STD is a group of contagious infections that spread through sexual contact. The causes of STDs are bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
STD symptoms depend on where the bacteria enter the body during sexual intercourse. The genital area is the most affected. However, the STD may involve the throat and the anus as well. Mostly, symptoms are painful urination (Dysuria), urethral discharge or skin abnormalities (warts and ulcers) in the affected area (genital skin, throat, and anal area).
Sometimes symptoms are few and misleading. Even contaminated people without symptoms might be carriers of infection.
STD test is essential to identify people who are at risk of infection but may have no symptoms. However, STD check is crucial in symptomatic patients to get an early diagnosis, prompt treatment so that we can prevent unpredictable disease progression and complications.
Prevention is the best way to avoid STDs.
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease.
Many men with chlamydia are asymptomatic. Others have symptoms even weeks after contact.
Common clinical manifestation of chlamydia in men include symptoms of urethritis or epididymitis:
Gonorrhea is another bacterial infection that typically involves the urethra. The anal or oral involvement depends on the type of intercourse. However, most men with gonorrhea have not symptoms.
These bacteria colonize the men’s urethra. It means that most of the time they just contaminate the last 2-3 cm of the urethra without causing the infection. Because of this silent presence, they are untreated and are very common in sexually active men. The probability to get contaminated early in the sexual life is very high. Genital mycoplasma or ureaplasma infection may be asymptomatic in many cases. However, in men, urethritis is the main clinical manifestation while epididymitis is a possible complication. In women, these bacteria contaminate the deeper portion of the vagina and may cause cervicitis that can progress into pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. This infection during pregnancy might be serious and can affect the fetus at birth.
We diagnose Mycoplasma and Ureaplasma on urine sample by a specific culture.
Herpes is a viral STD caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). It may affect the mouth (oral herpes or HSV type 1) or the genitals (genital herpes or HSV type 2). The infection occurs through direct contact with the mouth or genitals of an infected person.
Sometimes the initial outbreak is severe with lesions involving extended portions of the genital skin area where the infection occurred. Generally, symptoms occur between two days and two weeks after infection. In some cases, the symptoms of herpes may be hard to identify. Blisters-like lesions are often mistaken for other skin conditions like pimples. Many people might have no symptoms at all but maybe still infectious.
HPV is one maybe the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Most sexually active people will eventually acquire at least one strain of the virus during their lifetime. We distinguish low and high-risk strains according to the risk of causing cancer.
The low-risk virus generally causes typical genital warts, while high-risk strains could lead to skin cancers. HPV infection spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
Most commonly, men infected with HPV may not have any symptoms. However, symptoms may be:
HPV prevention involves the use of vaccines.
There are two HPV vaccines approved by the FDA: Gardasil and Cervarix. They are useful in the prevention of low and high-risk HPV strains.
Syphilis is a severe bacterial STDs. These patients must get tested for HIV as well because of the high incidence of concomitant infection.
Syphilis has four different stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. Each phase has various symptoms.
Latent Syphilis is a non-symptomatic stage when the secondary Syphilis has apparently recovered even if untreated.
Tertiary Syphilis is rare. Few people enter this stage even when Syphilis is left untreated. However, it causes serious complications:
If Syphilis reaches this advanced stage, it causes chronic severe medical issues and death, even several years after infection.
Many people may have an STD without having symptoms. It means that casual sex out of a trusted and stable relationship is at high risk of getting infected. When starting a new relationship, the couple should consider complete STD testing and treating possible non-symptomatic infections.
Abstinence and refraining from sex with multiple partners and instead opting for a monogamous honest, and trusted sexual relationship is the best way to prevent STDs.
Safe sex does not exist when it is made casually and with different partners. Condoms do not always give 100% protection.