Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are more widespread than we know. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 15 million cases of STDs are reported in the United States alone every year. Chlamydia, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are on top of the list when it comes to the most common STDs around. With the growing cases of STDs not only in the US but also all over the world, it is a must to raise awareness about these diseases as first defense against them.
Keep Away from STDs with Safe Sex
The Three Stages of Syphilis
Preventive Measures For Genital Herpes
What is HPV Infection?
What Your Teenage Daughter Needs to Know About Sex
What to Do if the Condom Breaks
How to Get Rid of Genital Warts
What is STD?
As the term implies, a sexually transmitted disease is a disease that is transferred from one person to another through sexual contact that involves the genitals, mouth or rectum. It is also possible for the disease to be transferred from a pregnant woman infected with an STD to her child before or during giving birth.
What are the Consequences?
Most forms of STDs have a cure. Unfortunately, there are those like the HIV (which causes AIDS), HPV, and genital herpes that cannot be treated. If left untreated, some of these STDs can affect a person's health significantly. For example, in women, this can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease that not only makes a woman infertile but can also leads to her death.
How can it be Prevented?
Abstinence is of course the foolproof way of preventing STDs. However, if this is not an option for you, the next best thing would be to practice safe sex. Below is a list of safe sex practices for you to keep in mind.
• Always use protection when having sex. A condom is the best protection against STDs, particularly those made with latex and polyurethane materials as these do not let the virus pass through. Stay away from condoms that are made from sheep intestines, as these are not effective for STD protection.
• Use a lubricant before sexual intercourse. If there is lack of lubrication, use water-based products like K-Y Jelly or Astroglide to ensure that there will be no skin tearing in your vagina or the rectum. Skin tears increase the risk of STDs going into your blood.
• Be on the lookout for symptoms. See if you or your partner has any sores, redness or growth in the genital area. Other common symptoms include pain during urination and unusual discharge. If any of these signs are present, you and your partner should see a doctor immediately.
• Avoid having many sex partners. Everytime you have sex with someone you barely know, you greatly increase the risk of acquiring an STD. Having sex with the same person is safer than having too many partners.
• Avoid douching for women. Douching alters the normal balance of organisms in the vagina. Changes in this can lead to an increased risk for getting an STD.
Unlike some kinds of serious diseases, STDs can be prevented. All it takes is the right attitude towards practicing safe sex.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacteria called Treponema pallidum. But it's not only through sexual intercourse that this highly contagious disease can be spread. It can also be passed from one person to another through prolonged kissing, oral sex and other forms of close bodily contact.
A pregnant woman can also pass down this disease to her baby. Called congenital syphilis, this can cause abnormalities or death to the child. Contrary to popular misconception, this disease can be obtained from toilet seats, bath tubs, eating utensils, clothing, swimming pools and door knobs.
This sexually transmitted disease used to be a major threat to public health. It used to cause long-term ailments like brain damage, arthritis and blindness. But when the antibiotic penicillin was developed in the late 1940s, cases of syphilis dropped dramatically. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cases reached an all-time low since 1941.
Syphilis develops in three distinct stages. The first stage is the early or primary syphilis. During this phase, people infected with the bacteria will develop one or several sores that resemble bug bites. These are large, round and often, painless. They appear on the genitals and around the mouth from 10 to 90 days after exposure. These can heal without leaving any scar after six weeks.
The second stage sets in six weeks to six months after exposure. It can last for about one to three months. This secondary stage is characterized by "copper penny" rashes that typically develop on the palms and soles. Different-looking rashes appear on the other parts of the body. In some cases, they may even look like the ones caused by other diseases.
Other than these, people who are in the secondary phase have moist warts in the groin, white patches inside the mouth and swollen lymph glands. These signs are accompanied by fever and weight loss. Like the first one, it can go away without any treatment.
The third stage is the tertiary syphilis. If syphilis is not treated, it can progress to a more serious and debilitating stage that affects the heart, brain and nerves. This phase of the disease can lead to serious health problems such as paralysis, dementia, deafness, blindness and impotence. At times, it can also be fatal.
