S.T.D. Sign & Symptom Tracker
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What are sexually transmitted diseases (STD's)?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) are diseases that are mainly passed (transmitted) from one person to another during sex. There are at least 25 different sexually transmitted diseases with a range of different symptoms. These diseases may be spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex.
Most sexually transmitted diseases will only infect you if you have sexual contact with someone who has an STD. However there are some infections, for example scabies, which are referred to as STD's because they are most commonly transmitted sexually, but which can also be passed on in other ways.
What are sexually transmitted infections (STI's)?
Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) is another name for Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). The name STI is sometimes preferred because there are a few STD's, such as chlamydia, that can infect a person without causing any actual disease (i.e. unpleasant symptoms). Someone without symptoms may not think of themselves as having a disease, but they may still have an infection that needs treating.
How can you tell if you have a sexually transmitted disease?
You may become aware that you have an STD because of symptoms, or it may be that a sexual partner tells you they have an STD which they might have passed on to you. Some sexually transmitted diseases can be transmitted by an infected person even if they don't have any symptoms.
If you think you might have been exposed to an STD then you should go to see a doctor. Many sexually transmitted diseases can be easily cured, but if left untreated, they may cause unpleasant symptoms and could lead to long-term damage such as infertility. Some STD's can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn child. It is important that anyone diagnosed with an STD informs everyone they have had sex with during the past year (or everyone following the partner they believe may have infected them).
What are common STD symptoms?
STD symptoms vary, but the most common are soreness, unusual lumps or sores, itching, pain when urinating, and/or an unusual discharge from the genitals.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is not strictly an STD as it is not transmitted via sexual intercourse. However, it can be exacerbated by sex and is more frequently found in sexually active women than those who have never had intercourse. It is caused by an imbalance in the normal healthy bacteria found in the vagina and although it is relatively harmless and may pass unnoticed, it can sometimes produce an abundance of unpleasant fishy smelling discharge.
While there is no clear explanation as to why BV occurs, there have been suggestions that the alkaline nature of semen could be one cause, as it may upset the acidic nature of the vaginal bacteria. A woman cannot pass BV to a man, but it is important she receives treatment as BV can occasionally travel up into the uterus and fallopian tubes and cause a more serious infection. Treatment for BV consists of applying a cream to the vagina or taking antibiotics.
Chlamydia is one of the most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted diseases. It is caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium. It can infect the urethra, rectum and eyes in both sexes, and the cervix in women. If left untreated, long-term infection can lead to fertility problems in women. Chlamydia is transmitted through genital contact and sexual intercourse with someone already infected. Symptoms of chlamydia usually show between 1 and 3 weeks after exposure but may not emerge until much later.
Crabs or Pubic Lice are small crab-shaped parasites that burrow into the skin to feed on blood. They live on coarse body hair, predominantly pubic hair, but can also be found in armpit hair, facial hair and even on eyelashes. The lice are yellow-grey in color and use their crab-like claws to grip hair strands. They can sometimes be spotted moving on the skin.
Crabs are easily passed on during sex, but can also be passed on through sharing clothes, towels or bedding with someone who has them. Crabs cannot be transmitted via toilet seats or swimming pools.
Symptoms are usually noticed around 5 days to 7 weeks after infection and include:
- itchy skin,
- inflammation of the affected area,
- sometimes visible lice and eggs,
- spots of blood as lice feed from blood vessels in the skin.
Although there is no effective way to prevent becoming infected during sex, a person who has crabs can reduce the risk to others by washing bedding, towels and clothes in hot water to kill off the parasites.
Treatment for pubic lice is easy, consisting of special shampoos, lotions and creams that kill off the lice and their eggs. It is not necessary to shave pubic hair as this is unlikely to remove all lice.
Genital warts are caused by some sub-types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). They can appear on the skin anywhere in the genital area as small whitish or flesh-colored bumps, or larger, fleshy, cauliflower-like lumps. They are unlikely to cause pain but may itch and can be difficult to spot. Often there are no other symptoms of genital warts, but if a woman has a wart on her cervix she may experience slight bleeding or unusually colored vaginal discharge.
