Sexually Transmitted Diseases or Infections

Everything You Need to Know About Sexually Transmitted Diseases or Infections

Bacteria, parasites, and viruses fall under the 30 different microbes responsible for diseases and infections transmitted during sexual intercourse. The common mode of spreading from one person to another is through sexual fluids like semen, vaginal fluid, and infected blood during unsafe oral, vaginal, anal sex, or skin to skin contact.

Sexual infections can be contracted by a baby from its infected mother prior to birth or in labour. Breast milk can also be a medium. Infected blood products via transfusion can get a healthy person infected too.

There may be no obvious sign of STIs but if you’ve been exposed, do well to get screened.

Fast facts about STDs/STIs

  • The WHO reports that daily, over a million persons around the world contract sexually transmitted infections
  • 1 of 4 common STIs: Trichomoniasis, Syphilis, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia constitute new infections of around 376 million
  • 2016 saw 988,000 pregnant women infected with syphilis which leads to above 350,000 wrong birth conditions with 200, 000 stillbirths and deaths of newborns

People who have an STI may show no symptoms over a long time and unknowingly spread it to others if undiagnosed and not treated.

Human immunodeficiency virus, HIV

This STI lowers the strength of the immune system against fungi, bacteria and other microbes that makes people sick. Untreated HIV leads to AIDS, which is more serious and life-threatening.

The initial phase of HIV infection is without symptoms. 2 to 6 weeks post-infection may see flu-like sickness. At this stage, the infection is high.Early symptoms of HIV are fever, fatigue, rash, headache, andswollen lymphs. Symptoms get severe 5 to 10 years after getting the infection.

HIV symptoms

  • Persistent cough and diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Fever that lasts long

Symptoms of late-stage HIV/ AIDS

  • Serious fever with chills
  • Continuous and unclear fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Abnormal opportunistic infections

Genital herpes

Caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV), this virus gains entrance into the body through minor openings in the skin or mucous membranes. Since the early signs are less serious, it may appear undetected.

Symptoms in men

  • Itching and discomfort on the genitals and surrounding areas at the early phase of the infection
  • Ulcers, reddish bumps, and little blisters on the anus and genitals
  • Sores on the thighs, scrotum, penis, buttocks, anus, or inside the urethra
  • Itching or discomfort around the inner thighs, buttocks, and genitals

Symptoms in women

  • Painful urination due to ulcers
  • Painful and tender genitals
  • Sores on the cervix, anus, buttocks, vaginal area and outside genitals
  • Head and muscle aches, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the groin

HPV

The most common STI with genital warts as a common symptom shared by men and women.

Symptoms in men

  • Genital warts on the tip or shaft of the penis, anus, or scrotum
  • Pain and itching in the genitals
  • Several cauliflower-shaped warts
  • Bleeding while having sex
  • Flesh-coloured little bumps in the genital area

Symptoms in women

On the vulva, genital warts may appear. It can also show up in the throat and mouth of persons who’ve had oral sex with an infected partner.

Hepatitis

This is a viral infection that inflames the liver. Hepatitis A, B, and C are infections affecting the liver, but B and C are severe.

Symptoms

  • Pain in the muscle or joint
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Yellowish discolouration of the skin
  • Fever, nausea and vomiting, etc

Syphilis

This infection caused by bacteria affects genitals, mucous membrane, skin, heart, and brain. Different symptoms of this infection ranging from chancre, soreness and aching, to blindness happens in the primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary phases.

Neurosyphilis

This is when there’s a nervous breakdown due to syphilis attack with common symptoms like immobility and headache.

Congenital syphilis

A condition where a syphilis-infected mother passes the infection to her baby in the womb. It’s a life-threatening condition, so treatment is crucial for pregnant women.

Chlamydia

A bacteria infection without symptoms at the initial stage but mild symptoms show up within 1 to 2 weeks of being exposed. Men and women share similar symptoms like genital discharge, difficulty urinating, and pain in the lower abdomen. Other symptoms are different for men and women.

Gonorrhoea

A bacterial infection with symptoms appearing after a week of being exposed. Symptoms hide for a long time after that. Men and women have different symptoms but share similar ones like anal itching, and painful or burning sensation while peeing.

Trichomoniasis

Brought about by the parasite trichomonasvaginalis with symptoms showing up after 1 to 4 weeks of exposure. It can range from minor irritation to chronic inflammation. Men and women share similar symptoms like itching inside the genitals, difficulty urinating, discharge from the genitals.

Prevention of STIs

People need to know about STDs and how to stay safe. The following measures can help:

  • Abstinence – Not having any form of sex is the best way to avoid STDs
  • Vaccination – HPV, hepatitis B and other infectious disease vaccines are great and effective at preventing STIs
  • Maintain a monogamous sexual relationship – Have sex with only your partner as several sexual partners increase your chances of having STIs
  • Safe sex – Use condoms every time you have sex; it lowers STD transmission
  • STI screening – Very important. Get screened regularly for STIs both you and your partner especially if you have more than one sex partner. Early diagnosis can lead to treatment.

STI tests you should have

The CDC says:

  • Young persons and adults aged 13 to 65 years should have an HIV test at least once every year
  • Women below 25 and sexually active should take chlamydia and gonorrhoea test yearly
  • Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea test should also be done during early pregnancy
  • Men sleeping with men should test once yearly for gonorrhoea, syphilis, and chlamydia and frequent HIV testing every 3 to 6 months
  • Those having unprotected sex and using intravenous drugs should test for HIV at least once yearly

What tests are needed to check if I’m STI infected?

  • Blood test for STDs
  • Urine test for gonorrhoea and chlamydia
  • Cervical smear for HPV

Can STIs be cured?

Early diagnosis can make STIs to be managed efficiently and cured. Presently, HIV-infected persons can be treated to live a healthy life.

If you are residing in London area, then you can visit at the walk in Sexual Health Clinic to get tested for STDs and STIs.

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