10 things women need to know about sexually transmitted diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases are horrible. Think thick discharge, pain while urinating as well as your partner confessing to a fling. Could you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention more than 50% of people worldwide will be diagnosed with an STD sometime in their life. A statistic like that makes it imperative to get your facts about STDs straight – it’s the only way to keep yourself safe.
What are the types of STDs?
Sexually transmitted infections can be bacterial or viral. Bacterial infections such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, respond to antibiotics. The four Hs – HIV, HPV, herpes and hepatitis – are viral infection and have no cure but the symptoms can be alleviated with treatment.
Who is at risk?
Anyone who has been or will be sexually active is at risk. Straight or gay, married or single, everyone is vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections.
The risk of having an STD is higher if:
- you have a new sexual partner
- have had numerous sexual partners in the last year
- don’t use condoms consistently
- are under 25 years old.
- you have had a previous STD
- you have used intravenous drugs
- you have paid or been paid for sex
Are women more susceptible?
Women’s anatomy the genitals are moister, thinner and more prone to infection, it puts them at greater risk. Often the symptoms are not diagnosed as the symptoms may not be noticed – the vagina and cervix are not as visible as the penis.
Can you get infected with oral sex?
Yes. STDs can be contracted through oral, vaginal and anal sex. Use a condom every time – even during oral sex – whether giving or receiving.
What happens if STDs are not treated?
Untreated, some STDs can cause infertility, increase risk of ectopic pregnancy and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Untreated syphilis may lead to blindness, paralysis or brain damage while HPV can lead to cervical and other types of cancer. Infected women have a higher risk of having a baby with a low birth rate, infections and other health complications. The STD can be passed to an unborn child either during pregnancy or during birth.
What are the symptoms?
Bacterial STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or trichomoniasis could lead to pain while passing urine, discharge, itching, painful bowel movements or strong vaginal odour. Lumps or fleshy growths around the genitals, blisters, painful ulcers and sores may indicate genital warts, genital ulcers or syphilis. Persistent flu-like symptoms, fever, sore throat and swollen glands could be indicative of HIV or hepatitis.
Could I have an STD and not know?
Yes. The symptoms may be mild or could be mistaken for other conditions such as yeast infections. Many STDs are asymptomatic, meaning there may be no symptoms for years after you have been exposed.
Should I be tested?
You should be screened for STDs regularly if you have unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. Some STDs may not show symptoms for years or may be misdiagnosed as yeast or urinary tract infections. Regular testing will let you know immediately so that treatment can begin right away.
Can STDs be treated?
Bacterial STDs can be treated easily with a course of antibiotics. However, viral ones may not be cured and may need anti-retroviral drugs. Treatment may be used to alleviate symptoms and reduce complications in these cases. If you have an STD, you will be asked to abstain from sexual intercourse or to use condoms until you have been treated.
Should I tell my partner?
If your partner or previous partners, are at risk of the STD you have been diagnosed with, doctors may advise you to discuss the risk with them.
STDs can be prevented if you practice safe sex every time. So insist on a condom; it’s beneficial to both of you.