Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on a steady rise in the US and are one of the substantial health challenges faced by the country, and the world at large.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur every day. In the United States alone, around 3 million people suffer from STDs, and yet there are many who continue to live their lives undiagnosed, spreading infection to their partners.
STDs can affect anyone, regardless of their age, sexual orientation and hygiene standards. While most STDs are no longer as dangerous as they once used to be, it is still important to get them tested and treated at once. That’s because undetected and untreated STDs can lead to serious health consequences, including infertility, miscarriages, heart diseases and various other health issues.
This article talks about the most common sexually transmitted diseases, their signs and symptoms, the health complications they cause, and ways to treat and prevent them.
What are Sexually Transmitted Diseases?
STDs are illnesses caused when disease-causing microorganisms pass from one person to the other through the sexual route. STDs are caused by bacteria, parasites and viruses.
The common ones include:
- Syphilis: It starts as a painless open sore in the genitals and proceeds to a rash that itches and pains. If left untreated, syphilis causes problems with the heart and central nervous system.
- Chlamydia: This STD is caused by bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis, and leads to abnormal genital discharge and pain and burning during urination. In women, chlamydia can lead to ectopic pregnancies, pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. People with chlamydia don’t know they have it as it doesn’t always show symptoms. That’s why, if in doubt, you must get yourself promptly tested.
- Trichomoniasis: Known as “trich,” trichomoniasis is a parasitic infection that leads to genital irritation. It affects the vagina, vulva, cervix or urethra in women, and urethra in men.
- Gonorrhea: A bacterial STD, gonorrhea leads to redness and swelling in the vagina or penis that’s accompanied by pain, burning and itching. Left untreated, it causes pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal pregnancy, infertility, joint infection and arthritis.
- HIV: The human immunodeficiency virus causes one of the deadliest STDs by attacking and weakening your immune system (your natural defense mechanism against illness). HIV causes AIDS, which makes the person acquire multiple infections due his weak immune system.
- Human papilloma virus (HPV): HPV is a group of more than 150 viruses that cause genital warts and can lead to cervical cancer.
- Hepatitis B: Caused by the hepatitis B virus, Hep B is a vaccine-preventable liver infection that spreads when blood, semen, or other body fluids infected with the virus enters the body of healthy person. If left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening health issues like cirrhosis or liver cancer.
How are STDs Transmitted?
STDs are predominantly transmitted due to unsafe sexual practices. However, the transmission is also possible:
- Through Infected needles
- During blood transmission
- By puncturing of skin with contaminated object
- From the mother to the baby during pregnancy or delivery
Symptoms of STDs
People exhibit different symptoms during STDs. The common ones include:
- A blister around the mouth, anus, genital area, or elsewhere
- A rash on or near genitals
- Painful urination
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Pelvic pain or lower back pain
- Fever and nausea
- Vaginal discharges and foul smell
Complications of STDs
STDs, if not treated in a timely manner, can lead to various serious and life-threatening health consequences. These include:
- Eye inflammation
- Partial or complete blindness
- Neurological problems
- Heart diseases
- Reproductive issues
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Ectopic pregnancies and infertility
- Premature babies with low birth weight
- Birth defects
Why it’s Important to Get Yourself Tested?
There’s a lot of social stigma around STDs, which usually prevents people from walking into their physician’s office. But, it’s extremely important to get yourself tested at regular intervals, especially if you are sexually active and have more than one partner. That’s because most STDs are silent killers; they do not exhibit any sign or symptom until it gets too late and the disease has caused damage to your heart, brain, liver or other vital organs.
Prevention of STDs
Sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis and chlamydia are all preventable and treatable. Timely diagnosis and expert medical treatment can help you stay protected from the long-term side effects and health risks that are accompanied by STDs.
However, to completely eliminate your chances of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases, you must:
Realize the risk
Sexually transmitted diseases are hard to talk about. But to stay protected, you must realize the risk and check all your odds of acquiring the disease.
Maintain a good personal hygiene
Though STDs spread from person-to-person, it is still important to maintain a good personal hygiene, especially in public restrooms. Clean your genitals thoroughly after every washroom trip and watch out for all signs of infection to get prompt medical treatment and prevent the infection from further spreading.
Practice safe sex:
Avoid casual sex and use protection barriers like condoms to prevent STDs. If you feel you may be at risk (due to unprotected sex), get yourself immediately tested for STDs.
Vaccination is the most effective way to stay protected from hepatitis A, B infections and Human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that causes cervical cancer and genital warts. So, get in touch with your doctor for your shot.
Consider pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
Speak to your doctor about PrEP – a medication that can protect you from HIV infections.
Get yourself regularly tested for STDs
Make sure to get yourself regularly tested for STDs if you are at risk. Testing becomes extremely important if you are pregnant, practice unprotected sex or have multiple partners.
At EPIC Health, we can help you detect and prevent STDs. Our expert primary care physicians, through regular testing, comprehensive treatment and timely vaccination, can help you stay safe and protected from STDs and their long-term health complications. Through proper healthcare screening and counseling, we can help you evaluate your risk of acquiring STDs and impart you the right sexual education to stay protected.
Schedule an appointment with our health experts today! We can help you live happy, healthy and better.