Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Mention sexually transmitted disease (STD) and the first thing that comes to mind is the dreaded HIV/AIDS. However, STD is not limited to HIV alone. There are quite a number of them that cause problems for sexually active individuals. You would be surprised to know that the US tops the industrialized world in sexually transmitted disease statistics with an estimated 15.3 million new cases being reported each year (1)!
Simply stated, STD is an infection or disease passed from person to person through sexual contact (1). This sexual contact is not limited to sex organs alone; you can get it through anal or oral sex too. You can also get some, like trichomoniasis, through genital contact with damp or moist items, like wet clothing, towels or toilet seat (1).
Causes of STD
STDs are caused by bacteria, viruses and fungus and are usually transmitted by sexual activity with an infected person. With the exception of viral infections, like genital herpes, genital warts, hepatitis and HIV infection (AIDS), most STDs can be cured (2). However, you have to get the treatment immediately on occurrence. Any delay can go on to cause serious medical problems.
Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases
Wondering how to know if you have STD? Your physician is competent enough to do a sexually transmitted disease testing . Men and women display different symptoms. Men may experience discharge from the penis, burning sensation while urinating, and sores on or around the penis, or in the anus (2). Women may experience unusual vaginal discharge and intense itching, stomach cramps not related to menstrual cycle and sores on or inside the vagina or anus (2). However, some can be infected without even knowing it!
Types of sexually transmitted diseases
The various sexually transmitted diseases are listed below, click on each for details for symptoms and their treatment:
a. Candidiasis: Healthy women normally carry a small amount of yeast fungus in the vagina. When this fungus grows and increases in number, it may cause vaginal itching, burning, discharge and pain while having sex. Candidasis is not usually dangerous.
b. Chlamydia: This bacterial disease, acquired by direct sexual contact with an infected person, can cause a serious infection of the womb and tubes called pelvis inflammatory disease in women that can lead to sterility and tubal pregnancy. In men, it can infect the urinary tract.
c. Genital herpes: Genital herpes, a viral infection, is usually acquired through direct sexual contact with an infected person. It causes blister-like sores that may be accompanied by fever, joint pain, flu-like signs, and the like. You can stay infected for life and suffer repeated attacks.
d. Genital warts: Genital warts are caused by human papillomavirus through sexual contact with an infected person. These common skin wart look-alikes appear on the genital area and around the anus. Certain types of warts are linked to an increased risk of cancer of the cervix (3).
e. Gonorrhea: This serious bacterial infection is acquired by direct contact with sexual fluids of an infected person. Men may experience discharge from penis or burning sensation and women, vaginal discharge and irritation or pain, while passing urine.
f. Hepatitis B: This viral infection of the liver is common and causes tiredness, loss of appetite, stomach discomfort and yellow skin. The virus is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and saliva. It is the only disease that has a safe and effective vaccine.
g. HIV/AIDS: One STD that many people are in constant fear of is HIV/AIDS. It is a fatal disease, although new ways of treatment can significantly prolong an infected person’s life. Unlike other STDs, this disease generally shows no symptoms for the first few years. So, HIV testing is the only certain way to know if you are infected.
h. Syphilis: Syphilis is spread by genital, anal or oral sex with an infected person. The first sign is a painless sore that soon turns into a body rash. If left untreated, the symptoms go away within six months , but the germs continue to spread. After years, syphilis can become serious enough to cause heart disease, brain damage or death.
i. Trichomoniasis: This is a very common vaginal infection acquired by direct sexual contact with an infected person. Many women and men show no symptoms, but some women may experience increased vaginal discharge with foul odor and changed color. This disease is not dangerous, but very uncomfortable.
Prevention of sexually transmitted disease
The only certain way of preventing STDs is by not having sex! Well, if this is asking for too much, you can lower this risk by limiting your sex partners. If you do indulge in love play with a casual acquaintance be sure he or she is not suffering or being treated for an STD.
In any case, always use safe sex methods like washing genitals with soap and water before sex and urinating soon after to clean away the germs, before they have a chance to infect. Use of condoms for sex just cannot be ignored. Use them even for oral and anal sex.