The Basics of STD Treatment

An Overview of STD Treatments

There are many STDs out there. Unsurprisingly, the types of STD treatment are as varied as their symptoms. That's why the only person who can tell you the appropriate option for you, if you are diagnosed with an STD, is your healthcare provider. Treatment is decided on between you and your doctor on an individual basis. That makes it possible to adjust treatment for any other issues that may be affecting your overall physical health.

It also allows doctors to account for problems such as antibiotic resistance.

STDs can be broken down into three basic categories. These categories, similarly, define their treatment.

Viral STD Treatments

The first category is STDs caused by viruses, such as herpes and HIV. These are usually treated with oral antiviral or antiretroviral medications. It's worth noting that these are often just treatments.

Most viral STDs do not have cures.

These articles delve more into possible treatments that may be recommended for you:

Both herpes and HIV are currently life-long infections. That may change with new research. For example, hepatitis C was considered incurable until recently. Now, most cases of hepatitis C are finally able to be cured due to new medication developments. However, finding new and improved medications takes time, if it's even possible.

It's also useful to know that some viral STDs, such as HPV, aren't treated at all unless they cause symptoms.

With HPV, most infections go away on their own within two years. However, symptoms such as genital warts or cervical dysplasia may need treatment. 

Bacterial STD Treatments

The second type of STDs consists of those diseases caused by bacterial infections. This category includes syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. These diseases are treated with antibiotics. Unlike viral STDs, they are generally curable with the right treatment. However, doctors have to be careful what antibiotics they choose to prescribe.

Using the wrong antibiotics can exacerbate existing problems of antibiotic resistance. Resistance can also be a consequence of people failing to take their antibiotics correctly. Antibiotic resistance is actually a growing problem for gonorrhea infections across the globe. That's why it may sometimes be necessary to be retested for gonorrhea after treatment is complete; doctors want to make certain the antibiotics have been effective.

Reading more on the specific treatments recommended for your diagnosis can give you greater sense of what may be best for you:

Treatment for Other STDs

The third category of STDs is a catchall. This category contains all those disease caused by fungi, parasites, and little 'creepy crawlies,' such as scabies. These diseases can be treated either using drugs you take by mouth or through the use of topical agents. For example, pubic lice are treated topically. Sexually associated yeast infections can be treated either orally or with creams. Some of these diseases will also require you to treat your household items. For example, sheets may need to be washed in particular ways or furniture vacuumed to remove parasites. 

Learn more about the treatments recommended for these other kinds of STDs:

A Word From Verywell

Throughout this article, we've included links that contain treatment guidelines for various STDs.

However, be aware that your treatment may vary depending on other factors affecting your health. That's why it's a very bad idea to try to treat yourself for STDs using medication you have purchased over the Internet or otherwise obtained without a prescription. In addition, you should always make certain to take all medications as directed. This includes finishing your drugs even once your symptoms have improved. If you don't do so, you could develop a resistant infection. Those are much harder to get rid of.

If you feel shy or embarrassed about getting treatment from your regular doctor, remember that he or she is there to help, no matter the circumstance. If you're still hesitant, consider going to an anonymous STD clinic; it's easy to find one in your community.

Just remember that it takes regular screening to detect sexually transmitted diseases. Then, after diagnosis, it's a matter of appropriate treatment and prevention. The treatment part is something that generally requires medical expertise.

Fortunately, you can work on the prevention part on your own. Safer sex and smart decision making both go a long way. 

STD infections aren't the end of the world. But diagnosing and treating them appropriately makes them a lot easier to deal with. 


Kohli A, Shaffer A, Sherman A, Kottilil S. Treatment of Hepatitis C: A Systematic Review. JAMA. 2014 Aug 13;312(6):631-40. doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.7085.

Unemo M. Current and Future Antimicrobial Treatment of Gonorrhoea—The Rapidly Evolving Neisseria Gonorrhoeae Continues to Challenge. BMC Infect Dis. 2015 Aug 21;15:364. doi: 10.1186/s12879-015-1029-2.

Workowski KA, Bolan GA; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Sexually Transmitted Disease Treatment Guidelines, 2015. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2015 Jun 5;64(RR-03):1-137.

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