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What are STDs – Do you have one?

November 18, 2021

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) – also referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or Venereal Disease (VD), are passed on from one partner to another during sexual contact – could be vaginal, anal, or oral. Sometimes these do not present any symptoms in the person carrying the microbes – asymptomatic.

STDs can also be transmitted nonsexually from mother to the infant during breastfeeding, childbirth, pregnancy.

It can also be passed on when sharing needles or sometimes through blood transfusions.

  1. Frequent STDs and their causes:
  2. Curable STDs:
  3. Bacteria cause gonorrhea.
  4. Bacteria cause chlamydia.
  5. Trichomoniasis, also called “Trich,” is caused by protozoa.
  6. Bacteria cause syphilis. Can escape detection in the beginning stages.
  7. Pubic Lice cause crabs/Scabies. The tiny insects feed on human blood in the genital region.
  8. STDs that cannot be cured but only managed:
  9. Herpes – caused by Virus
  10. HPV – caused by human papillomavirus, with the eruption of warts can lead to cervical cancer.
  11. HIV- caused by Virus, which can weaken the immune system and cause other microbial infections, develop into certain cancers, and lead to AIDS.

Signs and Symptoms

Paying attention to specific symptoms and asking for medical advice will benefit women from contracting common STDs. Symptoms usually presented include,

  1. Unusual vaginal or anal discharge.
  2. Abnormal Vaginal or anal bleeding.
  3. Burning Sensation and pain during urination.
  4. Severe itch around the genitals.
  5. Warts in and around genitals.
  6. Extra growth, abnormal swelling, eruptions around genitals.
  7. Experiencing pain during intercourse, usually ignored. Abdominal pain or pelvic pain could indicate PID caused due to later phase gonorrhea or Chlamydia.

Diagnosis

Most of the STDs can be diagnosed with the help of a urine or blood test. A genital swab also helps in proper diagnosis.
Once the presence of an STD is confirmed, the Doctor will run a series of tests to find out the exact nature of the microbe(s). Even if a person is asymptomatic, tests can be advised based on the individuals’ sexual habits. An asymptomatic person is also capable of transmitting the diseases to others causing significant damage.

Treatment

When diagnosed with STD, it is vital for both partners involved to undergo treatment before commencing sexual contact, which helps prevent re-infections between the partners.

STDs caused by Bacteria / Protozoa – are treated with a combination of antibiotics based on the test results and microbes involved. The symptoms may recede in a couple of days, but it is mandatory to complete the antibiotic course. Contact your Gynaecologist if the symptoms persist or relapse even after completion of treatment.

STDs caused by Virus – cannot be cured by antibiotics. Antiviral medications can only manage STDs. Some viruses clear on their own in a couple of years. But getting diagnosed early is essential. Medications help to assuage the symptoms and prevent secondary bacterial infections and the risk of transmission. Antiviral drugs help in lowering the severity and recurrence of herpes. There are vaccines available to prevent specific HPV strains, which are the precursor for cervical cancer.
Advanced HIV antiviral treatments allow people to lead an everyday life with undetectable viral load, healthy sexual activity without the risk of developing AIDS or transmitting it to partner(s).

STDs caused by other organisms – like lice, are treated with topical creams or ointments and can be combined with oral medications depending on the severity and type of micro-organisms involved.

Prevention of STDs

  1. Refraining from sexual activities is the most efficient way to prevent the risk of STDs.
  2. Refraining from having multiple sexual partners who may risk transmission of STD.
  3. Using barriers like condoms or dental dams can reduce the risk of STDs transmitted by fluids but are ineffective against STDs due to skin contact.
  4. Vaccinations against HPV
  5. Abstaining from sexual activities when under the influence of intoxicants – alcohol or drugs, which increases the urge to take risks.
    Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a combination of medications recommended when the partner(s) have a history of STD or HIV.
  6. Communication between partners on their history of STD and doctors’ advice can also help prevent transmission and risk of STD.
  7. Regular testing for STD is vital if a person is sexually active with multiple partners.

STD during Pregnancy

The possibility of infections passing on to the fetus during pregnancy can be fatal.

Testing is recommended in pregnant women to identify the presence of any infection and provide appropriate treatment, thereby preventing the risk to infants. Under extreme conditions, a cesarean section can lower the risk during childbirth.

Sexual Assault and STD

In unfortunate sexual assaults, should conduct a proper evaluation for possible risk of STD, and should take preventive measures. Based on the medical history and other risk factors, appropriate medications and follow-up are essential to eliminate STD and other complications.

Conclusion

With some STDs being curable and some managed, it is essential to get an early diagnosis and treatment carried out at the earliest. The presence of one infection can enhance the risk of contracting a secondary disease. Untreated STDs can cause severe complications and lead to life-threatening situations.

Proper medications, following the Doctor’s advice, and changing sexual lifestyle can go a long way to prevent, treat, or manage STDs without risk of contracting one or transmitting to others.

Safety First, Activities Next.

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