Sexually transmitted diseases are infective diseases that are transmitted through sexual contact, which means that semen, blood, and other body fluids that are coming from people with STD are highly contagious. Although many people think that this is not so serious, about 12 million of new STD infections occur in the United States each year with 25% of these occurring in someone between the ages 16 and 19.
They can affect men and women of all backgrounds and economic levels, which means that no one is really safe.
The most common sexually transmitted diseases
The most common sexually transmitted disease is definitely a Chlamydia infection.
This kind of infection is caused by the bacteria called Chlamidia trachomatis. The most common symptoms are an abnormal genital discharge and burning while urinating. Both, males and females are having almost the same symptoms. If not treated on time, it can lead to much more serious health problems such as lower abdominal pain, lower back pain, nausea, fever, bleeding and pain during the intercourse. Chlamydia infections can be treated with antibiotic therapy.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is probably the most serious and life threatening sexually transmitted disease today in all parts of the world. It is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and it is considered a sexually transmitted disease because the virus can be found in almost all body fluids, including sperm, vaginal discharge, saliva and others. This is a very serious and incurable disease. It doesn’t kill you itself but instead it makes you more prone to all other kinds of infections by reducing your immunity to the minimum.
Target cells for the human immunodeficiency virus are T- helper lymphocytes, which are the base of the cellular body defense.
These are also one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and they are caused by a Human Papilloma virus. The most common symptom is a skin formation called condyloma. These condylomas appear on genitals and can spread to the surrounding skin. They are highly contagious and can progress into several other symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, pain when urinating, itching, burning, or swollen glands in genital area. In most cases it requires no therapy what so ever because the skin lesions disappear them selves in two to four weeks.
Hepatitis B is also considered a sexually transmitted disease. Although, in most cases it is caused by infected needles, sexual intercourse is also one of the most common ways to get infected. It is caused by Hepatitis B virus and one of the diagnostic problems is the fact that it doesn’t cause any changes to the genitals. It primarily hits the liver causing inflammation, cirrhosis and even cancer in late stages of the disease.
The same virus that is causing the small blister-like lesions on facial region and lips is causing a one serious sexually transmitted disease called Genital herpes. The symptoms are almost the same as they are on human face - painful blisters or open sores but this time in the genital area.
Like with all viral infections, there is no cure for it but the good thing is that these lesions disappear by them selves in a couple of days. The fact is also that the patient will carry the virus in his body for the rest of his life. According to some researches, more then 45 million Americans are infected with HSV at this moment.
Gonorrhea is a serious sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium called Neisseria Gonorrheae. Nowadays more than 700,000 persons in the U.S. get gonorrheal infections each year. In most cases, females don’t have any symptoms, which can be very dangerous from the epidemiological point of view.
Males can have problems with burning sensation when urinating, or a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis.
Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious health problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease, epididymitis and many others. It can be cured with several antibiotics but every year there is more and more drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea, which makes the successful treatment much more difficult.
It is a very serious sexually transmitted disease, which, if left untreated, can even become deadly. It is caused by a spiral-shape bacterium called Treponema pallidum. Incidence of the syphilis has increased dramatically in recent years. Many experts believe that it is because the first symptoms of this terrible disease may really go undetected. The first symptoms are very mild and disappear spontaneously in a few days. However, later, the bacterium attacks brain, heart and almost all the internal organs.
The most common symptom is a single, painless sore on the penis or on the vagina called ulcus durum. This is the sign of the first stadium of the disease. Later, as the disease progresses, people get skin rash on the hands and feet that usually does not itch and clears on its own, fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, headaches and weight loss.
Penicillin is still the first choice of weapon against this terrible disease but it works only if the syphilis is discovered early.
Prevention of the sexually transmitted diseases
Probably the best way to prevent STDs is to avoid sexual contact with other people completely. It is really the only way the person can be 100% sure.
There are also several things a person can do to reduce the possibility of infection. If two persons decide to stay in a monogamous relationship, there is a small risk that one of them will be infected with an STD.
A condom should be used during every sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex, although they don’t offer a 100% protection.
There is one important thing that every sexually active person should know: everyone should have regular gynecological or dermatological checkups for STDs especially in case of a new sexual partner.
During the intravenous application of some medication or insulin only clean needles should be used. When person finds out that he is infected with some sexually transmitted disease, he should avoid all sexual activity while being treated.
Incidence of STDs
The fact is that the incidence of STDs has been rising in the past couple of years and most experts believe that the real cause of this is the fact that the young people are becoming sexually active much earlier than they were for example 30 years ago.
Other group of experts believes that the problem isn’t the timing but in the today’s trend to have multiple sexual partners during lifetime. This potentially puts people at a very high risk of developing several STDs. It is considered that females are, from the epidemiologic point of view, much more dangerous than the males. In most of that sexually transmitted diseases, symptoms in females are rather mild and really can go undetected. Women don’t know that they are infected and that’s enough for the real epidemic.
Vertical transmission of several sexually transmitted diseases is possible. Some STDs can be passed from a pregnant woman to the baby while the woman is pregnant and during the birth. For example, syphilis can pass trough placenta and that’s why the baby may be born infected. Some other sexually transmitted disease such as Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, hepatitis B, and genital herpes can't pass trough placenta but they can be passed on a baby during the act of delivery, while baby passes through the birth canal.
Some of these diseases passed on the baby can be treated soon after but some can lead to very serious body defects and even death.
The prognosis varies among the different diseases.
However, there is one rule that works with all of them - the sooner the disease is detected, the greater are the chances for a complete recovery.
The prognosis for the recovery from those sexually transmitted diseases caused by bacteria is generally better because there are some very strong antibiotics which are very effective in fighting these bacteria available nowadays. The problem is the treating of the viral caused STDs. There are no medications that can kill a virus. This is because it incorporates in our cells. Anyway, there are several made to prevent the virus from multiplying. And so these patients should be treated on a long-term basis to relieve symptoms and prevent life-threatening complications. This improves the quality of life for these patients significantly.
There are also some other diseases which are considered to be a STDs such as Trichomoniasis, Bacterial vaginosis, Cytomegalovirus infections, Scabies and Pubic lice but they occur very rarely and really aren’t that serious.
Read More: STDs are Still a Huge Problem in U.S.
Every change in your genitals should be reported to physician. By “every change”, in most cases we refer to:
1. abnormal vaginal discharge,
2. vaginal burning and itching,
3. unusual pain in pelvic area while having sex,
4. strange blister-like formations on genitals,
5. discharge from the tip of the penis,
6. swelling of the lymph nodes,
7. Skin rashes over large parts of the body and many others
Many doctors can test you for a sexually transmitted disease and, in most cases, it is done by gynecologist, a specialist in disorders of the urinary tract and the male sexual organs called urologist, a family physician, a dermatologist or even a nurse. The tests are strictly confidential and no name of the patient will be revealed!