Whether it’s due to embarrassment, a lack of symptoms, or a general fear of the unknown, a lot of people avoid getting tested for a sexually transmitted disease (STD). STD rates have skyrocketed following the advent of dating apps, while STD testing prevalence has declined. This has led to nearly 20 million new STD cases each year. The United States spends $17 billion on STD-related healthcare costs annually, but that’s the least of any patient’s worries. Here are some of the most severe complications associated with STDs to give you more than enough reasons to get tested.

Infertility

STDs that are caused by bacteria – including chlamydia and gonorrhea – can be asymptomatic in women. Since women are less likely to show symptoms, they are also less likely to be diagnosed and receive treatment. Left untreated, both of these diseases can result in serious complications among men and women. Female patients who do not seek treatment run the risk of allowing the infection to spread to their uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, which can result in pelvic inflammatory disease. Complications tied to this condition include long-term abdominal pain and an inability to get pregnant.  

Ectopic Pregnancy

Pregnant women face the same risks tied to STDs as women who are not pregnant. Complications related to an STD tend to be more severe and life-threatening for a woman and her unborn baby, both of which have a weakened immune system. If STDs caused by bacteria, like syphilis, were to go untreated, then transmission from mother to child is inevitable. Syphilis in pregnant women can result in premature births, stillbirths, and even death. Newborns that do survive develop problems with multiple organs, such as the brain, eyes, heart, and skin.

Brain Damage

Left untreated, syphilis can also spread to the nervous system, especially the brain and spinal cord, where it can cause neurosyphilis. People can develop neurosyphilis 10 to 20 years after they were initially infected with the bacterium, Treponema pallidum. There are five possible types of neurosyphilis: asymptomatic, meningeal, meningovascular, general paresis, and tabes dorsalis. The most common form, asymptomatic, often doesn’t lead to any symptoms or signs of a neurological disease. Meningovascular neurosyphilis, which occurs in around 10 to 12 percent of cases, can result in a stroke.

Cancer And Other Diseases

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD in the U.S. Most HPV cases go away on their own and rarely cause any complications. However, having HPV can significantly increase a person’s risk for certain cancers, including the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharyngeal. Experts have yet to identify what type of HPV can result in cancer. Patients with weakened immune systems are unable to fight HPV and more likely to develop health problems. Pelvic inflammatory disease caused by chlamydia can also lead to the development of cervical and other gynecological cancers.

Death

Last, but certainly not least, people who unknowingly have an STD and, subsequently, do not get the right treatment are putting their lives at risk. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finished a study back in May 2015 that examined distinctive causes of death by state. In addition to tuberculosis and meningococcal infection, syphilis and HIV ranked highest among all causes of death around the U.S. While STDs that weaken the immune system, like HIV and AIDS, leave our body unable protect itself, others can bring about a life-ending infection. Remember: If you’re sexually active, you should be getting tested for STDs.