Many long-identified sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are still raging today, although the focus is often on HIV and diseases associated with the human papilloma virus (HPV). During sexual contact, partners can pass infections from one person to another that may have no symptoms but can have long-term consequences if not promptly treated.
Overview of STD Treatment, Transmission, and Symptoms
STDs can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Usually, the transmission occurs through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, although these can pass through contact with contaminated tissues and blood, during childbirth, or breastfeeding.
Although the symptoms vary among the different diseases, many of them may exhibit no symptoms, or a host of problems such as discharges from the penis or vagina, anal itching, pain during urination, or more frequent urination for either sex; women in particular may experience abdominal pain, menstrual irregularities, painful intercourse, vomiting, and fever.
With STD treatment, some sexually transmitted diseases can be cured, while others can only be put into remission. In all cases, the best way to deal with them is not to get them at all. Wearing a condom on the penis or a dental dam in the mouth before engaging in oral sexual activity can reduce the risk of most STDs, including the ones enumerated below.
Chlamydia, the most common bacterial STD in the United States, is three times more common than gonorrhea and 50 times more common than syphilis.
Gonorrhea, colloquially referred to as “the clap” or “the drip,” can exhibit no symptoms but in worst-case, can lead to infertility and arthritis, in addition to other symptoms.
Syphilis, which results in painless sores on the genitals, can lead to blindness, paralysis, and brain damage.
Herpes, an incurable STD, can affect the oral area from type I of the virus or the genital area from type II. While genital herpes may have symptoms common to other STDs, oral herpes is manifested in cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth that can be contracted and spread through kissing and touching.
HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in most advanced stages, is an incurable disease passed through intercourse, sharing or being infected by contaminated needles, or by receiving HIV-infected blood or other fluids. The virus can reside in your system for 10 years before manifesting itself; its presence can only be detected through testing. The disease is incurable, although there are treatments.
Genital warts result from some of the more than 100 types of HPV. While the warts can be uncomfortable or unpleasant, they are not dangerous; their largest risk is that they can increase the risk of HIV infection if they bleed.
Trichomoniasis, often called “trich” is caused by a microscopic one celled protozoan, Trichomonas Vaginalis. It may result in no symptoms or can lead to discharges, frequent urination, and in women itching in the groin.
Testing for STDs
When you engage in unprotected sex, you may have developed an STD without knowing it, especially if your infection produces no symptoms. Condom use ensures safer sex, but does not remove all risk. As a responsible sexual partner, you should take a home test or a periodic test in a clinic to protect current and future partners. Having an HPV shot can reduce your chances of contracting some, but not all, STDs.
For information on these and other STDs, or to be tested for them, contact Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center.
This article reviewed by Dyanne Marcellina Tappin, MD.