Apart from these three distinct stages of syphilis, there's also that stage that is called latent syphilis. In this stage, the infection lies dormant or inactive so the person who has the infection will not experience any symptom.
Diagnosis is done through a blood test that can be done at the doctor's office or public health clinic. If there is a sore, the doctor will scrape from this and send it to the laboratory for microscope examination to determine if there is the presence of the syphilis-causing bacteria.
If you are infected with syphilis, a single dose of penicillin is usually what it takes to destroy the bacteria and treat the problem. Tetracycline and doxycycline are alternatives given to those who are allergic to this antibiotic.
Genital Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), caused by a virus called herpes simplex virus (HSV).
- This condition, which affects both men and women, feature pain, itching, and sores in the genital area.
- A few weeks after a person is infected, there will be pain and itching followed by small red bumps or white blisters.
- These bumps or blisters rupture and become ulcers that bleed or ooze.
- Sores erupt in the vaginal area, buttocks, and cervix of a woman.
- For men, sores appear on the penis, scrotum, anus, and inside the urethra.
- It also becomes painful to urinate for both genders.
Other symptoms are:
- muscle pain
- tenderness in the genital area
- swollen lymph nodes in the groin
Infection and Prevention
- no symptoms
It's also possible, however, to have genital herpes and not experience any of these signs and symptoms. Even though a person doesn't exhibit any visible sign, he/she can still spread the infection of HSV to other people primarily through sexual contact.
- safe sex
Sexual intercourse is the primary method of spreading this virus. This condition may not be cured but symptoms can be eased through medications. Spread of the virus can also be prevented through safe sex and other practical measures
Use a condom. Make sure that every time you're going to have sex, you use condoms such as those made with latex and polyurethane material to protect yourself from this STD. These materials don't let HSV virus pass so it's good for protection. Avoid condoms made from sheep intestines as these don't give optimal protection against any form of STDs.
It's also very important to limit the number of sex partners. The more sex partners you have, the greater is the risk for getting infected with genital herpes or any other STDs. Every time you have sex with a new person, you expose yourself to the diseases that this person's partners have.
If you're a woman, use a water-based lubricant such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly. This helps prevent tearing in the skin of the vagina during sexual intercourse. Even the smallest tears make it easier for STD viruses to get to your blood stream.
Another advice for women is to avoid douching. This method changes the normal balance of microorganisms in the vagina that protect against STDs. Use water for rinsing your genital area after sexual intercourse.
- be responsible
Moreover, be responsible. Do not have sexual contact if you suspect yourself of having genital herpes or any other STDs. If your partner has herpes, don't have sexual contact with him/her. Use condoms even when the visible sores are gone.
Always be on the lookout for symptoms of herpes such as those mentioned above.
Watch out for symptoms of other STDs as well, which include:
- unusual discharge
- pain during urination
- redness or growths in the genital area
See your doctor immediately if you have an infection or think that you might.
Genital Warts, also called Venereal Warts, are flesh or gray bumps that grow around the genital and anal areas in men and women. These are the most common type of sexually transmitted diseases and can be acquired through the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
HPV Infection, which is prevalent between 17 and 33 years old, is highly contagious. If you have even one sexual contact with an infected person, you have 60 percent risk of getting the infection yourself.
Children can also get genital warts from nonsexual method such as direct manual contact with another person with HPV infection. However, it can also be indicative of child abuse and should be addressed to the child's doctor immediately.
The main cause of genital warts is the human papilloma virus. There are more than one hundred types of HPVs that have been identified. About 40 of these can cause HPV infection.
- Low Risk HPV
Almost 90 percent of the genital warts are caused by two specific kinds of the HPV, which are the HPV-6 and HPV-11. These are low-risk viruses.
- High Risk HPV
The high risk types are higher risk. HPV-16 is responsible 50 percent of cervical cancers. Other high-risk viruses are 16, 18, 31, and 45.