Gonorrhea (once known as the clap) is a sexually transmitted infection that can infect the urethra, cervix, rectum, anus and throat. Symptoms of gonorrhea usually appear between 1 and 14 days after exposure, but it is possible to have no symptoms.
- Men are more likely to notice symptoms than women.
Symptoms can include:
- a burning sensation when urinating,
- a white/yellow discharge from the penis,
- a change in vaginal discharge,
- irritation or discharge from the anus (if the rectum is infected).
Hepatitis can cause yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
Hepatitis can occur following excessive and prolonged consumption of alcohol or the use of certain medicines and drugs, but it is most commonly caused by a virus. Several different types of viral hepatitis exist, with hepatitis A, B, and C being the most common. Each viral strain has different routes of transmission but all can damage the liver.
Herpes is caused by two strains of the herpes simplex virus, type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-2 usually manifests itself in the genital and anal area, whereas HSV-1 is more likely to affect the mouth and lips in the form of cold sores (fever blisters). On a global scale, HSV-2 is a very common STD; for example research suggests that one in five Americans is a carrier of HSV-2. Symptoms of herpes usually appear 2 to 7 days after first exposure to the virus and last 2 to 4 weeks.
Both men and women may have multiple symptoms that include:
- itching or tingling sensations in the genital or anal area,
- small fluid-filled blisters that burst leaving small painful sores,
- pain when passing urine over the open sores (especially in women).
Once the first outbreak of blisters has gone, the herpes virus hides away in nerve fibers near the infection site, where it remains dormant, causing no symptoms. Symptoms may come back later (particularly during times of stress and illness) but usually in less severe and shorter episodes.
HIV/AIDS is a medical condition. A person is diagnosed with AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infections. Since AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s, an unprecedented number of people have been affected by the global AIDS epidemic. Today, there are an estimated 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS.
What causes AIDS?
AIDS is caused by HIV. HIV is a virus that gradually attacks immune system cells. As HIV progressively damages these cells, the body becomes more vulnerable to infections, which it will have difficulty in fighting off. It is at the point of very advanced HIV infection that a person is said to have AIDS. It can be years before HIV has damaged the immune system enough for AIDS to develop. What are the symptoms of AIDS? A person is diagnosed with AIDS when they have developed an AIDS-related condition or symptom, called an opportunistic infection, or an AIDS-related cancer. The infections are called ‘opportunistic’ because they take advantage of the opportunity offered by a weakened immune system. It is possible for someone to be diagnosed with AIDS even if they have not developed an opportunistic infection. AIDS can be diagnosed when the number of immune system cells (CD4 cells) in the blood of an HIV positive person drops below a certain level.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum, which used to be known as the pox. It is usually sexually transmitted, but can also be passed from an infected woman to her unborn child. Syphilis progresses through several stages, of which the primary and secondary stages are very infectious.
- Syphilis symptoms can be difficult to recognize and may take 3 months to appear after sexual contact with an infected person.
- one or more painless ulcers on the penis, vagina, vulva, cervix, anus or mouth,
- small lumps in the groin due to swollen glands,
- a non-itchy rash,
Left untreated the infection progresses to a latent stage. This may be followed by tertiary syphilis, which can seriously affect organs such as the heart, sometimes leading to death.
Trichomoniasis (also known as Trich) is caused by the single-celled organism Trichomonas vaginalis, which is transmitted through sex. It can infect the vagina and the male and female urethra. Often this STD presents no symptoms, though women are more likely to have symptoms than men.
If symptoms do appear, they commonly include:
- discharge in both men and women (sometimes copious and unpleasant smelling in women),
- discomfort or pain during sex,
- pain when urinating and inflammation of the urethra.
Women may also experience an inflammation of the vulva and cystitis (an infection of the urinary bladder).
Transmission is usually through vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person. The most effective prevention method is to practice safer sex by using condoms.
Treatment for both men and women is a drug called metronidazole which can be taken orally or applied as a gel. It is important for any sexual partners to also be treated as trichomoniasis can be carried and spread without symptoms. If a woman is pregnant then she should seek medical advice before pursuing treatment.
If you would like more information, or have questions regarding sexually transmitted diseases, please call (561) 634-8888 to schedule a confidential appointment today.