Sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are common, affecting more than 110 million Americans at any given time. Fortunately, many of these conditions are easily treatable and easily preventable. Choosing sexual partners wisely and using condoms may help prevent the spread of these infections. It is important to note that while condoms are the most effective means of safer sex, they are not foolproof, holding approximately 97% efficacy when used correctly. There are many STIs out there, and each carries its own signs, symptoms, and possible long-term effects. Some of the more common pelvic pain causing STIs in America include:
Chlamydia – This bacterial infection in the genital region may be difficult to detect in its earliest stages. Symptoms tend to be mild, and often do not appear until one to three weeks following exposure. Symptoms of chlamydia may include pain or discomfort during urination, pain in the lower abdomen, or discharge from the penis or vagina. Additionally, women may experience pain during intercourse or bleeding in between periods. Men may experience testicular pain.
Gonorrhea – This bacterial infection most commonly affects the genitals, but may also grow in the mouth, anus, throat, or even eyes. Symptoms usually appear within 10 days of exposure, though some people may carry the infection for months before noticing symptoms. Symptoms of gonorrhea may include pain or burning during urination, pain while passing bowel movements, itching in or near the anus, or genital discharge. Women may experience abnormally heavy periods or spotting in between periods, and men may experience pain or swelling in the testicles.
Trichomoniasis – This infection is the result of a single-celled parasite that spreads through sexual contact. Men may experience asymptomatic urinary tract infections, while women may experience symptoms in less than a month, including vaginal discharge, strong smell from the vagina, vaginal irritation or itching, pain during intercourse, or pain/burning during urination.
HIV, human papillomavirus, genital herpes, syphilis, and some forms of hepatitis are also serious sexually transmitted infections that require medical attention, but these infections do not have a high likelihood of causing pelvic pain. Having frank, honest discussions of sexual history with prospective partners and using condoms are important steps to prevent contracting STIs. If you are sexually active, it is wise to have regular STI tests. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you develop any STI symptoms.