These viruses can penetrate the skin through the microscopic cuts in the genital area that often occur during sexual activity. When the cells become invaded by HPV, they remain inactive for some months or even up to a few years. This is known as the latency period. During this time, there is no sign of infection. However, a large number of people who have sexual intercourse with infected partners can develop genital warts in as little as three months.
Genital warts don't bring pain to the patient but they can cause discomfort due to the size and itchiness. The size of the wart typically measures less than one millimeter to one centimeter. In men, the warts usually grow in the urethra, penis, rectum and scrotum. In women, these occur in the moist areas of the vagina such as the labia minora and vaginal opening.
Another common complaint of people with HPV infection is discharge. It rarely happens that a person would have bleeding or urinary obstruction but this occur if the wart develops in the urethral opening.
Although there is no single effective method of treatment for removing these warts, a person with HPV infection can opt to make use of several treatments.
One option is cryotherapy, which freezes the wart with the use of liquid nitrogen called cryopobe. Effectiveness rate is high and side effects are few with this treatment.
Other methods of treatment are:
- laser treatment, wherein laser destroys the lesion
- electrodesiccation, use of electric current to destroy the warts
Fortunately, HPV infection can now be prevented with an HPV vaccine. It is recommended for men and women aged 9 to 26 years old. It is a safe and effective way of preventing infection with HPV-6, -11, -16 and -18, which are the four most common types of HPV.
Another way to prevent this infection is to avoid having multiple partners and to use condoms during sexual activity.
Talking about sex can be awkward for parents and teenagers. That is even when you have a close-knit relationship. But just because it's awkward doesn't mean you can forgo discussing this matter with your teen. Educating your daughter about sex not only keeps her healthy but it can also save her life. Here are some facts that your child needs to know regarding this topic.
Fact: Using a condom isn't as easy or effective as you think
Discuss with your teenage daughter that while condom manufacturers claim that condoms are more than 90 percent effective, they are only effective if they are used properly. If your daughter is going to have sex with someone, she must always use this protection properly, to prevent not only pregnancy, but more importantly, also sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Remind her that a person's looks or personality can never be a gauge if someone has STD or not. Don't forget to tell her also that it's not a good practice to put on a condom at the last minute since pre-ejaculation is loaded with sperm. Instill in her mind that misuse of condom can lead to slippage and breakage that can result in STD or pregnancy.
Fact: Emergency contraception is a viable option
Discourage your daughter from ever engaging in unprotected sex. But do remind her that there is emergency contraception available in case of unprotected sex or if there is an accident like condom breakage or slippage. Morning-after birth control is available over-the-counter. Morning-after HIV infection prevention can also be obtained from the local health center or emergency room in the hospital.
Fact: Teens are more prone to STDs than adults
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 percent of the STD cases involve young people ages 15 to 24 years old. This is a statistic that your daughter should know about so that she'll realize the importance of protected sex. It's very important for young people to be tested at least once a year for various STDs such as HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Fact: Some STDs do not have symptoms
Some women can have STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis, HIV and syphilis without experiencing obvious symptoms. Chlamydia, for example, is a bacterial infection that can damage a woman's reproductive system. Because of this, the annual testing is very important. But testing should be done more often for teenagers who have multiple partners.
Fact: The Pill is more than just a birth control method
Many women think that the pill is just for contraception. But the truth is, it has other benefits too like helping reduce menstrual bleeding for women with anemia, reducing painful menstrual periods, decreasing risk of uterine infection and ovarian cancer, treating PMS mood swings, and helping clear up acne. Remind her though that pills also have some minor side effects such as headaches, nausea, and breast tenderness. Very rarely does it happen that a women experiences blood clot, stroke, and heart attack after taking pills.
You know this reality all too well: accidents happen. Even in moments of intimacy, a condom that's not worn correctly can break and put you at risk for either pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). What do you do if the condom breaks? Do you go wild and freak out for the next 24 hours? Or do you find the sensible solution to this accident. Here's what you can do.
