Sexually transmitted infections are conditions passed from one individual to another through sexual intercourse. STIs can be contacted when people engage in unprotected anal, oral, or vaginal sex with infected people.
An STI may also be referred to as VD (venereal disease) or sexually transmitted disease (STD). While many conditions are said to be caused by STIs, sex isn’t the only way infections are transmitted.
It depends on the type of STI involved; some infections may be contracted through breastfeeding and needle use.
Symptoms of STIs in men
It’s not uncommon to experience no symptoms of STI after exposure. Nonetheless, some STIs can manifest obvious signs in men, and some general symptoms include:
- Swollen or painful testicles
- Bleeding or abnormal discharge from the penis
- Discomfort or pain while urinating or during sex
- Bumps, sore, or rashes around the anus, penis, buttocks, testicles, mouth, or thighs
Depending on the type of STI, some symptoms vary in men.
Symptoms of STIs in women
In many scenarios, STIs does not cause any noticeable symptoms in women, but when they do, some of the common signs may include:
- Discomfort or pain while urinating or during sex
- Itchiness around or in the vagina
- Bumps, rashes, sores on or around the anus, vagina, thighs, buttocks, or mouth
- Bleeding or strange discharge from the vagina
Symptoms in women may vary from one STI to another.
Types of STIs
Different types of infections can be passed sexually. The most common STDs are described below.
Chlamydia is caused by specific bacteria, and according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it is the most prevalent STI in America.
Several individuals with the infection aren’t aware they are infected because they manifest no apparent signs. However, symptoms of chlamydia often include:
- Painful discomfort in the lower abdomen
- Yellow or green discharge from the vagina or penis
- Discomfort during urination or sex
When left untreated, chlamydia can cause a series of infections that may include:
- Pelvic inflammatory infections
- Infections of the testicles, urethra, and prostate gland
If chlamydia is untreated in a pregnant woman, the risk of passing it to her child is very high. Babies that get infected at birth can develop the following:
Chlamydia can be treated using antibiotics, but affected person must first visit their medical doctor for proper examination.
Human papilloma virus (HPV)
The human papillomavirus can be transmitted from one person to another by sexual or skin-to-skin contact. There are some strains of the virus with some being more threatening than others.
The most common symptoms of HPV include warts on the mouth, genitals, and throat. Unfortunately, there are strains of the virus that can cause cancer, and these include:
According to the NCI (National Cancer Institute), many cases of human papillomavirus-related cancer cases in the US are caused by “HPV 16” and “HVP 18”. These pair are responsible for about 70% of all cervical cancer reports.
Treatment for HVP isn’t available yet, but luckily, the infections often go away without any medications. Also, a vaccine has been developed to guard against some dangerous strains of the virus, including HPV 16, and HPV 18.
Proper screening and testing are required if you’ve been exposed to the virus. This would help your healthcare provider to examine and manage prospective complications correctly.
It would help to talk to your doctor about the right steps to take to protect yourself against the virus and how you can reduce the risk of further complications.
This is a bacterial infection that often goes unnoticed at its earliest phases. Early noticeable symptoms usually include round sore (chancre), and it is generally found on the mouth, anus, or genitals. Infections caused by syphilis can be painless, but it spreads very quickly.
Subsequent symptoms of syphilis may include the following:
Untreated syphilis can cause the following:
- Mental illness
- Loss of memory
- Loss of vision
- Heart complications
- Loss of hearing
- Infections of the spinal cord or brain
Luckily, if the infections are caught early, treatments using antibiotics can be administered. Nonetheless, syphilis in new babies can be fatal.
Pregnant women can benefit greatly by getting tested for syphilis.
Early diagnosis and treatment increase the chances of managing the disease better. You can consult your healthcare provider to provide you with more information on how to recognise and manage the disease.
Human immunodeficiency virus or HIV can damage the immune system. The virus can also increase the risk of getting infected by other bacteria or viruses. The disease can also maximise the risk of contracting some cancers.
HIV infections that are left unmanaged can mutate to a stage 3 HIV, which is generally referred to as AIDS. With treatment currently available, people living with the virus can live their lives without the virus developing into AIDS.
It’s easy to confuse symptoms of HIV with flu-like symptoms in the early stages of infections.
These symptoms may include:
- Pains and aches
- Sore throat
- Inflated lymph nodes
These early symptoms of HIV typically wear off within a month or so. Infected individuals can go on living the best of their lives without further complications or persistent symptoms for several years.
