activities protects teens from most STDs. If a teen is going to have sex, he or she should always correctly use a male latex condom – or another type of condom, if a latex allergy exists – which reduces the chances of a teen getting an STD. Teens should avoid drugs or alcohol, as these increase the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Many sexually transmitted diseases have no symptoms, or only a few mild symptoms, so a teen who seems healthy might still have an STD. A teen can still spread a sexually transmitted disease even if he or she has no symptoms, or does not know that he or she is infected.
Some of the most common teen sexually transmitted diseases include:
- Genital Warts (Human Papilloma Virus) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in America, with 50 percent of sexually active teens eventually getting the virus. It cannot be cured, and increases the risk of cancer of the penis or cervix.
- Genital Herpes, caused by a virus, cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be treated. It is spread mainly among teens and young adults, and 1 in every 4 or 5 teens has this STD. Herpes can cause miscarriages and birth defects in later pregnancies.
- HIV is spread by contact with infected blood, semen, or other bodily fluids. HIV generally progresses to AIDS, which causes death when a person’s immune system stops functioning, though new medications are able to slow this process.
- Hepatitis B is caused by a virus 100 times more contagious than the HIV virus. There is no cure for hepatitis, but there is a vaccine for teens who have not already been infected. Hepatitis B is especially dangerous for children and teens, and can lead to liver failure and death. Teens should not share razors, pierced earrings, toothbrushes, gum, drinking glasses, needles for drugs, tattoos, or piercing, or any other item that might contain bodily fluids; all of these can spread hepatitis.
- Syphilis is caused by bacteria, and is very contagious; in addition to sexual activity, it can be spread by kissing or close physical contact. It can be treated with medication, but if left untreated can cause many problems, including brain and heart damage.
- Gonorrhea (“clap” or “drip”) is caused by bacteria. It is most common among teens and young adults. If untreated, it can lead to infertility, internal scarring, and an increased vulnerability to HIV.
- Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease. Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics; if left untreated it can cause serious infections and infertility.
- Trichomoniasis is the most common curable STD among teen girls, though teen boys can get it too. It is caused by a sexually transmitted parasite, and can make a person more susceptible to HIV.
- Pubic lice (crabs) are treated with medicated shampoos.
Though many of these teen sexually transmitted diseases are hard to detect, one of these symptoms may indicate that a teen has one or more sexually transmitted diseases:
- Painful urination
- Pain during sex
- Discharge from the penis or vagina
- Rashes or blisters, especially around the genitals
- Painful swelling in the affected areas, especially genitals, mouth, or anus
- Flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and body aches
- Strong odor around the genitals
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the eyes and skin
If you think you may have a sexually transmitted disease, go to a doctor’s office or health clinic for treatment immediately, and do not have sex with anyone until you have finished your treatment.
Teen STD and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Sources:
- WebMD “Your Guide to Sexually Transmitted Diseases” [online]
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The National Women’s Health Information Center, “Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Overview” [online]