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All You Need To Know About Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Sexually transmitted diseases or STDs are diseases that spread from person to person via sexual intercourse or contact. In other words, these infections or diseases can spread through vaginal, anal or even oral sex. However, the spreading of such STDs is not just limited to sexual contact. They can also be transmitted by any kind of body fluids like mucus, blood transfusions, saliva, etc. 


Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are often confused with sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STI is the stage that comes before STD. When the bacteria or the virus enters the body, it causes an infection. It is usually asymptomatic in nature. As soon as the infection turns into a disease, signs and symptoms are immediately visible. 

What causes sexually transmitted diseases?

Usually, the causal agent is a bacteria (in the case of Chlamydia) or a virus (in the case of AIDS and genital herpes). Sometimes fungal infections can also lead to STDs such as candidiasis or “yeast infection”. Some of them are treatable at the early stages of the disease, while few have no cure and can only be managed well (HIV). 

Sexually transmitted infections are a worldwide concern and issue. Untreated patients often suffer disastrous effects, including health issues, financial burdens, psychological disorders, and physical damage.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Common STD symptoms

There are some common symptoms that occur in almost all STDs. If detected earlier, they can be treated appropriately and complications can be averted. Here is a list of the most common STD symptoms:

  • Sense of discomfort or pain during excretion, urination or any sexual activity.
  • Rashes, boils, bumps or sores around genital areas like vagina and penis, anus, mouth or thighs.
  • The raw area on the genitals.
  • Constant itching and redness around genital areas.
  • Irregular periods or bleeding from the vagina during or after sexual activity.
  • Unusual discharge from vagina or penis.
  • Swelling and pain in testicles.
  • Unexplained fever, weakness and body ache.

Some STDs are asymptomatic and cannot be detected immediately. They may have a set of completely different symptoms. Other general symptoms that can indicate a sexually transmitted disease are fever, nausea, weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, swellings and rashes (present in temporal association with any genital lesion)

The only 100% effective way to prevent sexual transmission of HIV and STDs is through abstinence – avoiding all vaginal, anal and oral sex. Using a latex male condom or a female condom can greatly reduce, but not entirely eliminate, the risk of HIV and STD transmission.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

HIV/AIDS

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the leading cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In this, the body loses its capacity to fight disease as HIV impairs the immunity of the person. STI caused by HIV is transmitted sexually from person to person or by body fluids. The progression of this infection leads to AIDS. 

Initial symptoms include a flu-like illness causing fever, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, etc. Chronic HIV infection includes night sweats, weight loss, diarrhoea, pneumonia, etc. 

As the infection progresses to AIDS, the symptoms include the following:

  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Rashes and lumps on the skin.
  • Fever and fatigue.
  • Weakness, weight loss and loss of appetite.
  • Lesions and white spots on the tongue, lips or around the mouth.
  • Chronic pneumonia and diarrhoea.
  • Chronic dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis).

Unprotected intercourse can lead to the spread of this disease. There is no cure available for HIV/AIDS. The progression can be slowed down with the help of medication and the symptoms can be subdued for some time. 

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of this virus – HSV 1 and HSV 2. The virus causes herpetic sores or boils. These boils are filled with fluid which, when it breaks open, releases the fluid. They can also cause cold sores. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Blisters on vagina, penis, scrotum, anus and buttocks.
  • Painful intercourse.
  • Itchiness in the genitals before the blisters appear.
  • Rashes and sores can also appear on the mouth, lips and face.
  • Headache, body ache and fever.
  • Swelling of lymph glands.

Unprotected sex with a potential diseased person may result in the transmission of this disease. Oral sex can also spread the disease. A definite cure is not known for this virus. The speed of recovery of the sores can be increased by medication. Despite adequate medication, it can recur.

Chlamydia 

Chlamydia infection is caused by bacteria and is transmitted sexually from one person to another. Most patients do not show any symptoms during the first stages of the disease. Hence, it is also known as the “silent infection”. However, when the disease progresses further, it may cause symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Discomfort while urinating
  • Yellowish or greenish discharge from the penis.
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Fever and fatigue
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pain in testicles and lower abdomen
  • bleeding from vagina
  • Inflamed cervix
  • Lower backache
  • Infertility  

Unprotected sex with a potential diseased person may result in the contraction of this disease. It is a curable disease and can be cured with the help of antibiotics.

Syphilis

It’s a sexually transmitted disease caused by Treponema pallidum. It progresses through 3 stages. Primary syphilis is usually transient and presents as painless chancre on genitalia. It often goes unnoticed.

Secondary syphilis is a most common stage wherein a patient can have a fever, sore throat, headache, joint pain, roseolar, bumpy rashes on the whole body and primarily on palms and soles.

It is not treated at this stage and it goes into latency where no signs and symptoms are present, but still patient harbours bacteria. This is followed by tertiary syphilis, where damage to the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and bones can occur. Death happens if left untreated.

There are few tests that can help to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment includes antibiotics.

Vaginal candidiasis

 They are caused by a yeast called candida.

Predisposed persons are females with

  • Prolonged antibiotics intake
  • Immunesuppresant medications 
  • Diabetes
  • Improper vaginal hygiene
  • Douching
  • Using uncleaned tampons and sex toys

Symptoms include

  • Thick white curdy discharge (odourless)
  • Itching in genitals
  • Redness in genitals
  • Urinary leakage.

Treatment includes antifungal medicines prescribed by a doctor for oral intake and local application-good personal hygiene maintenance. 

Conclusion

Sexually transmitted diseases have been a common problem in recent decades. And more so because some of them have no treatments available. They can be subdued for the time being through proper medication, but untreatable STDs and STIs can be a huge alteration to people’s lifestyles. They can be prevented by having safe sexual practices like using condoms, spermicidal foams, diaphragm, cervical caps, etc. Consult a doctor for the right advice and treatment without hesitation. 

Also Read: Male Yeast Infection: An In-depth Look at Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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