Sexually Transmitted Infections
Bacterial, viral or infection caused by any other microbe that is passed on when a couple have sex (oral, vaginal, anal etc) is termed as ‘Sexually Transmitted Infection’. The diseases caused by these infections are called ‘Sexually Transmitted Diseases’.
Some infections which are usually transferred during sex, also spread from non-sex related activities such as by sharing of needles, mother to baby etc.
Following are the commonly identified Sexually Transmitted Infections:
Caused by – Bacteria named Chlamydia Trachomatis. This is a very common STI/STD that can spread through oral, vaginal or anal sex. A pregnant mother can pass on the infection to her new born baby.
This is a treatable infection and it will be easier when it is still in the earlier stages. Sometimes, this infection doesn’t show any symptoms but when they show up, they may include:
- Vaginal Discharge
- Burning sensation or pain during urination
- Rectal pain, bleeding or discharge (if anal sex is involved).
Pubic Lice / Crabs
The worms are tiny and look like crabs when they hatch from the eggs under the skin especially in the pubic region, arm pits, mustache, beard, eye brows etc. The very first symptom will be itching in the affected areas.
The lice pass on from person to person when having sexual contact. The lice lay eggs under the skin which hatch in a week to 10 days. They survive on the blood of the victim. Typical life time of lice is around 3 weeks. Before the female lice die, they lay more eggs and keep the infection spreading. Prescription based ointment and medicines are to be used to clear the infection.
Caused by – Virus. Like any other viral infection, this doesn’t really have any treatment to complete cure the patient off the virus. However, vaccination is available to prevent this infection. People who are sexually active must get booster shots regularly after consulting your sexologist or gynaecologist to be sure that they don’t contract the infection. Hepatitis B typically affects the liver of a person and it can stay alive in semen, blood and other body fluids.
This infection can be passed on to the baby from mother either by birth or during lactation period if the nipples are cracked. Symptoms of Hepatitis B include:
- Dark coloured urine
- Joint pains
- Nausea and vomiting
- Jaundice etc.
Caused by – Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). There are mainly 2 strains of this virus, HSV1 and HSV2. They affect the skin, cervix, vagina, penis along with other parts of the body.
HSV1 – usually affects and spreads through mouth. If the infected person has developed any sores on the mouth, the infection is sure to spread by even kissing. This can also spread through exchange of saliva during kissing. Performing oral sex by infected individual can also transmit this infection to the genitals.
HSV2 – affects the genitals, anus and the mouth. HSV2 transmits through oral, vaginal or anal sex.
Some infected persons may not show any symptoms when the virus is dormant but alive in him/her. They can surely infect other people during this stage. For those who experience symptoms, they can be any of the following:
- Blisters around mouth, vagina, penis, anus etc
- Body pains
- Swollen lymph nodes.
Trichomoniasis (aka Trich)
Caused by – Protozoa named Trichomonas Vaginalis. This affects both men and women but more women show symptoms than men. Urethra (the tube that carries urine from bladder to the penis) of men is affected by this virus and in women, vagina gets infected.
The infection is passed on due to hetero/homo penetrative sex or even from woman to woman gay sex.
Symptoms of Trich:
- Pain during urination
- Discharge from Vagina (Your gynaecologist will identify protozoan discharge can be identified by smell, the colour and thickness of discharge.)
- Pain during sex.
Trich puts a person at risk of pregnancy complications and the risk of contracting HIV.
HIV – Human Immuno-deficiency Virus
Everyone must note that HIV is not a disease. It is a virus causing infection. AIDS is the disease caused by HIV infection. Sexual contact (anal, vaginal mostly) is the predominant method of transmitting this virus from an infected person to a healthy individual. HIV affects the immune system of the individual which is the main protective shield of the body’s defence mechanism.
HIV makes an individual susceptible to even simple bacterial infections because of the damage caused to the immune system. ART (Anti Retroviral Treatment) protocol will be followed by your gynaecologist once your HIV test comes positive. As long as a person is on ART, the viral load can be controlled in the body and they can lead a normal life.
In simple terms, exchange of bodily fluids from infected person to the healthy one can transmit the infection. These fluids can be vaginal fluids, semen, blood etc. A pregnant mother with HIV can pass it on to the baby. However, ART can prevent this from happening when treated at the right stage.
Preventing HIV is the best option a person has and they can do so by following:
- If you are sexually active or have multiple partners, use good quality latex condoms. They don’t offer 100% protection but the risk reduces by many folds.
- Abstaining from sex with unknown partners is the best way.
- Having one trusted partner for unprotected sex is also advised.
- Getting confirmative tests done for HIV before involving in unprotected sex with any individual is also recommended.
- Avoid sharing of needles.
If you ever have sex with a stranger without any protection, rush to your gynaecologist and explain the situation. He/she may then put you onto PEP treatment so that you don’t contract the virus.
Human Papilloma Virus
Caused by – Virus (as the name says), HPV. HPV affects skin, mucous membranes in throat, cervix, anus and mouth. Different strains of HPV are present. Some are more dangerous than other strains. Vaccination is available to prevent HPV infection. As any other virus, this infection may or may not show any symptoms. Some strains of HPV can cause genital warts. HPV also increases risk of cervical and throat cancer. Asymptomatic people can pass the virus to healthy individuals by:
- Vaginal, oral or anal sex
- Pregnant mother to the baby. (Chances are very less but not 0).
Caused by – Bacteria named Treponema Pallidum. There are 4 stages of this infection once acquired.
Stage 1 – Development of round sores at the area of infection, typically near the genitals, anus, rectum or mouth.
- Development of non-itchy rash, brownish or red spots on palms or soles of feet.
- Lesions in the mucous membranes of mouth, throat, vagina or anus.
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Unexpected weight loss
- Fever, Fatigue, Muscle aches.
Stage 3: The infection affects the brain, nervous system, eyes, heart and various other organs depending on the individual. This is an asymptomatic stage.
Stage 4: Development of cardio vascular problems, coronary arteritis etc.
Typical symptoms appear in 21 days after getting infected. If you are tested positive for Syphilis, you must definitely inform your partner about it and he/she should also go for a test and start treatment immediately.
Caused by – Bacteria named Neisseria Gonorrhea. It is a very contagious infection that can turn life threatening if not treated. Transmission of this infection happens via oral, vaginal or oral sex. Infected fluid when lands in the eyes of a healthy individual can turn his/her eye pink. Pregnant women can pass on the infection to their baby during delivery.
Symptoms of Gonorrhea (if shown):
- Pain during urination
- Vaginal Discharge
- Swollen genitals
- Bleeding at non menstruation times.
- Anal itching, pain during passage of stool (if anus is infected).
- Burning pain in throat (if mouth is infected).
- Swollen lymph nodes