wellness

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

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Sexually transmitted diseases spread through vaginal intercourse, anal and oral sex. Skin rash, abdomen pain and itching are some of the symptoms of STDs. They include chlamydia, HIV, gonorrhea, secondary syphilis and trichomoniasis. Learn more on symptoms, risk factors, and prevention of STDs.

Sexually transmitted diseases are also known as STIs (sexually transmitted infections) or venereal diseases (VD). The organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from one person to another through blood, semen and other bodily fluids. Some can spread through the use of unsterilized drug needles, blood transfusions, or from mother to infant during childbirth or breastfeeding. The genital areas have a generally moist and warm environment, which is ideal for the growth of viruses, bacteria and yeasts. Individuals pass on STDs more easily when they don’t use contraceptive devices, such as condoms, sanitizing sex toys or dams. The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that there are more than one million new STDs acquired each day globally. People between the ages of 15 and 25 years acquire half of all new STDs, and one in four sexually active adolescent females has an STD. However, STD rates among seniors are increasing.

Symptoms of STDs

Sometimes, there are no symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases. Signs and symptoms may appear a few days after exposure, or it may take years an individual notices its symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may include any one of the following:

  • Bumps, warts or sore near the mouth, anus, vagina or penis
  • Redness or swelling near the penis or vagina
  • Skin rash
  • Pain while urination
  • Weight loss, loose stools or night sweats
  • Pain in the abdomen, fever, and chills.
  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice).
  • Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina that may have an odor.
  • Bleeding from the vagina other than a monthly period.
  • Pain during sex.
  • Severe itching near the penis or vagina

Risk factors

Anyone who is sexually active, risks exposure to a sexually transmitted disease to some degree. Some of the factors that may increase the risks of STDs include:

  • Having unprotected sex can increase the risk of STDs. Vaginal or anal penetration by an infected partner who is not wearing a condom significantly increases the risk of getting an STI. Improper or inconsistent use of condoms can also increase the risk.
  • Oral sex may be less risky, but infections can still be transmitted without a latex condom or dental dam. Dental dams are thin, square pieces of rubber made with latex or silicone that helps to prevent skin-to-skin contact.

oral sex

  • Having sexual contact with multiple partners can also increase the risk of infections. The more partners an individual has, the more likely they can be exposed to an STD. 
  • Having a history of sexually transmitted disease makes it much easier for another STI to take hold.
  • Anyone forced to have sexual intercourse or sexual activity. 
  • Abusing alcohol or using recreational drugs.
  • Needle sharing or injecting drugs spreads many serious infections, including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
  • Half of STDs occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24 years.
  • Men who request prescriptions for drugs to treat erectile dysfunction are at a higher risk of infection. Men who ask their doctors for prescriptions for certain drugs — such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra have higher rates of STIs. 

Different types of STDs

1. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most common and curable sexually transmitted disease. It infects the penile urethra in men and the cervix in women. Its symptoms include pain during sex and discharge from the penis or vagina. However, the reason Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs is that most people who get Chlamydia do not have symptoms for weeks, months, or even years. In other words, they are asymptomatic. Latex condoms are effective at helping to prevent chlamydia.

2. Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium that lives on moist mucous membranes such as the urethra, vagina, rectum, eyes, mouth, and throat. The infection can spread through contact with the penis, vagina, anus or mouth. Symptoms of gonorrhea usually appear two to five days after contact with an infected partner however, some men might not notice symptoms for up to a month. Symptoms in men include burning and pain while urinating, increased urinary frequency, discharge from the penis, red or swollen urethra, swollen or tender testicles, or a sore throat. Symptoms in women may include vaginal discharge, burning or itching while urinating, painful sexual intercourse, and severe pain in the lower abdomen. Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics in most cases.

