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STIs

Health | Last updated : 14/08/2016

These are some of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you have any worries concerning STIs, consult your doctor or medical practitioner.

Herpes

Herpes, also called genital herpes can only spread if the infection is active, and is caused by the herpes simplex virus. The symptoms of Herpes usually appear within a week after sexual intimacy and contact with a person who is infected.

You may contract a mild fever, which may be accompanied with sore and painful itching in the genitals, blisters can then follow. Broken blisters can cause much pain and discomfort. The infectious virus can also spread to the bloodstream and affect other internal organs.

Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that infects the genital and non-genital orifices of the body. Gonorrhoea spreads in the reproductive system, and via the bloodstream can infect other body parts. While most gonorrhoea symptoms are similar in men and women, a few are different to each gender.

Men experience a burning sensation when urinating, painful or swollen testicles, and a yellowish white discharge from the penis.

Women experience a vaginal discharge that is yellow or occasionally bloody, a burning sensation when urinating, Infections in the throat cause few symptoms. Even if you don’t have symptoms, gonorrhea can be transmitted to others; anyone at risk should see a doctor for a test

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is very easy to treat and cure. It is believed that one in ten sexually active young people have Chlamydia. If left untreated it can cause painful complications and serious health problems such as infertility. For some people there are no symptoms unless the infection has reached an advanced stage.

Women experience bleeding after sex, pain and/or bleeding during sex, lower abdominal pain (pelvic pain), unusual vaginal discharge and pain when passing urine.

Men experience white, cloudy or watery discharge from the tip of the penis, pain when passing urine and possible pain in the testicles.

Genital Warts

Genital warts are mainly small, flesh-coloured bumps. In women it occurs on the vulva and perineal area in the vagina and on the cervix. In men it occurs on the area near the anus, the penis, or between the penis and the scrotum. If genital warts are not treated they can cause cancer of the cervix in women and cancer of the penis in men. Men experience genital warts on the penis or underneath the foreskin, in the urethra (in most cases at the very end of it) and the area around the rectum. Women experience genital warts on the lips of the vulva, in the vagina, or by the urethra. Genital warts can also appear in and around the rectum.

HIV/AIDS

There are four main ways in which the virus can enter the body:

  1. Sex
    Rectal intercourse is a very ‘efficient’ way of spreading the virus from one person to another. But the majority of infections worldwide are caused by vaginal intercourse with a person who has the virus.
  2. Sharing needles
    Drug users are in the high risk category, if they use needles that have already been used by someone who has the virus.
  3. Infected blood products.
    In some parts of the world blood intended for transfusion is still not tested for HIV. However, this is NOT the case in the UK.
  4. Mother to baby infection.
    In addition to sexual activity, the virus can also be spread through infected breast milk, and other bodily fluids such as vaginal fluids and blood. The earliest symptom of this infection is a short, fever like illness with swollen glands in the groin, armpits and neck and a sore throat. HIV infected people may not show symptoms for some time, as much as eight to ten years after being infected. As the HIV virus destroys blood cells, it lowers the body’s immunity making it susceptible to weight loss, fatigue, coughs, chills, night sweating, fever, and many other infections. The HIV virus, eventually, takes over the nucleus of a white blood cell (CD4 lymphocyte), constantly reproducing and releasing more of the virus into the blood stream. A very small number of cases can occur for other reasons, for example, as a result of an organ donation or a sperm donation from a person who is HIV positive.

Pubic Lice

This infection is caused by a sucking lice that looks very similar to head lice. They mostly live in the pubic hair, as the moistness of the area helps them to thrive and multiply. They are easily treated, but can cause a lot of itching and discomfort at night.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It is often called “the great imitator” because so many of the signs and symptoms of the disease are identical to those of other diseases.  Syphilis is passed from one person to another through direct contact with syphilis sore. Sores arise mostly on the external genitals, anus, vagina, or in the rectum. Sores also can arise on the lips and in the mouth.

Spread of the organism occurs during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If pregnant women have this disease they can 175 pass it on to the babies they are carrying. There are myths about Syphilis, here are the facts. Syphilis cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.

Vaginitis

Vaginitis is associated with an irritation or infection of the vulva. Signs and symptoms vary depending on what type of Vaginitis you have but may include vaginal discharge; itching, burning, foul odour or general vaginal irritation. It can also occur in the male penis, prostate gland or urethra. Candidiasis (or Thrush) is the most familiar form of Vaginitis.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis refers to viral infections of the liver.  There are several types of hepatitis, but here we will discuss the most common – Hepatitis A, B and C. Different types of hepatitis are transmitted in different ways:

Hepatitis A is transmitted through oral contact with contaminated faeces.  It can be passed through sexual contact, especially in men who have sex with men, or by coming into contact with contaminated food.  There is a vaccine for Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B is highly contagious and usually contracted through sexual contact with an infected partner or through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.  There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C is more difficult to acquire than other types of hepatitis and is most commonly transmitted through blood-to-blood contact as can happen when injection drug users share needles.  There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C and it can often be incurable.

Hepatitis symptoms vary in intensity from person to person but commonly include:

  • Fatigue, at times severe enough to make it difficult to get out of bed
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting that gets worse as the day progresses
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Darker urine than normal and sand coloured faeces
  • Dull pain in upper abdomen (Hepatitis A)

Most STIs can be prevented by using condoms. However even using condoms as a precaution isn’t a guarantee that you won’t catch or spread an STI. Except for HIV and AIDS, most STIs can be treated and cured.

However, timely intervention, diagnosis and medical attention are very imperative. Most treatments depend upon the type and severity of the STIs.