7 Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases And Their Treatment
One can easily felt a shiver down the spine at the mere mention of sexually transmitted diseases, as most of us would instantly think about HIV or AIDS. It’s true that HIV is lethal because of its incurable nature, it is not the only risk we expose ourselves while indulging in unsafe sex practices.
The cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have been increasing manifold due to unprotected sex practice and lack of knowledge to prevent them. This is contrary to the fact that these diseases are difficult to catch, means you have to be close and personal, yet we see a high number of cases around the world.
STDs still remains one of the major public health concerns in both developed and developing countries. According to World Health Organization, more than 1 million cases of STDs occur around the world everyday. Each year, there are about 357 million new cases of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) caused due to four major infections; chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis.
What are Sexually Transmitted Diseases?
STDs are diseases that are primarily spread or acquired through sexual contact. One infected partner transmits the disease to the other during sexual activity whether it is vaginal, anal or oral. Depending on the infection, STDs may also spread through sharing of needles, towels, bedding, etc.
STDs generally don’t cause any symptom, that’s why they are referred to as ‘sexually transmitted diseases’ instead of ‘sexually transmitted infections’. Some STDs causes mild symptoms while some other can be deadly. Let’s discuss some of the most common.
Common types of sexually transmitted diseases
The disease is one of the most prevalent forms of STDs in India with millions of cases reported every year. It infects both men and women. In women, it infects the cervix while in men, penile urethra is affected. Most of the people with chlamydia are asymptomatic, means they are unaware of the symptoms for weeks, months and years.
Symptoms - The most classic symptoms of chlamydia are pain during sex and discharge from penis and vagina. Men may also experience burning pain while urinating and pain in the testicles. Women might also feel irritation in the vagina.
Complications - If chlamydia is left untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infections near the testicles. It can also cause health problems in infants if the infection passes through vaginal canal to the child during delivery.
Treatment - Typically antibiotics are given and the infection is cured within 2 weeks of time. During the treatment, sex should be avoided.
Also known as ‘The Clap’, gonorrhea is another common bacterial infection that occurs in both men and women. Likewise chlamydia, most people don’t experience any symptoms but if symptom occurs, it can cause serious complications. The disease affects about 10 million Indians every year.
Symptoms - Gonorrhea symptoms include painful urination and itching around the genitals. In men, it causes white, green or yellow discharge from penis. And if you are thinking that oral sex is safe, that give a second thought to it as gonorrhea can infect throat as well.
Complications - Gonorrhea can cause premature labor, infertility and severe health problems in newborns.
Treatment - Although antibiotics can cure gonorrhea, there is growing concern about the bacteria becoming drug-resistant day by day. That means treatment is becoming more and more difficult and a day will come that there would be no cure for gonorrhea.
There are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV) both of which are spread through sexual contact. Though HSV1 is often related to cold sores, the virus can also cause genital sores. On the other hand, HSV2 mainly causes genital herpes. WHO estimates around 500 million people have had genital infection from HSV virus.
Symptoms - Most people with herpes don’t have any symptoms. But people with herpes commonly experience blisters on the mouth and the sex organs, which is painful. Some people may initially feel itching and tingling at the site of infection.
Complications - Herpes infection can be dangerous to newborns. Other than this, it can cause bladder problems, meningitis, and rectal inflammation. Pregnant women should get screened for HSV infection.
Treatment - Herpes virus cannot be eliminated or cured, however, it can be treated with anti-viral drugs. The blisters normally crust over and heal within a few weeks. Using a condom can reduce the risk but they are not 100 percent effective as herpes can also spread from skin to skin contact.
Syphilis is a common bacterial infection that is spread from person to person through either sexual contact or when skin or mucous membrane comes in contact with syphilis sores.
Symptoms - The infection usually develops in stages and initially starts as a painful sore on the mouth, rectum and the genitals. These symptoms are also known as painful ulcer (chancre) and are different from the canker sores. Later on, a person might experience rashes, low-grade fever, fatigue and muscle pain.
Though the cases of syphilis were brought down in India and it was almost on the verge of elimination in 2011, recently the country has witnessed a rise in the number of cases.
Complications - Syphilis if left untreated can lead to serious complications such as brain damage, peripheral nerve damage and even death. In newborn, it can prove fatal.
Treatment - Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed earlier. A single injection can prevent it from progressing to advanced stages if the infection is less than a year old.
Short for Human Papilloma Virus, it’s a common STD infection. There are more than 100 strains of this virus exists, each causing different conditions. It is believed that about 75 percent of the sexually active people had contracted HPV at some point in their life.
As the virus primarily spreads through skin to skin contact, it enters the body via cut or small tear in the skin. Over 290 million women have HPV infection, as per WHO.
Symptoms - Like other STDs, a person infected with HPV might not show any symptoms. But it commonly causes warts (raised bumps) that appear on the genitals and anus.
Complications - Certain types of HPV can cause serious health issues like oral cancer, cervical cancer, penile cancer, rectal and vulvar cancer.
Treatment - There is no cure for HPV, however, most of the people can clear the infection within 2 years. There is also a vaccine available for HPV which could prevent young men and women from the 4 most common types of HPV.
Most of us are aware of this dangerous virus since it has caused innumerous fatalities worldwide. It is the virus that has been associated with AIDS. A person gets HIV from infected person via bodily fluids like vaginal secretions, semen, breast milk, and blood. There are over 2.1 million people living with HIV in India, although there is 50 percent drop in new infections in the country in past decade.
Symptoms - A person carrying HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) would not show any signs for years. The viruses usually cause fewer symptoms, but it can potentially damage the immune system of the body, leading to several other diseases. Some people may feel flu-like symptoms within 2-4 weeks of contacting the virus.
Complications - Once the immune system is compromised, a range of complications can occur such as tuberculosis, unusual infections, various types of cancers and neurological problems.
Treatment - There is no cure for HIV. As far as treatment is concerned, though its complex, but over the years, new medicines have been developed that could expand the lifetime of an individual. The infection is usually treated with anti-retroviral therapy.
It is one of the most common forms of STDs which is curable. The infection is caused by a parasite and is more common in women than men.
Symptoms - Men infected with trichomoniasis mostly don’t have symptoms but women can experience genital itching, foul-smelling vaginal discharge and painful urination. Men may feel irritation inside the penis and burning during urination.
Complications - Pregnant women with trichomoniasis can deliver prematurely or have baby with a low birth weight. These women may also transmit the infection to the baby.
Treatment - The infection can be eradicated by a single dose of synthetic called metronidazole.
Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
As always, the golden rule ‘prevention is better than cure’ is the ideal way to keep off STDs. People should never cross their limit while fulfilling their sexual desires. Some points regarding prevention are mentioned below:
- Condom is known to provide the best protection against STDs and is an additional benefit in term of contraception.
- Birth control options like intrauterine devices (ITU) does not protect from STDs.
- It’s important to discuss the sexual history of your partner before indulging in any kind of sex
- Male circumcision cuts the chances of getting STDs by a good margin
- Regular screening STD is also a nice idea to keep off infection invading your body
- Eligible individuals must consider getting vaccinated for HPV