Sexually transmitted diseases have been around for centuries. What makes them so deadly is that many of these infections do not cause specific symptoms which leads to a lot of oversight and results in complications that could have been avoided. Timely detection and regular screening plays a key role in fighting sexually transmitted diseases. Here is a look at the most common STDs that women need to be well informed about:
HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
More than 30 types of HPV can be spread sexually. You can get them through vaginal, anal, oral sex or skin to skin contact.
Most types of HPV have no symptoms but some of them cause genital warts and infect the mouth and throat. The most dangerous types are the ones that cause cancer of the cervix, penis, mouth, or throat.
Two vaccines protect against these cancers. One of them also protects against genital warts, vaginal cancer, and anal cancer. Regular Pap smear tests can help detect most cervical cancers caused by HPV at an early stage.
The chlamydia bacterium is found in the cervix and urethra and can live in the throat or rectum. It’s spread mostly by vaginal or anal sex.
While about half of women with chlamydia have no symptoms, others may experience vaginal discharge or abdominal pain. Women with infection of the urethra (urethritis) have the typical symptoms of a urinary tract infection, including pain upon urination and the frequent and urgent need to urinate.
Chlamydia is caused by bacteria, so it’s treated with antibiotics.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection of the genital tract. It can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus. The first gonorrhea symptoms generally appear within 10 days after exposure. Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea may include:
• Thick, cloudy or bloody discharge from the vagina
• Pain or burning sensation when urinating
• Painful bowel movements
• Anal itching
Gonorrhea is easily treated with antibiotics.
Syphilis is a tricky disease with four stages. In the primary stage, the main symptom is a sore. The secondary stage starts with a rash on the body, followed by sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus.
Symptoms usually disappear in the third stage. This stage can last for years. In the late stage, it causes organ and nerve damage. It can also cause problems in the brain.
Your doctor can give you antibiotics to treat syphilis. The earlier treatment starts, the fewer antibiotics needed and the more quickly they will work.
Genital herpes is a highly contagious STD caused by a type of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that enters the body through small breaks in the skin or mucous membranes.
The initial symptom of genital herpes usually is pain or itching, beginning within a few weeks after exposure to an infected sexual partner.
After several days, small red bumps or open sores may appear in genital, anal and nearby areas. They then rupture, becoming ulcers that ooze or bleed. Eventually, scabs form and the ulcers heal.
In women, sores can erupt in the vaginal area, external genitals, buttocks, anus or cervix.
Because herpes is a virus, you can’t cure it. But you can take medication to manage it.
Trichomoniasis is a common STD caused by a microscopic, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomoniasis typically infects the vagina in women. When trichomoniasis causes symptoms, they may appear within five to 28 days of exposure.
Signs and symptoms may include:
• Clear, white, greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge
• Strong vaginal odour
• Vaginal itching or irritation
• Pain during sexual intercourse
• Painful urination
Trichomoniasis is treated with antibiotics.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. It’s passed through body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. You can get it by having vaginal or anal intercourse with an infected person without a condom, or by sharing a needle with someone who is infected. You can’t get HIV from saliva or by kissing.
Symptoms of HIV infection are vague. They can feel like the flu, with muscle aches, fatigue, or a slight feve. The only sure way to tell if you’ve been infected is to get your saliva or blood tested.
HIV can take years to destroy your immune system. Past a certain point, your body loses its ability to fight off infections. There’s no cure for AIDS, but powerful drugs can help people with HIV/AIDS live long lives.
Doctor by profession, ardent animal lover by choice; she finds writing to be therapeutic. She loves meeting new people, hopes to travel the world and has karaoking with Oprah on top of her bucket list. @kirtana_ponnuswamy