STD vs. STI – What Is the Difference?

Oct 16, 2023

Urgent Care

Difference between STD and STI

As both STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are acquired through sexual contact, people may use them interchangeably. STD refers to a disease caused by a specific microorganism and characterized by symptoms, whereas STI refers to an infection that can be either symptomatic or asymptomatic. You can seek appropriate medical attention and assistance as needed by understanding the differences between the two and their symptoms and causes.

What Is an STI?

STIs are infections that spread by unprotected intercourse, breastfeeding, pregnancy, childbirth, and infected blood or blood products. If left untreated, STIs can escalate and impact your health, causing cardiovascular and neurological diseases, stillbirths, infertility, etc.

What Is an STD?

Untreated or undetected STIs cause STDs. Though not all STIs progress into STDs, if an infection persists, it can lead to cancers, genital warts, pelvic inflammatory disease, etc.

What Is the Difference Between STDs and STIs?

Some differences between STDs and STIs include:

  • Viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites often cause STIs. However, STDs usually begin as STIs. 
  • STIs may or may not have symptoms and become an STD, but STDs often have symptoms. 

Though STDs and STIs are distinct, the term “STI” is often used because it has less bad connotation or humiliation than STD, which sounds a little embarrassing or degrading.

Understanding the Difference Between Infection and Disease

STIs occur through skin-to-skin contact, sharing needles with an infected person, or exchanging body fluids like blood. STDs will occur following an infection. If the organisms (pathogens) that cause the disease enter your body and begin multiplying, they disturb the normal body functions, causing a disease. However, all STIs will not progress into STDs, as some infections like HPV (human papillomavirus) ease on their own without causing health issues.

Types of STIs and STDs

STIs and STDs are classified into three types based on their underlying causes, including:

  • Bacterial STIs and STDs: Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Syphilis
  • Parasitic STIs and STDs: Trichomoniasis
  • Viral STIs and STDs: Herpes simplex virus 2 (genital herpes), HPV, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), and hepatitis B virus

Symptoms of STIs and STDs

If you are symptomatic to an STI, you may experience:

  • Pain during intercourse
  • Warts or sores in the anal or genital area
  • Redness or itching around the sores
  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating
  • Abnormal vaginal odor
  • Sores in and around the mouth

The symptoms of STDs vary according to the type of infection. While not everyone develops symptoms, for some, it may take days, weeks, or even years to experience the onset of symptoms. If you develop symptoms, your STI has aggravated into an STD.

While some symptoms of STDs are similar to the above, some may be different and more serious, which include:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Memory loss
  • Changes to hearing and vision
  • Fatigue

How Is STI/STD Diagnosed?

Your doctor may recommend any of the following tests to diagnose your STI/STD:

  • Physical Exam: The doctor will perform a physical or pelvic examination for infection signs.
  • Fluid Samples: A sample of your vaginal or penile fluid can be examined under a microscope to check for parasites that cause trichomoniasis.
  • Urine Tests: A urine sample will be collected to look for the bacteria that cause gonorrhea and chlamydia.
  • Blood Tests: Your blood sample will be collected to diagnose infections like syphilis and HIV.
  • Swab Tests: Swab tests are recommended to diagnose gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV, and herpes. During this test, our doctor will use a special swab to collect a sample from the infection site.

When to Visit Urgent Care for STIs/STDs?

You should visit your urgent care provider for STIs and STDs under the following circumstances:

  • If you develop unusual symptoms, such as itching, warts or sores, colored discharge, etc.
  • If you have unprotected sex, you should get tested within 1-2 weeks of having intercourse and then again 3 months later.
  • Annually, if you are a woman under 25 years and sexually active.
  • If you are pregnant, you must be tested for syphilis and chlamydia despite your sexual history and whether or not you develop symptoms.

How to Prevent STIs and STDs?

You can reduce your risk of STIs and STDs with the following practices:

  • Refrain from sexual activity or sex or have protected sex using dental dams and condoms.
  • Have intercourse with one uninfected partner.
  • Get vaccinated for sexually transmitted infections.
  • Avoid anal or vaginal sexual activity or sex with a new partner until you both have been tested for STIs.
  • Talk to your partner about practicing safe sex and act accordingly.
  • You can take prescription medications, such as emtricitabine plus tenofovir alafenamide fumarate and emtricitabine plus tenofovir disoproxil fumarate to lower your risk of STIs.
  • Consider male circumcision (surgical removal of the foreskin that covers the penis head), which prevents some STIs.

Final Thoughts

As the underlying causes and symptoms of STIs and STDs vary, understanding the difference is crucial to making informed decisions concerning the treatment. By practicing safe sex and getting regular screenings, you can reduce your risk of contracting and spreading STIs while taking control of your sexual well-being.

Get Immediate Intervention for STIs/STDs at StatMD Urgent Care

If you are looking for trusted urgent care for STD or STI near you, look no further than StatMD Urgent Care With our compassionate healthcare professionals, we provide top-notch care and support for all your sexual health concerns. From physical examination to diagnosis and treatment, we offer comprehensive care for STIs and STDs. Contact us today for prompt STI or STD testing in Bakersfield.

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