Common sex diseases exposed

Posted at 04/12/2010 2:39 PM | Updated as of 04/13/2010 1:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are among the most common infectious diseases that plague men and women in different parts of the world. In the United States alone, about 19 million new infections are said to occur each year.

STDs are illnesses that can be transferred from one person to another through intimate sexual contact. This includes vaginal and anal sex, oral sex, genital touching, and the use of "sex toys" such as vibrators.

Most STDs have mild or no symptoms at all. If left untreated, some of them may lead to cancer, infertility, pregnancy problems, widespread infection to other parts of the body, and even death.

Experts believe that STDs can also increase the chances of getting the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). To date, there is no publicly available vaccine or cure for HIV or AIDS.

Not all STDs are preventable, but experts said the use of condoms and practicing "safe sex" (sex in the context of a monogamous relationship) will help reduce the risk of such diseases.

Here are the most common STDs that may affect women of all ages and backgrounds. Some ways to treat the said diseases may be featured here, but it's always best to consult a doctor before taking any medications.

Chlamydia

This disease stems from a bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis, and is considrered one of the most common STDs.

There are usually no symptoms of chlamydia found in men and women, but others are found to have an unusual discharge and a stinging feeling during urination.

If not treated, chlamydia may lead to lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, fever, and pain during sex. This disease can be treated with antibiotics, which should also be given to the patient's sexual partner.

Gonorrhea

This disease is caused by nesseria gonorrhea, a type of bacteria that multiply quickly in moist, warm areas of the body such as the cervix, urethra, mouth or rectum.

However, gonorrhea can also spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, which may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and even infertility.

Symptoms in women usually include a burning sensation when urinating, a yellowish or bloody discharge, bleeding between periods, and abdominal pain. Men with gonorrhea, on the other hand, are often found to have a yellowish-white discharge.

Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics, which should also be given to the patient's sexual partner.

Genital herpes

This disease is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which infects the skin and mucous membranes of the genitals and the rectum. However, it can also appear in areas such as the mouth.

The presence of the HSV in a pregnant woman's birth canal may be dangerous to the infant -- the newborn child may acquire herpetic meningitis, herpetic viremia (herpes virus present in the blood) and chronic skin infection.

There is no known cure yet for genital herpes, but its symptoms (outbreaks of blisterlike sores on the genitals) may be reduced by oral and topical medications. To avoid the transmission of genital herpes, use condoms and don't share towels with others.

HIV/AIDS

AIDS, a condition caused by HIV, causes a person's immune system to fail. In other words, a person with AIDS may die from diseases that are generally harmless to healthy people.

HIV is usually spread via sexual contact, but can also be acquired through the sharing of needles (for blood or drug transfusions, or from tattoo piercing).

There is no known cure yet for AIDS, but treatments that increase the quality of life of patients currently exist.

Genital warts

Caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), this disease is characterized by rough, wart-like growths that may occur singly or in clusters. Lesions may also be present in the mouth or throat.

In men, genital warts are usually found around the head of the penis and tend to be drier. In women, these may appear around the vaginal opening and may be spread to the rectal area, even to the cervix.

If not treated, women with genital warts may develop cervical cancer. Symptoms of the disease may intensify if the patient has a weak immune system, is pregnant, or has diabetes.

Since genital warts are very contagious, experts have advised patients to practice "safe sex". HPV vaccines are also available to prevent people from acquiring the said disease.

Syphilis

This bacterial disease is considered dangerous and life-threatening -- the bacteria may affect vital organs such as the heart, spine and the brain.

The symptoms of syphilis are divided into 3 stages. Within 12 weeks (3 months) since being infected by the disease, red lesions develop on the penis (or labia for women), anus or mouth.

Within 6 months after getting infected by syphilis, a red rash usually appears on the chest, back, arms, legs, hands and soles of the feet. High fever, sore throat, muscular fatigue and a general feeling of discomfort is also felt.

If left untreated during the second stage, syphilis may either disappear for a while or lie dormant in the body and return up to 20 years later. At this more advanced stage, patients are prone to suffering heart failure, paralysis, insanity, and even death.

Experts have advised that syphilis be treated in its early stages through antibiotics.

Ectoparasitic infections

These are infections caused by tiny parasitic bugs such as lice or mites transmitted by sexual contact. Two common STDs that involve parasites are pubic lice and scabies.

Pubic lice is an infection of the genital area caused by the crab louse (commonly called crabs), small bugs that live on pubic hair. This is commonly treated with a special shampoo for crabs.

Scabies, on the other hand, is caused by mites that live on the skin, causing itching over the hands, arms, trunk, legs and buttocks. This usually occurs weeks after getting exposed to someone with scabies -- symptoms are characterized by small bumps over the area of itching.

Oral and topical medications are commonly used to treat scabies. Just like pubic lies, bedding and clothes of infected individuals should be machine washed in hot water.

Sources:
Netdoctor
eMedicine Health
Women's Health.org
Medicinenet