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Living With Sexually Transmitted Diseases

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Sexually transmitted diseases are common contagious diseases observed. Therefore, these are serious diseases that need to be treated.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Raveendran S R

Published At September 14, 2022
Reviewed AtJune 24, 2024

Introduction:

Sexually transmitted diseases are commonly known as STDs. They are also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs). One can get STDs from any sexual activity that includes oral, anal, or vaginal. Some sexually transmitted diseases are fatal and require treatment.

What Are Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and What Are Their Types?

Sexually transmitted diseases are serious illnesses that require treatment. Many STDs can be cured, but some conditions, like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), cannot be cured and can be life-threatening without treatment.

Sexually transmitted infections include:

  • Syphilis.

  • Hepatitis B.

  • Gonorrhea.

  • Chlamydia.

  • Genital warts.

  • Trichomonas.

  • Genial herpes.

  • Human immunodeficiency virus.

Who Is at Risk for Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

Anyone sexually active is at risk for STDs. Also, using the same needles, drug use, or any other substance, and unsafe sex. People who are embarrassed about STDs are less likely to get treated. But because of this, people tend to spread more STDs. So, being open about the symptoms and sexual health is essential.

What Is the Prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

Sexually transmitted illnesses are widespread. Approximately 374 million STDs are contracted annually worldwide. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that there were roughly 2.5 million cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia in the United States in the year 2021.

Do Sexually Transmitted Diseases Spread Easily Among People?

It is true that sexually transmitted diseases and infections are transmissible. The majority of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are spread by sexual contact with bodily fluids or by skin-to-skin contact with an infected body part, typically the genitalia. Some sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis, can spread during childbirth.

What Causes Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

Sexually transmitted diseases develop when bacteria, viruses, or parasites infect the body. This is shared through sexual activity. Sexually transmitted infections in infected blood can be transmitted through contaminated drug needles and from mother to newborn.

What Are the Symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

The symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases are:

  • Weight loss.

  • Diarrhea.

  • Night sweats.

  • Chills.

  • Aches and pains.

  • Painful or frequent urination.

  • Bumps, sores, warts near the penis or vagina.

  • Discharge from penis.

  • Itching, swelling near the penis or vagina.

  • Painful sex.

  • Vaginal bleeding.

  • Skin rash.

What Are the Factors That Put a Person at Risk for STDs?

Engaging in sexual activity puts individuals at risk of contracting an STD (sexually transmitted infection). Sharing private items like injections that carry the blood can also result in an STI. The following situations would result in risk for STD:

  • Tattoos without regulations.

  • Excessive body piercings.

  • When injecting drugs, sharing needles is common (substance use disorder).

  • It is possible to spread the infection between couples if there is a lack of communication because of the guilt or judgment associated with having an STI.

Strong emotions are often experienced following an STI diagnosis. Individuals may be embarrassed and would prefer not to tell their sexual partners. Establishing transparency and candor with sexual partners fosters mutual understanding and trust.

How Can Someone Determine Whether They Have Sexually Transmitted Infections?

A person may have uncomfortable symptoms, such as genital itching, burning, or discharge. Discuss with a healthcare provider and explain the symptoms. The healthcare provider may examine to figure out the infection accordingly.

What Are Sexually Transmitted Diseases Testing?

A medical test to find out if one has an STI is called a sexually transmitted infection test. After reviewing the symptoms, a medical professional may recommend one or more tests to identify the underlying cause. The sexually transmitted disease testing depends on the type of STDs one may have. The provider will discuss the symptoms and the tests one needs to do.

The STD testing includes:

  • Blood test.

  • Urine test.

  • Examination of the genital area.

  • Testing fluid samples.

  • Testing discharge samples from the body.

How to Protect From Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

The only way to fully protect from sexually transmitted diseases is to avoid having sex.

But if one is sexually active, make sure that:

  • Having sex with one person and limiting the number of partners. A new partner raises the chances of having STDs.

  • By choosing partners carefully.

  • Avoid alcohol or drugs before having sex.

  • Test for sexually transmitted diseases regularly.

  • Sexual health education.

  • Learn about the signs and symptoms.

  • Using latex condoms.

  • Using protection and educating others about the importance of using protection.

How Can Someone With a Sexually Transmitted Disease Stop It From Spreading to Others?

Follow these steps on being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.

One should:

  • Talk to the partner about the signs and symptoms.

  • One can speak to the healthcare provider if one feels uncomfortable sharing it.

  • Using condoms when sexually active can prevent STDs.

  • Sexually transmitted diseases can be controlled without long-term complications.

  • For some conditions, one may need lifelong medication.

  • Do not have sex if getting STD treatment.

How to Protect Sexual Partners From Contracting STDs?

Individuals are unlikely to pass on HIV to an HIV-negative partner if they have the virus, are taking their medication as directed, and maintain an undetectable viral load. Though it will keep individuals from passing HIV to their partners, an undetectable viral load cannot prevent them from giving other STIs to them. By always using condoms correctly, one can stop the spread of chlamydia and gonorrhea, among other STIs.

Individuals run the risk of giving their partners HIV along with other STIs if they have a viral load that can be detected and another STI. However, by using condoms and selecting less risky sexual behaviors, they can shield their partners from HIV and other STIs.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a medication that an HIV-negative partner may consume to prevent HIV infection; however, PrEP does not offer protection against all STIs. PrEP is a preventive measure against HIV for individuals without the virus but who are vulnerable to contracting it. To lower the risk of HIV infection, PrEP calls for taking HIV medications exactly as directed.

What Are the Treatments for Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

Many STDs can be cured. But some, like HIV, require long-term treatment.

  • Antibiotics can treat many STDs. These medicines can be either vaccination or oral medication. A single dose of antibiotic can cure many sexually transmitted bacterial and parasitic infections, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.

  • Restraining from sex is important until one antibiotic treatment.

  • Experts suggest that women should retest themself after three months because there are high chances of reinfection.

  • Antiviral drug therapy.

  • Individuals should ask their doctor about the treatment and the need to be retested.

  • Getting retested will help one to make sure that the treatment works, and it will ensure that one has not been re-infected.

  • It is crucial to be honest with healthcare workers because they may help them get the proper treatment.

Do Sexually Transmitted Diseases Cause Complications?

Sexually transmitted diseases can cause lifetime complications.

If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS, which can be fatal. Also, if syphilis is not treated, it can progress to damage the nervous system and other organs. It can also infect unborn children.

The complications for women include:

  • Problems with pregnancy.

  • Infertility.

  • Pelvic pain.

  • Eye inflammation.

  • Pelvic pain.

  • Arthritis.

  • Heart disease.

  • Certain cancers.

How Should Someone Manage Their Own Health if They Have STDs?

  • Firstly, one should get tested, and if STDs are detected, one should take the treatment accordingly.

  • Using protection while having sex.

Conclusion:

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) present a significant public health concern worldwide. If infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydial infections, and syphilis are undiagnosed, they can have harmful effects during pregnancy and on the newborn. Therefore, one should follow all the precautions and get them treated accordingly.

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Dr. Raveendran S R
Dr. Raveendran S R

Sexology

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