Sexual Health: Can the Terms STDs and STId Be Used Interchangeably?


New words continue to crop up in the English language. Brexit was a term nobody heard until a decade ago, and hashtag is now everywhere one looks. The medical community is also changing when it comes to how professionals refer to certain conditions.

In the past, STD referred to any sexually transmitted disease. Today, however, a doctor might diagnose a person with an STD or an STI. What is an STI? What are the differences between STDs and STIs? What should a person know if they receive one of these diagnoses?


STI stands for sexually transmitted infection, while STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. This may seem like a minor thing, but they differ. Infections are the result of bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Men and women with an STI might find they have symptoms and complications. On the other hand, they may not even know this infection is present in their body.

A sexually transmitted disease (STD), in contrast, brings about complications and disrupts the normal functioning of the body. An infection may or may not turn into a disease, but a disease won’t turn into an infection. Many professionals prefer to refer to all sexually transmitted conditions today as STIs to remove the stigma around them. A person might wonder, “how did STDs start?” How can they be prevented?

Common Conditions

Chlamydia remains the most common STD or STI diagnosed in England. Genital warts and non-specific genital infections come second and third on the list. However, a person might also find they have gonorrhea, genital herpes, HIV, or syphilis. Bacterial infections or diseases respond to antibiotics. Viral infections are difficult to get rid of, but antiviral medicines can help with symptom management.

Symptoms to Watch For

Every STI or STD comes with its own set of symptoms. However, some symptoms are very similar. Any unusual discharge from the genitals calls for a visit to the doctor, and the same holds for painful urination. If you have painful blisters or fleshy growths in the genital area, make an appointment with your doctor. Do the same if you notice itching or tingling in this regain. Men who have pain in their testicles should see their doctor, as should women who experience abdominal or pelvic pain. Women should also make an appointment with their doctor if sex is painful, they bleed after intercourse, or their periods aren’t regular.

Syphilis presents differently than many sexually transmitted conditions. People often get a rash and have painless sores in the genital area. They feel like they have the flu. HIV also presents like the flu accompanied by a red rash that spreads across the body.

Scabies and public lice aren’t considered STIs or STDs. However, they are transmitted via sexual contact and can bring about a rash, itching in the genital area, black spots in the underwear, and specks of blood on the genitals.

Women often are asymptomatic, particularly when they have chlamydia. Always get tested after unprotected sex. Doing so ensures any diseases or infections are caught early.

Practice safe sex and get tested regularly for STDs and STIs. Testing is easier than ever, and home kits are offered. Complications increase the longer the condition remains undiagnosed, so be proactive in this area. Your health may depend on it as well as your fertility.


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