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Sexually transmitted infections and diseases are bacterial or viral conditions that are transmitted via sexual contact with an infected person or through contact with infected bodily fluids.
Common STDs include:
HPV (human papillomavirus). Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cervical cancer.
HIV/AIDS. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a chronic condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), damages the immune system and may lead to life-threatening diseases including cancer.
Herpes. The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a common cause of infections of the skin and mucous membranes, manifesting as tiny, clear, fluid-filled blisters usually around the mouth or genitals.
Chlamydia. This is a common sexually transmitted bacterial infection that is often asymptomatic for years but that can lead to other health problems if left untreated, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infection near the testicles (epididymitis), prostate gland infection, infertility, infections in newborns, and reactive arthritis, known as Reiter’s syndrome.
Trichomoniasis. A common, treatable sexually transmitted infection (STI), this disease is caused by a parasitic protozoa called Trichomonas vaginalis.
Syphilis. This is a chronic bacterial disease that is contracted chiefly by infection during sexual intercourse.
Hepatitis B. This is a severe form of viral hepatitis transmitted in infected blood or during sexual intercourse.
STIs and STDs are spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. Transmission can occur during intercourse, skin-to-skin contact, sex toy use, or any other exchange of bodily fluids.
Having unprotected sex is the main risk factor for sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Women who began having sexual relations at a younger age, and/or have had multiple sexual partners, are more at risk for developing HPV.
Many older women, especially those who married young and stayed with the same partner or used the pill may never have had had sex using a condom. Yet no matter how old you are, or whether or not you can get still pregnant, you should use protection if you are going to have sex with a new partner. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), consistent and correct use of male latex condoms can reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of STD transmission. To achieve the maximum protective effect, condoms must be used both consistently and correctly.
Non-latex condoms. According to the results of several studies, non-latex condoms have higher rates of clinical breakage and slippage compared with latex condoms. Most people who use non-latex condoms have allergies to latex. There are also couples who simply prefer non-latex condoms because of the physical sensation during sex.
Latex condoms. Although latex condoms are safer in terms of STD protection because they are less likely to slip or break, the use of latex condoms by people with an allergy to latex can cause symptoms such as skin irritation and difficulty breathing. In people with severe latex allergies, using a latex condom can potentially be life-threatening. Repeated use of latex condoms can also cause some people to develop an allergy to latex.
Diseases and conditions that affect sexual health are usually diagnosed by a primary care physician (PCP) or gynecologist.
Your doctor’s work-up will include the following:
Depending on the results of your examination, your doctor may order further testing or send you to an infectious disease specialist who is knowledgeable about sexually transmitted diseases or an endocrinologist who works with hormonal issues.
If you believe you have any of these STD symptoms (or that you may have been exposed to one), see your doctor for testing. Timely diagnosis and treatment are important to avoid or delay severe, potentially life-threatening health problems and to avoid infecting others. The most common symptoms of STD’s include:
There’s a wide range of treatments for STDs but without treatment, STDs can lead to serious and even life-threatening ailments:
Sex can be a powerful expression of intimacy, a lot of fun and a great tool for protecting or improving health. Here are some suggestions on how to boost your sex life:
Screening for STDs should take place at least once a year if you are sexually active, these are the main screening tests for STDs:
To prevent getting a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, always avoid sex with anyone who has genital sores, a rash, discharge, or other symptoms. The only time unprotected sex is safe is if you and your partner have sex only with each other, and if it’s been at least six months since you each tested negative for STDs. Otherwise you should:
There are prescription medications available that can control or cure most STDs.
While over-the-counter remedies for genital warts can be effective, these other remedies are generally recommended:
When treatment is indicated, patients can get a prescription cream from their doctor to apply at home. There are two options:
Genital herpes may be managed, but not cured. Antiviral medicines may be prescribed to help relieve pain and discomfort during an outbreak by healing the sores more quickly.
Acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir (brand name Valtrex) are antiviral medicines used to treat genital herpes.. While all are effective valacyclovir and famciclovir are absorbed more easily by the stomach, and can be taken less often than acyclovir. Antiviral medicines are usually taken by mouth (orally). But they are sometimes given intravenously (IV) in severe genital herpes outbreaks or herpes in newborns.
There is a topical form of acyclovir (Zovirax ointment), but it offers little benefit in the treatment of genital herpes, and is not usually recommended. For repeat outbreaks, the medicine should be taken as soon as tingling, burning, or itching begins, or as soon as blisters appear. Persons who have many outbreaks may take these medicines daily over a period of time. This helps prevent outbreaks
As Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria, it is best treated with antibiotics. As a result, chlamydial infections can often be cured..
If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, your doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics. A single dose of azithromycin or taking doxycycline twice daily for 7 to 14 days are the most common treatments
Oral metronidazole cures trichomoniasis in 90% to 95% of cases—this medication is typically prescribed as a vaginal suppository.
With proper antibiotic treatment, which is traditionally penicillin, early syphilis infection can be cured without causing permanent damage. Those with penicillin allergies may be treated with other antibiotics, such as tetracycline. Although later stages of syphilis also respond to antibiotics, such as cephalosporins, like ceftriaxone, treatment will not repair any organ damage caused by the disease, which may be irreversible depending on the organ affected and severity of damage.
HIV cannot be cured, but treatment has come a long way, and is primarily focused on supporting white blood cell count (specifically CD4 fighter cells—which are a type of white blood cell that fights infection. Another name for them is T-helper cells.), which provide immunity. CD4 cells move throughout your body, helping to identify and destroy germs such as bacteria and viruses. The most effective treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy (ART), a combination of several medicines that aims to control the amount of virus in your body. Among the most commonly prescribed medications are:
Make an appointment with your doctor:
Contact your doctor immediately if:
The first stop with any sexual health concern should be with your primary care physician. Women may be referred to gynecologist and men to an urologist. An infectious disease specialist is a doctor who works with patients who have STDs. An endocrinologist is a specialist who diagnoses and treats hormonal issues. Depending on underlying conditions your doctor might also refer you to a neurologist, cardiologist, or therapist.
If you’re not enjoying sex or have lost your desire, these are the questions you might want to ask your doctor. Try not to be embarrassed. Your physician has most likely heard everything:
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