The Low Down On STD’s
STD is a common acronym coined for the term sexually transmitted disease.
Also known as sexually transmitted infections and venereal diseases, STD’s are most commonly spread via sexual activity. Sexually activity spreading STD’s includes vaginal intercourse as well as oral and anal sex.
There are many ‘common’ STD‘s that most people know about, like Chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV, HPV, Genital Herpes and Hepatitis B.
However, there are over 20 different types of sexually transmitted diseases affecting both sexually active individuals while reeking havoc their sexual and reproductive health and furthermore affecting their overall long-term health. Symptoms vary between men and women while some individuals present no symptoms at all.
The Most common Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Here is a quick look at some of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and a quick summary of symptoms they present:
By infecting a woman’s cervix and a man’s urethra, symptoms occurring are painful sex, penal and vaginal discharge.
Good news? Chlamydia is the most curable STD, usually with antibiotics.
However, because many people are asymptomatic, it is the most commonly overlooked and some individuals are not diagnosed for months or years which in turn can cause long term health problems. Using latex condoms and routine STD screening are key to prevention and diagnosis/treatment.
Gonorrhea is another common bacterial STD.
Nicknamed “the Clap,” its infection and symptoms are very similar to those of Chlamydia, including pain and burning during urination as well as a yellow or green discharge. Gonorrhea is contracted of course via intercourse but also infects the throat via oral sex. Like Chlamydia, the symptoms of gonorrhea go unnoticed and as a result are widespread. Not being diagnosed and treated early can create health problems later on in life.
Much like gonorrhea and Chlamydia but now more common, Mycoplasma Genitalium is a bacterial STD that affects the cervix in women and urethra in men and can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and possibly infertility. It has been somewhat known but increasing in prevalence among young teens.
There are many types of HPV, from viruses that can be linked to cervical cancer to some that can cause genital warts. Statistics show that around 3/4 of the population, especially young women, have contracted HPV and many have no symptoms at all. Some symptoms resolve on their own but HPV is not a curable STD. There is now a vaccine that is available for adolescent girls. It will protect them from the most common strains of HPV but is very controversial as to whether the vaccine itself can cause other health related issues.
In regards to young women and STD’s, Trichomoniasis is a very common parasitic STD that be very much mistaken for other health issues. Because it’s symptoms are so similar to other gynecological issues such as itching, irritation, vaginal odor or discharge, Trichomoniasis is many times mistaken for vaginal infections like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Even if you are treated, you can catch it over and over if your sexual partner is not treated as well. Many women and men have no symptoms at all so it is important you are having routine screenings for STD’s if you are sexually active.
Another STD that is commonly known is the bacterial infection Syphilis. Also spread via intercourse or oral/anal sex, syphilis is contracted through contact of open sores. It can be hard to protect against because syphilis sores can be located in areas beyond protection (i.e. not covered with a condom). Diagnosis is very important as left untreated; Syphilis can lead to serious health complications.
When you think of an STD, you might not think of lice. However, “Crabs” are a form of lice that live in course body hair (like the armpits and genitals). Of course they are spread via sexual contact but can also be spread from lice infected clothing or lines. They are unlike head lice, as they usually do not live in head hair but symptoms are much the same with itching and egg visibility in the hair.
Affecting the skin, Scabies is a very contagious STD. Even though it can be contracted sexually, it can also be spread through any skin to skin contact, clothing, linens or just simply being in someone’s personal space. It is parasitic infection that can cause extreme itchiness in the genital area, and extremities like ankles, wrists and between fingers/toes. The parasitic mites of scabies can survive off of the body for many days.
HIV might be the most well known and sexually associated viral STD. Spread through bodily fluids, HIV is a viral infection and can only be contracted through semen, vaginal secretions, blood and breast milk. HIV can lead to the AIDS virus. Even though it is incurable, there have been many medical advancements in HIV research and there are drugs that can reduce the chances of the virus progressing into AIDS.
Another viral sexually transmitted disease is the well known Herpes virus. There are two different types of Herpes virus. Not always from sexual contact but skin contact like kissing, HSV1 usually results in cold sores. HSV2 is more commonly known as ‘genital herpes’ which symptoms include sores on the genitals. There is no cure for Herpes but many drugs have been developed to suppress the symptoms. However, it is still highly contagious and even with a condom, it is possible to spread herpes to your partner. If you suspect you may have herpes, you need to get tested before any sexual activity.
The hepatitis virus transmitted via sexual contact is known as Hepatitis B. Known as HBV, it can cause serious infection leading to liver damage and possibly cancer of the liver. There is a preventable vaccination; however, Hepatitis B is more common and widespread than you might expect affect nearly 1 million people in the U.S. alone.
STD’s by Numbers
The importance of sex education and Screening
It is estimated that around 500 million people were diagnosed with either gonorrhea, Chlamydia, trichomoniasis or syphilis in 2008. In addition, nearly 520 million were diagnosed with herpes and nearly 300 million with HPV. The prevalence of STD’s in the United States is increasing and these estimates can be considered modest since it only accounts for the diagnosed and reported cases.
So many sexually active individuals are affected by all of the diseases listed and then some. The importance of sexual education is essential in making safe sex choices. Of course, abstinence is the only way to prevent contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
However, most people including teens and young adults are not practicing abstinence.
It is imperative for them to have access to STD and safe sex info in order to protect themselves and their partners.
The use of condoms and limiting # of partners can reduce the risk of contracting STD’s while there are some vaccinations to prevent certain STD’s like HEP B and certain strains of HPV. Some bacterial, viral and parasitic STD’s can be treated or provide symptom reduction with antibiotics, creams and other drugs.
However, lack of sexual health education and STD’s in general result in later diagnosis. Not being diagnosed early and left untreated allows festering infections to wreak havoc on the immune system, which in turn makes individuals more susceptible to other health issues. Please read on for more info on specific infections and their treatments.