Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs or STIs) are those infectious diseases that spread from individual to individual, through sexual contact. STDs can affect all ages and backgrounds undergoing intimate contacts.
Nowadays, STDs have become tremendously more common in teens due to start of sexual activities at a young age and if left untreated, may cause permanent damage like infertility and even death, due to complication of these diseases. Sexual contact not only refers to vaginal or anal sexual intercourse, but also includes oral genital contact and kissing.
There exist around 30 different sexually transmissible viruses, parasites and bacteria causing infections like HIV, HBV, syphilis, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, genital warts and genital herpes. Moreover, some infections like HIV and syphilis show mother to child transmission, during pregnancy as well as during childbirth process and also get passed on through transfusion of blood products and tissue transfer.
Many STDs infections are treatable, but certain lack efficient cures like HIV, gonorrhea, HPV, HCV and HBV. The only safety remains abstinence of all forms of sexual contact with those afflicted with STDs.
Information On Different Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Amongst all known STDs, the oldest known infection is gonorrhea, which is known to infect more than one million women. The bacterium resides on moist surfaces, most commonly in vagina and cervix portions of uterus.
It even resides in urethra (tube from which urine drains out), rectum or back end of throat (oral genital contact). Various symptoms include a yellow vaginal discharge, frequent urination, swelling or redness of the genitals with itching or burning in the vaginal area.
Similar to gonorrhea, Chlamydia bacterium also resides in urethra, cervix, rectum or throat. Infected individuals do not show any symptoms, unlike in gonorrhea infection.
Hence, unaware individuals could spread the disease to others too. Chlamydia is destructive to fallopian tubes that may cause fertility issues and even tubal pregnancy in women. Severe pelvic infections are also caused by Chlamydia, which further develops into pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Syphilis is caused by spirochete, which causes ulcers on scrotum or outside vagina and hence, use of condoms may not prevent transmission of this STI on intimate contact.
Ulcers may also appear in the mouth that can get spread just on kissing the infected individual. The ulcers get resolved within three to six months without treatment but reappear later as secondary form of syphilis, when primary stage is not treated properly.
Human Papillomaviruses and Genital Warts
Around 40 types of HPV are known to be the cause of genital warts or venereal warts (or condylomata acuminata) that infect genital tract of both women and men, and primarily get transmitted on sexual contact. In women, HPV infection is also known to cause cervical or other anogenital cancers and has been linked to penile and anal cancers in men.
Bacterium Hemophilus dcureyi causes an infection in exposed portions of genital skin, mostly vulva (external genital of women) and the penis, called as chancroid.
The infection is usually associated with swelling and tenderness of the lymph nodes in the groin that usually drain lymph fromthe genital portions. This infection is more common in developing countries and relatively rare in countries like US.
Infections that are caused by small parasitic bugs like mites or lice and transmitted on close physical contact and sexual contact are referred as ectoparisitic infections. These parasites reside on skin hair causing itching. An infection of pubic area caused by the crab louse is known as Pediculosis pubis.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
HIV infection weakens the immune system and increases vulnerability of the body to various infections and cancers. HIV is caused by human immunodeficiency virus that is transmitted only by sexual contact or sharing inject able needles or blood transfusion or through infected mother to the newborn.
When symptoms of HIV increases manifold, it takes a severe form, referred as AIDS. There exist numerable options of treatment for managing state of HIV infected individuals and delaying its progression to AIDS.
Viral infection caused by herpes simplex virus, gets transmitted through mucous lining of the vagina or mouth, on sexual contact and is called as genital herpes. The virus penetrates the skin through microscopic tears and frequent outbreaks of infection happen in immuno-suppressed women.
Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C
Sexual transmission is known to be the cause for 30% of HBV cases in the world. HBV disease affects the liver, causing an acute as well as the chronic inflammation of liver. The complications arising due to HBV have been responsible for death of 2 million patients in a year worldwide.
However, Hepatitis C infection is rarely transmitted through sexual contact, so it is an unusual STD. It is spread majorily through sharing needles and transfusion of infected blood. Five percent of babies are seen to be infected with HCV through maternal transmission.
The important point to remember about sexually transmitted diseases is that they are preventable. But the risks of STIs are generally considered as unimportant and ignored by most of us. There does not exist anything as safe sex and only monogamous relationship could limit the spread of these STDs and save from alarming rise of these sexually transmitted diseases.
STDs Overall Affect On Women’s Health
Untreated STDs have serious implications on maternal, reproductive and newborn health. These remain the major cause of infertility amongst women. 10-40% of women with chlamydial infection are at risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease. Women with pelvic inflammatory diseases have 10 times greater risks of developing ectopic pregnancy than women without PID.
Prevention of STDs
The effective way of avoiding such sexually transmitted infections or diseases is by completely avoidance of sexual intercourse by all means like oral, anal or vaginal contact or by maintaining long term relationship with only one uninfected partner.
Rest all modes of prevention could reduce the transmission of such diseases but cannot provide the complete prevention from its occurrence. The most effective of all preventive measures is use of male latex condoms that are known to reduce transmission of HIV, chlamydial infection, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis.