There are more than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites known to be sexually transmitted. 8 out of the 30 have been shown to have the greatest incidences of sexually transmitted diseases and 4 (which are viruses) out of the 8 are not curable. The remaining 4, however, are currently curable if appropriately treated.
8 Sexually Transmitted Infections to Guard Against
Chlamydia is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia Trachomatis and it is the leading bacterial sexually transmitted disease. In women, symptoms include
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Burning or pain when urinating
- Bleeding in between menstrual periods
- Asymptomatic in some cases.
In men, symptoms can include
- Painful urination
- Abnormal discharge from the penis
If left untreated in both males and females, chlamydia can infect the urinary tract and can also potentially lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can cause serious problems during pregnancy and infertility in females. Chlamydia can be cured with the appropriate antibiotics.
Genital herpes is caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV) which affects the skin, cervix, genitals, and some other parts of the body. There are two types namely; Herpes type-1 (HSV-1) and Herpes type-2 (HSV-2). It is the type 2 that is most commonly transmitted through vaginal, oral or anal sexual contact and causes genital herpes.
Type 1 is more commonly transmitted through shared straws, utensils and kissing. In most cases, genital herpes infection is asymptomatic but when symptoms appear, they include
- Blisters or ulcers on external genitalia, cervix, rectum, thigh or buttocks.
- Vaginal discharge
- Painful urination
- General malaise
Cold sores around the mouth is characteristic of type 1 HSV. There is no cure for genital herpes but antivirals are available to mitigate the effects of the infection.
Hepatitis B is caused by Hepatitis B virus (HBV) which can be t through contact with infected semen, blood, vaginal fluids and other body fluids. A person can be infected through unprotected sex, infected unsterilized sharp objects or syringes, bite from an infected person, blood transfusion, mother to child transmission during birth or breastfeeding.
Hepatitis B causes the patient’s liver to enlarge and they can suffer serious liver damage which can eventually lead to cancer. In some cases, the disease can become chronic. Blood centres always check to ensure that donor’s blood is free from Hepatitis B. There is no cure for Hepatitis B only antivirals that suppress the effects of the disease and Hepatitis B vaccination is available to prevent against the infection.
Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). HIV is the pathogen and AIDS is the disease. When a person has AIDS, their immune system is compromised and they become much more vulnerable to other infections and diseases.
HIV can be found in the body fluids of an infected person such as semen, blood, breastmilk and vaginal fluids. This makes the transmission of the virus through blood-to-blood contact during blood transfusion, sharing infected sharp objects or needles, sexual intercourse, childbirth and breastfeeding. There are anti retroviral drugs that are used to manage AIDS but they do not cure the disease.
This is caused by a single celled protozoan parasite called Trichomonas Vaginalis. It is a common sexually transmitted disease that can affect both males and females although females are more likely to experience the symptoms which can include
- Foul Vaginal odour
- Vaginal discharge
- Pain or discomfort during sex
- Painful urination
The most common site for the infection in women is the vagina whiles for men, is the urethra. Transmission of trichomoniasis may occur either by penis-to-vagina sexual intercourse or vulva-to-vulva (woman to woman) sexual intercourse. A woman with trichomoniasis is more likely to be infected with HIV if exposed to the virus. Trichomoniasis can effectively be cured with antibiotics (metronidazole).
Genital warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Out of the over 100 types of HPV, about 40 can affect the genital areas called genital Human papilloma virus which leads to Genital warts (bumps around the genitals), cervical cancer and other HPV related cancers.
These are the most common sexually transmitted disease in developed countries. Symptoms may not show up until in advanced stages which is why it is important for women to get PAP smears. The transmission of HPV is through genital-to-genital sexual contact and oral sex. There is no cure but vaccines are available to prevent against HPV.
This STD is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria Gonorrhoea which usually attacks the mucus membranes. Gonorrhoea is the second commonest bacterial STD after chlamydia. The bacteria resides in the warm and moist cavities of the body and is highly contagious.
It can survive in the vagina, penis, mouth, rectum or eye and transmitted during sexual intercourse and mother to child during childbirth. Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea may appear 2 – 10 days after initial infection and can take up to 30 days in some cases. Symptoms in males include
- Burning or pain during urination
- Testicular pain and/swelling
- Discharge from penis (yellow, white or green colour)
Women are less likely to show symptoms but if they do, they may include
- Spotting after sexual intercourse
- Swelling of the vulva
- Irregular bleeding in between menstrual periods
- Pain when urinating
- Pain in pelvic area
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Anal itching, discharge or painful bowel movement if rectum is infected.
- Burning sensation in throat if transmission is through oral sex.
If left untreated, females can develop pelvic inflammatory disease and males can develop prostatitis, urethritis and epididymitis as complications. Gonorrhoea can be cured with antibiotics although some strains are show resistance.
Syphilis is caused by the bacterium Traponema Pallidum and can lead to several complications and death in an infected person. Clinical manifestation of syphilis include ulceration of the uro-genital tract, mouth or rectum. It is transmitted through sexual contact and an infected mother can pass on the infection to her baby during pregnancy which can lead to stillbirth or serious birth defects.
An infected person with syphilis has a higher chance of contacting HIV when exposed to the virus. Syphilis has an incubation period of 9 – 90 days before initial symptoms emerge although some infected persons have no signs at all. Syphilis progresses in stages and each stage has its own peculiar signs and symptoms. The disease is curable with appropriate antibiotics treatment.
- Wikipedia : “Sexual transmitted infections “
- Medicalnewstoday : “sexually transmitted diseases “
- S. Campbell, A. Monga (2006): “infections in gynaecology ” Gynaecology by Ten Teachers (18th edition)