Morning-After HIV Prevention
After you have this accident, it's very important for you and your partner to be tested for STDs including HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). HIV brings AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), which is a potentially fatal disease that weakens the immune system over time.
• Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
If the result is positive for HIV, you need to ask for postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). This is a morning-after treatment for HIV that can possibly prevent infection.
- The duration for the treatment is for a month. During the treatment course, you will be given HIV (antiretroviral) medications.
- The effectiveness rate of the medication is higher if you start them right away.
- They can still be effective up to 72 hours after exposure to the virus.
- Take note that there can be side effects to this medication such as fatigue and extreme nausea.
It's imperative to call up your doctor, health clinic, health department, or an AIDS service organization to get hold of this medication. You can also visit your local emergency room.
Morning-After Pregnancy Prevention
• High-Dose Birth Control Pill, a.k.a Emergency Contraception (EC)
If you are a woman and you're worried that you might become pregnant after the condom has broken and it is not yet your plan to have a baby, you can take a high-dose birth control pill available over-the-counter. This morning-after contraceptive pill is also known as emergency contraception (EC). It can effectively prevent pregnancy if it is taken within the next 72 hours.
- It's a good practice to purchase one even before you need it so that when accidents like this happen, you already have a pill that you can take right away.
- If not, you must call your doctor or visit a health clinic or pharmacy to purchase it.
- You can also buy the pill by placing an overnight order in online pharmacies.
- The side effects of morning-after pill include vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, nausea and menstrual changes.
- In case you experience severe or unbearable abdominal pain, you must call your doctor immediately.
Of course, prevention is still best. In the future, make sure that you avoid such accidents. For one, you and your partner should use a condom correctly. Also, you shouldn't use anything that's already old or expired. It would help a lot to determine the cause of the breakage so you can avoid it next time. For example, if the cause is due to incorrect usage of the condom, you and your partner should carefully follow the instructions so that it won't break the next time you use it.
Genital Warts, one of the most common forms of sexually transmitted infections, are characterized by small pinkish or reddish growths that develop in the genital area. The warts can look like small parts of the cauliflower. They can be small and be invisible to the naked eye. They usually emerge in clusters of three. Although they are not painful, they can cause mild tingling, bleeding and itching.
More than half of the sexually active people will be infected with the virus that causes this condition at least once in their lives. This virus is called human papillomavirus (HPV). It has about 40 strains that can infect the genital area. The most common way of becoming infected with this virus is through sexual contact. For most people, their immune system is strong enough to kill the virus.
If the warts you have don't bring you pain or discomfort, as it is common for STDs not to bring any symptoms, you don't need to have treatment for this. But if the symptoms of itching, burning, and pain cause physical and emotional stress, it's a must to seek medical treatment.
Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara)
Treatments for genital warts may be applied onto the skin directly. One example is the imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara), a cream that boosts the immune function to fight genital warts more effectively. It's a must to avoid sexual intercourse while you have cream on your skin. Remember this can weaken condoms and diaphragms, and even cause irritation on the skin of your partner.
Other topical medications used are called podophyllin and podofilox (Condylox).
Podophyllin is a topical solution made from plants that can destroy the genital wart tissue. This one should be applied by your doctor.
Podofilox contains the same ingredient but you can apply this yourself at home.
These solutions should not be applied internally. They are also not recommended for pregnant women.
Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)
This is a chemical solution that burns off the genital warts. Only your doctor can apply TCA on the warts. Always keep in mind never to use over-the-counter wart removers for genital warts. These are not safe to use and may only worsen the pain and irritation.
Surgery may be recommended by your doctor for larger warts and for warts that don't respond well to medications. It's also the best recourse for women who are pregnant and do not want to expose their children to the warts during delivery. Surgical options include:
- using intense beam of light in laser treatment
- burning with electric current through electrocautery
- freezing with liquid nitrogen in a procedure called cryotherapy
- surgical excision or cutting off the warts with the use of special tools