Some nonspecific symptoms may be noticed in other people, and some of them include:
- Stomach complications
- Recurrent fatigue
There’s currently no cure for the virus; however, treatment options can be discussed with your doctor. Early detection and treatment are necessary for managing the virus.
Appropriate management can reduce the possibility of transmitting the disease to a sexual partner.
As a matter of fact, managing HIV can potentially minimise the disease in the body to suppressed levels. According to the CDC, HIV at undetectable levels can’t be spread to other people.
Because several individuals aren’t aware of their status, the CDC recommends people between the ages of 13 – 64 run proper HIV test at least once. Even without obvious symptoms, people who are at risk of contracting the virus should get tested at least once annually.
Reliable testing centers can be found in clinics and significant parts of the world. With modern testing and treatment tools, affected persons can live a long healthy life. You can see your medical doctor for extensive information.
Another well-known bacterial STI is gonorrhea or as it is generally known, “the clap.” Several people with the disease may experience no symptoms, but the following may manifest if there are any:
- Sore throat
- Itching in the genitals
- Frequent urination than normal
- Discomfort or pain during urination or sex
- A beige, yellow, white, or green-coloured discharge from the vagina or penis
The complications that may occur if gonorrhea is left untreated may include:
The chances of a mother spreading the virus to a baby during birth are very high, causing a series of health complication in the baby. Pregnant women are encouraged to get tested, and if possible, treated for STIs by administering antibiotics.
Also known as crabs, pubic lice are small insects that live in the pubic hair of an affected person. Similar to body lice and head lice, crabs survive by sucking on human blood.
The symptoms of pubic lice may include:
- Low-grade fever
- Small red or pink bumps around the anus or genitals
- Itching around the anus or genitals
A magnifying glass can be used to see the lice or the tiny white eggs that are laid around the roots of the hair. Untreated pubic lice can be transmitted to other people through shared clothes, towels, beddings, or skin-to-skin contact.
Immediate attention is required if you suspect crab infection through the use of tweezers and over-the-counter treatment. Proper cleaning of towels, beddings, clothes and your surrounding is essential to eliminate traces of lice and their eggs.
Also referred to as trich, trichomoniasis is caused by a tiny protozoan organism that is transmitted from one person to another sexually. According to the CDC, less than one-third of individuals with trichomoniasis develop symptoms that may include:
- Frequent urination
- Discharge from the penis or vagina
- Itching or burning around the penis or vagina
- pain or discomfort during sex or urination
Women with trichomoniasis often experience a nasty or fishy smell and if left unattended, can lead to the following:
- Urethra infections
- Pelvic inflammatory infections
Doctors can administer antibiotics to patients with trich.
Herpes is a very common STI, and according to the CDC, more than 1 in every 6 people in the United States between the ages of 14 – 49 have the disease.
Herpes is the simplified name for the HSV (herpes simplex virus). The two major strains of the virus include HSV-1 and HSV-2, and both are sexually transmitted.
The infection of HSV-1 can lead to oral herpes, and this is responsible for cold sores. Notwithstanding, a person can pass HSV-1 to another person via oral sex, and this can lead to genital herpes.
Genital herpes can be caused by HSV-2, and the most prevalent symptoms of herpes include blistery sores. Apparent signs of genital herpes can be seen on or around the genitals, and oral herpes can be seen on or around the mouth.
Herpes sores typically crust over, and healing is noticed within a few weeks. The most painful is usually the earliest outbreak, and it’s typically less frequent and less discomforting over time.
Pregnant women with herpes can pass it to their babies in the womb or during childbirth, and this can be fatal, especially to the newborns. This is why it is very vital for women, pregnant or not, to be aware of their status.
While there is currently no known cure for herpes, there are medications that can be used to control the outbreak and reduce the pain caused by herpes sores.
Medications can also be used to minimise the chances of passing the disease to prospective sexual partners. Safe sexual practices and efficient treatments can reduce the risk of contracting herpes.
Less common STIs include:
STIs caused by oral sex
Anal and vaginal sex aren’t the only ways STIs are spread. STIs can also be transmitted or contracted through oral sex and can be passed from a person’s genitals to another person’s throat or mouth and vice versa.
Oral STIs aren’t always evident, but symptoms may include sore around in the throat or around the mouth.
