Sexually Transmitted Infections

An Overview of STIs

Sexually transmitted infections, also referred to as STIs and venereal diseases are a group of infections transmitted by sexual contact. Apart from colds and the flu, sexually transmitted diseases are the most widespread diseases in the world.

The most well-known and dangerous, STIs is HIV which causes AIDS. Other common STIs include Chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital/vaginal herpes, hepatitis B, syphilis, genital/vaginal warts and trichomoniasis.

All the above mentioned sexually transmitted infections are caused by viruses, bacteria and protozoa. These agents can enter the body via:-

  1. Body parts that has mucous membrane linings -nose, mouth, penis, vagina, urethra and anus.
  2. Breaks in the skin.
  3. The bloodstream –either by injection or through sex (when there are tiny abrasions on the penis, vagina and mouth.

From the above, you can infer that sexually transmitted infections can be spread through oral, vaginal and anal sex. And anybody who is sexually active is vulnerable and can be infected – straight or gay, married or single.

STIs might also occur through non sexual contact. A new born baby can get the disease from an infected mother during vaginal delivery and breastfeeding.

Generally STIs are not transmitted by air, water and contact with door knobs or toilet seats.

A majority of sexually transmitted infections occur in men and women younger than 25 years old. But lately it is also prevalent among post menopausal women. Studies show that these group of ladies are having more unprotected sex as there is no risk of getting pregnant.

According to statistics, the risk of becoming infected with a sexually transmitted infection with one exposure is about 60-90% in men and 20-35% in women.

Sexually Transmitted Infections Symptoms

Not everyone has symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease. Symptoms might appear days, weeks, months or even years (as in HIV) after an exposure. But if you do have and you are a woman it will manifest as:-

  1. Thick, foul smelling, green or yellow vaginal discharge over a period of 2 weeks.
  2. Pain, burning and itching while urinating that lasts for more than a day.
  3. Pain in the pelvic area accompanied by fever and lethargy
  4. Painful intercourse and vaginal spotting or bleeding after sex.
  5. Sores, lumps, blisters, rashes or warts around the vaginal area.
  6. Itching, burning, pain and tingling sensations of the vagina.

STIs Symptoms for Men

  • Painful urination and cloudy urine.
  • Abnormal discharge in the penis, leading to crusting at the tip of the penis.
  • Sores, lumps, blisters, rashes or warts on or around the genitals.
  • Pain and swelling or tenderness in the scrotum, accompanied with fever.
  • Itching, burning, pain and tingling sensation of the genitals.

Get Medical Attention & Practice Safe Sex

If you have the above signs and suspect you might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, seek medical attention immediately. Do not feel embarrassed and try to treat yourself for it might lead to long term complications. Avoid having sex until you have these symptoms checked out and treated by a doctor.

If left untreated, sexually transmitted infections can result in PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) in women which affects her reproductive health. Infertility, ectopic pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain are linked to PID.

Pregnant woman infected with STI face an even higher risk as the disease can cause miscarriage, low birth weight, premature delivery and infections (pneumonia, eye infection and nervous system problems) in the new born.

There is no vaccination against any of the above mentioned sexually transmitted diseases.

However, if the infections are caused by bacteria it can be treated with antibiotics. And if the STIs are caused by viruses, it can be treated with antivirals, though this might need long-term treatment.

And if you have vaginal herpes, get some great tips to help you manage the outbreaks in my living with herpes page.

For sexually active persons who are not in a long-term, single-partner relationship, always use condoms.

Avoid high-risk sexual behavior, such as having multiple sexual partners and have a partner who has multiple sex partners or other risk factors (such as using drugs).

According to information obtained from CDC, if you have more than one partner a year, you should go for STI screenings every 6 months so that you can identify a potential infection and get it treated before passing it along to another person.

You should also make it a practice to examine your genitals once a month once you are sexually active. This will help you to know what is normal for you, and when you may have symptoms of STIs.

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