Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): Symptoms, Causes, Complication, Treatment And Prevention
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are generally acquired by s*xual contact. The organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids.
Some such infections can also be transmitted nonsexually, such as from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth, or through blood transfusions or shared needles.
It’s possible to contract sexually transmitted diseases from people who seem perfectly healthy — people who, in fact, aren’t even aware of being infected. Many STDs cause no symptoms in some people, which is one of the reasons experts prefer the term “sexually transmitted infections” to “sexually transmitted diseases.”
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have a range of signs and symptoms. That’s why they may go unnoticed until complications occur or a partner is diagnosed. Signs and symptoms that might indicate an STI include:
Sores or bumps on the private parts or in the oral or rectal area
Painful or burning urination
Discharge from the man-hood
Unusual vaginal bleeding
Sore, swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the groin but sometimes more widespread
Lower abdominal pain
Rash over the trunk, hands or feet
Signs and symptoms may appear a few days to years after exposure, depending on the organism. They may resolve in a few weeks, even without treatment, but progression with later complications — or recurrence — sometimes occurs.
Sexually transmitted infections can be caused by:
Bacteria (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia)
Viruses (human papillomavirus, private part herpes, HIV)
s*xual activity plays a role in spreading many other infectious agents, although it’s possible to be infected without s*xual contact. Examples include the hepatitis A, B and C viruses, shigella, cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia.
Possible complications include:
Sores or bumps anywhere on the body
Recurrent private part sores
Generalized skin rash
Pain during intercourse
Scrotal pain, redness and swelling
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Other cancers, including HIV-associated lymphoma and HPV-associated rectal and an*l cancers
Opportunistic infections occurring in advanced HIV
Maternal-fetal transmission, which causes severe birth defects
Treatments and drugs
STIs caused by bacteria are generally easier to treat. Viral infections can be managed but not always cured. If you’re pregnant and have an STI, prompt treatment can prevent or reduce the risk of infection of your baby. Treatment usually consists of one of the following, depending on the infection.
Antibiotics. Antibiotics, often in a single dose, can cure many sexually transmitted bacterial and parasitic infections, including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. Typically, you’ll be treated for gonorrhea and chlamydia at the same time because the two infections often appear together.
Once you start antibiotic treatment, it’s crucial to follow through. If you don’t think you’ll be able to take medication as prescribed, tell your doctor. A shorter, simpler treatment regimen may be available. In addition, it’s important to abstain from s*x until you’ve completed treatment and any sores have healed.
Antiviral drugs. You’ll have fewer herpes recurrences if you take daily suppressive therapy with a prescription antiviral drug, but you can still give your partner herpes at any time.
Antiviral drugs can keep HIV infection in check for many years, although the virus persists and can still be transmitted. The sooner you start treatment, the more effective it is. Once you start treatment — if you take your medications exactly as directed — it’s possible to lower your virus count to nearly undetectable levels.
Partner notification and preventive treatment
If tests show that you have an STI, your s*x partners — including your current partners and any other partners you’ve had over the last three months to one year — need to be informed so that they can get tested and treated if infected. Each state has different requirements but most mandate that certain STIs be reported to the local or state health department. Public health departments frequently employ trained disease intervention specialists, who can help with partner notification and treatment referrals.
Official, confidential partner notification effectively limits the spread of STIs, particularly syphilis and HIV. The practice also steers those at risk toward appropriate counseling and treatment. And since you can contract some STIs more than once, partner notification reduces your risk of getting reinfected.
Don’t drink alcohol excessively or use drugs. If you’re under the influence, you’re more likely to take s*xual risks.
Avoid anonymous, casual s*x. Don’t look for s*x partners online or in bars or other pickup places. Not knowing your s*x partner well increases your risk of possible exposure to an STI.
Communicate. Before any serious s*xual contact, communicate with your partner about practicing safer s*x. Reach an explicit agreement about what activities will and won’t be OK.
Abstain. The most effective way to avoid STIs is to abstain from s*x.
Stay with 1 uninfected partner. Another reliable way of avoiding STIs is to stay in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who isn’t infected.
Get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated early, before s*xual exposure, is also effective in preventing certain types of STIs