There are some STIs that can be treated using antibiotics or other means of treatment, and they include the following:
Other STIs that can’t be treated or cured include:
While the cure for some STIs hasn’t been found yet, they can be managed. There are available treatment options to help minimise the painful effects of symptoms and the chances of passing the disease to others; nonetheless, early diagnosis is essential.
STIs and pregnancy
The chances of pregnant women transmitting STIs to newborns during childbirth or their fetus during pregnancy is very high. Babies affected by STIs can experience life-threatening complications, which is why pregnant women need to get tested and treated as soon as possible.
Your healthcare provider might recommend treatment even when there are no obvious symptoms of infections. Antiviral, antibiotics, or other modes of treatments may be administered if you tested positive to one or more forms of infections while pregnant.
Although rare, cesarean delivery may be necessary to minimise the risk of transmitting infections during childbirth.
Diagnosis of STIs
In some cases, doctors may not be able to diagnose STIs based on symptoms alone correctly. Further tests may be required to properly determine the type of infection a person is dealing with.
Depending on a person’s sexual history, extensive STI tests may be needed to required even when there are no symptoms. In many cases, people with infections do not display any noticeable symptoms, but this doesn’t mean that they are not there or can’t be passed to another person.
Blood or urine test can be used by your healthcare provider to determine the presence of infections. Genital and sore swabs may also be used to check for possible infections.
Treatment of STIs
The approved treatment for STIs differs, depending on the type of infection present. An affected person and their partners must get treated before engaging in any sexual activities.
This is to prevent further exposer to more infections between you two.
Generally, bacterial infections can be treated using antibiotics. Proper use of administered prescriptions can guarantee faster treatment. You should continue prescription use even after you feel better until you finish your dosage.
Consult with your healthcare provider if you’re still experiencing symptoms after medication use.
Viral STIs can’t be treated using antibiotics. Since most viral infections aren’t treatable, some clear off on their own, and in some cases, treatments can be provided to minimise the chances of transmission.
For instance, medications can be taken to prevent the progression of HIV or the severity and frequency of herpes outbreak.
Additionally, antiviral drugs can be taken to reduce the risk of passing HIV to other individuals.
Some STIs are caused by neither bacteria nor viruses. Instead, they’re caused small organisms that may include:
- Pubic lice
These STIs are commonly treatable with the use of oral or topical medications. Consult with your healthcare provider or doctor for further details about your conditions and possible treatment options.
Prevention of STIs
The only foolproof means of preventing STIs is by avoiding sexual contacts. However, if you engage in oral, vaginal, or anal sex, condom use can be a safe way to protect yourself against possible infections.
Additionally, the use of dental dams can reduce the risk of infection during oral sex.
Condoms can be effectively used in preventing STIs that can spread through bodily fluids, such as blood or semen. Notwithstanding, maximum protection isn’t guaranteed for infections that spread from skin to skin.
When the condom used does not cover areas of the skin that are infected, then the chances of infection or transmission are still high.
In contrast, other types of birth control lower the risk of unwanted pregnancy but not STIs. For example, the following forms of birth control don’t protect against STIs:
- Birth control pills
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- Birth control implants
- Birth control shot
Consistent STI screening is best for people who’s sexually active, especially with new partners or more than one partners. The spread of infections can be prevented with early diagnosis.
It might also help to discuss your sexual history with a new partner before anything. If possible, both parties should get screened for traces of infection by a professional. You can also ask your partner what possible infections they tested and treated.
If the tests come out positive for an infection, then you and your partner must follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan.
Ways to prevent infection from your partner can be discussed with your healthcare provider. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can be encouraged if your partner is diagnosed with HIV.
If you or your partner are eligible, you both can get vaccinated for hepatitis B and HPV. You can also discuss other strategies that you could incorporate to minimise the risk of infection with your doctor.
Living with STIs
Immediate treatment is necessary if you test positive for infection because one STI can increase the chances of developing another. If left untreated, an STI can cause a series of complications, and in most cases, death.
Thankfully, most STI cases are treatable, and even curable in some cases. Also, early treatment can help to lower the risk of complications, relieve symptoms, and protect the health of sexual partners. Your doctor may go as far as advising you to make adjustments in your sexual activities to not only protect yourself but others as well.
You may be asked to avoid sex altogether, at least until after treatment. Dental dams, condoms, and other forms of protection may also be advised to optimize protection. It is essential to adhere to your doctor’s advice to help improve long-term outlook with STIs.