At some point in their life, millions of people get some sort of sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI). Some people use STI and STD interchangeably; after all, both are sexually transmitted and may cause symptoms that require medical attention, and both are highly contagious. So, what’s the difference?

The fact is that although all STDs are preceded by STIs, not all STIs result in the development of STDs.

Simply an infection...

Sexually transmitted infections are just that: infections. These infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that enter the body through the lower reproductive organs (the penis or the vagina) and can spread to other parts of the body, causing a range of symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indications that you may have an STI include:

  • Small bumps or open sores in the genital area; also in the oral or rectal area
  • Pain or a burning sensation during urination
  • Discharges from the penis
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding that seems unusual