STDs skyrocket in Indiana

South Bend Clinic obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Ann Broz. // WSBT 22 photo

Doctors warn: if you are sexually active, you’re at a greater risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease than ever before.

During STD Awareness Month health officials are urging doctors and patients to be vigilant about testing and treatment.

Cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and particularly syphilis in Indiana have skyrocketed in recent years.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is also a big concern. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control says nearly half of U.S. adults have caught HPV, and close to a quarter of those carry a strain that can cause cervical cancer.

The big issue is a lot of people don't even know they have an STD because they aren't showing noticeable symptoms.

Some signs to look out for: abnormal discharge – a strange color, odor or consistency, pain when you urinate, or general pelvic pain.

Untreated gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis can all lead to problems with fertility. Syphilis can also lead to serious complications with your brain, bones and heart, or even death, if left untreated.

"People, they are thinking a lot of times that it might not possibly happen to them – that oh they know that their partner is safe, they are safe, so it really wouldn't matter. But the truth is that a lot of the times these STDs, they have symptoms that you don't even realize that you have it," says The South Bend Clinic OB/GYN Ann Broz.

Broz says one key way you can protect yourself is simply by visiting your gynecologist at least once a year and getting tested.

If you are sexually active, here’s what you can do to keep yourself safe.

Use latex condoms every time you have sex. Talk openly and honestly with your doctor and get tested if you believe you have an STD.

If you do test positive, doctors urge you get treated right away. Let your partner know so they can seek treatment and prevent them from spreading it to others.

There is good news if you seek treatment quickly with gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.

Doctors can treat those with antibiotics.

Unfortunately, there is no way to get rid of herpes and HIV once you have them.

Treatments can manage symptoms, but those STDs will stick with you until the very end of your life.

If you have HPV, it may go away on its own, but there are some strains that can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer.

"There's no medicine to treat this kind of HPV," says Dr. Broz. "Your body will hopefully fight off the infection on its own. Doctors will just continue to monitor you to make sure that HPV virus isn't making changes in your cervix that would lead to a cervical cancer."

An HPV vaccine is available for young children, aimed at protecting them before they become sexually active.

"It is very important to get checked out," says Dr. Broz. "If you have any questions about it just go make an appointment with your doctor and talk to your doctor about it. And if you are concerned that you might have something, just go right in and talk to them about it. That's what everybody is trained for and we are interested in treating and preventing the spread of these diseases and keeping people healthy."

Dr. Broz says visiting your gynecologist once a year is extremely important.

She says the only way to completely avoid STDs is not to have sex.

The bottom line is anyone who is sexually active is at risk of getting an STD, and they are not just confined to the genitals.

"They can also be spread through oral intercourse and also through anal intercourse as well," says Dr. Broz. "All of this bacteria -- they kind of just love the little moist places. So it doesn't really matter what route you're going -- you are still at risk."

"Even if you are in a monogamous relationship you might consider, you know, requesting testing just to be sure. Because it's always important," suggests Dr. Broz." It's better to know that you're negative and that everything is fine than to go with an undiagnosed medical problem that could lead to further problems, especially infertility in the case of STDs."

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