3. Secondary Syphilis

Syphilis is an STI caused by a bacterium (Treponema pallidum). If left untreated, it can lead to complications and death. The symptoms of syphilis include ulceration of the urogenital tract, mouth or rectum; if left untreated the symptoms worsen. Syphilis can be found in places like Cameroon, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea. It can be transmitted by oral sex, as well as anal or vaginal intercourse. Some scientists believe that oral sex is responsible for the rise of syphilis in men who have sex with men. Because syphilis sores can appear on areas not covered by a condom, condoms only reduce the likelihood of transmission but do not eliminate it entirely. 

4. Mycoplasma Genitalium

Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) like gonorrhea and chlamydia, is starting to emerge as a major cause of cervicitis in women and nongonococcal urethritis (inflammation of the urethra) in men. Most cases of MG do not cause symptoms, so it is difficult to identify the symptoms. While the emerging research is still unclear, it is believed that MG is associated with serious long-term consequences such as infertility from pelvic inflammatory disease.

5. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is the most common curable sexually transmitted disease, with infection more common in women than in men. Some women may mistake this infection for a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis since the symptoms are similar. The symptoms include frothy discharge, strong vaginal odor, pain during intercourse, itching and irritation near penis or vagina. Men can get trichomoniasis, but they do not tend to have symptoms. 

6. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

Human immunodeficiency virus damages the body's immune system, which interferes with its ability to fight off against disease-causing agents. The virus kills CD4 (white blood cells) cells, that help fight off various infections. HIV is carried through body fluids or through sexual intercourse. It can also be spread by contact with infected blood, needles, breastfeeding, childbirth, and from mother to child during pregnancy. An individual is said to have Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) when HIV is at its most advanced stage. The different stages of the progression of HIV infection include primary infection, asymptomatic infection, symptomatic infection, and AIDS. In the primary infection stage, an individual has symptoms like headache, fatigue, fever, muscle aches for about two weeks. In the asymptomatic stage, a patient can remain asymptomatic for many years because the symptoms usually disappear in this stage. When HIV progresses to the symptomatic stage, the immune system weakens and cell count of CD4+ T cells is immensely reduced. It is called AIDS when the HIV infection becomes life-threatening. Nowadays, there are antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) available to treat HIV infections. There is no known cure for HIV or AIDS but the drugs help suppress the amount of virus in the body.

HIV

Tips to Reduce the Risk of STDs

  • Abstinence from vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It is the best way to prevent the transmission of STDs.
  • Always use a new latex condom during sexual intercourse. Other types of contraception, such as pills, patches, diaphragms, intrauterine devices or the rhythm method do not protect against infection.
  • Get tested and treated if any of the STD symptoms prevail.
  • Abstain from sex until the test results. Ask the doctor if your partner should be tested and treated as well, to prevent an infection from occurring again.
  • Get vaccination that can reduce the risk of contracting some of the virus that causes cervical cancer.

An STD can seriously affect the overall health, sexual as well as normal life of a person; it can even be threatening for life. Taking the necessary precautions can help ensure a safer and healthier future for you and your partner.

If you are interested in wellness articles you can follow Elawoman blog. Elawoman can also assist if you are looking for the best fertility centres that provide IVF, IUI, ICSI and surrogacy treatment at a reasonable cost. Call us today at +917899912611.

Dr. Kumkum Vatsa

About The Author

Obstetrician, Laparoscopic Surgeon Dr. Kumkum Vatsa
Gurgaon

Dr. Kumkum Vatsa is a well-acclaimed gynecologist who has completed MBBS from L.P.S Institute of Cardiology in 1977 and MS from G.S.V.M Medical College in 1980. She has gained a vast experience while practicing as a gynecologist and her area of expertise are Uterine Fibroid Treatment, High-Risk Pregnancy Care, Vaginoplasty, and Tubectomy. She is a member of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India. Dr. Kumkum Vatsa has an expertise in Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and is practicing at Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurugram. You can get the contact details of Dr. Kumkum Vatsa at elawoman.com

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Tanvir Neelakantachar

Dec. 13, 2018, 3:37 p.m. 4.5

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