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What’s the difference between an STD and an STI?

This month, we’re launching a blog series on sexually transmitted diseases and answering some of your most asked questions, starting with what’s the difference between a STD and STI? We hear this question all the time, and probably because the answer can sometimes be confusing.

The simplest answer lies in the acronyms, STD and STI. STD stands for sexually transmitted disease and STI stands for sexually transmitted infection. But what exactly is the difference?

An STD always starts as an STI. The infection is only considered a disease if it causes symptoms such as bumps or sores around the genitals, itching around the genitals, or swollen and painful lymph nodes in the groin and neck (Please note there are other potential symptoms too, these are just common examples).

It is also important to note that not all STIs will develop into STDs; some can clear up on their own, or with the help of a healthcare prescribed treatment, and never cause any health problems.

You now know the difference between STIs and STDs, what now? If you’re sexually active, be on the lookout for symptoms such as:

  • Pain or discomfort during sex or urination
  • Sores, bumps, or rashes on or around the genitals, anus, buttocks, thighs, or mouth
  • Unusual discharge or bleeding from genitals
  • Itchiness in or around the vagina (women)
  • Painful or swollen testicles (men)

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or if you’re worried you may have been exposed to an STI or STD, GET TESTED! The general rule of thumb for sexually active adults is to get tested once a year, as incubation periods vary between different infections, from a few days, months, and even years.

Keep in mind, even though the two are different, you’ll probably continue to see STI and STD used interchangeably, but now you know the difference! Knowledge is power!

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