Can sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) go away on their own? People may hope that STDs will clear up on their own because they want to avoid getting tested and everything that goes with it: the embarrassment of going to a clinic or your doctor, the hassle of getting a prescription and broaching the subject with your partner.
Unfortunately, most STDs will not clear up on their own, and many get worse the longer they go without being treated, causing more and more harm to your health. To go into why and how to treat different STDs, let’s first break them down into their three main categories: bacterial, parasitic and viral.
Bacterial and Parasitic STDs
STDs caused by bacteria and parasites do not clear up on their own and always require prescription treatment. Bacterial STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Parasitic STDs include trich, scabies and pubic lice. All of these STDs are curable, but they require a diagnosis and doctor’s prescription. Left untreated, these STDs can cause health complications and spread to sexual partners, so it’s important to get tested and treated regularly.
If left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, infertility for men and women and infection of the testicles. Chlamydia can also cause arthritis associated with eye and urethra inflammation, and gonorrhea can cause bloodstream infections.
Untreated syphilis can damage the nervous system, heart, joints, liver, blood vessels and eyes and may even cause death.
Viral STDs are the only STDs that have the potential to clear up on their own. Hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HPV, for instance, may go away without any treatment or they may continue to cause health problems. Other viral STDs, like HIV and herpes, stay in the body for life.
Some people who contract hepatitis B or C will clear the virus from their system without any treatment. People whose immune systems don’t clear the virus develop chronic hepatitis, in which the virus later causes liver disease and even liver cancer.
There are more than 150 strains of HPV, and many do clear up on their own without causing any symptoms. However, other strains of HPV don’t go away and can cause genital warts or certain kinds of cancer.
As for HIV and herpes, there is no known cure for either of these STDs. However, while they are incurable, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to the doctor or seek a diagnosis or treatment as soon as possible. With both of these STDs, early detection and treatment are essential. Antiviral medication for herpes can lessen the severity and duration of outbreaks, increasing comfort for the person infected with herpes, and reducing the risk of transmitting the virus to a partner. Antiviral medication given to people infected with HIV significantly reduces the complications of the infection, reduces the likelihood of spreading the disease to a partner, delays the onset of AIDS and lengthens lifespan to near-normal.
Because STDs are often asymptomatic, it’s important to remember that the absence of symptoms does not mean that an infection isn’t present. Similarly, if you experience symptoms related to an STD and the symptoms eventually go away, this doesn’t mean the STD has gone away. This is also important to remember even if you’re receiving STD treatment. Many people will stop taking the medication they’ve been prescribed as soon as their symptoms clear up, but it’s important to finish whatever course of medication has been prescribed by the doctor. Not finishing a course of antibiotics can prevent the infection from going away and can contribute to more antibiotic resistant strains of the infection, making it more difficult to cure in the future.
So, can STDs go away on their own? In almost all cases, no. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re getting tested frequently and practicing safer sex.