Sexually transmitted diseases are a group of infectious diseases that can be transmitted through unprotected sex. In other words it means that a person can acquire these infectious diseases by having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with a person already infected.
Some of these diseases are also transmitted through needle stick injuries and can also be transmitted from mother to the fetus through placenta or through breast feeding.
Sexually transmitted diseases in other words are also known as Veneral Diseases or Sexually Transmitted Infections.
What are the common examples of STDs?
Some of the uncommon STDs include
- Granuloma inguinale
- Scabies etc
What are the common symptoms of STDs in women?
As STDs are commonly caused due to unprotected intercourse, the area that these microorganisms harbour is in mostly the reproductive tract. Leading to following symptoms:
- Rash in the genital area
- Boil in the genital area
- Ulcer formation in the vulva and the vagina
- Discharge from the vagina of a particular colour, accompanied by offensive odour
- Pain lower abdomen
When should I visit the Doctor?
If a woman of reproductive age group experiences the aforementioned symptoms, it is advisable to visit your nearest gynaecologist for examination and needful.
A point to keep in mind is that some amount of whitish colour odourless discharge from vagina is considered as normal in the age group of 15- 45 yrs.
Coming to a diagnosis of STDs
Depending upon a female’s sexual history, your Doctor may write certain tests which might include certain blood tests even in the absence of symptoms.
Apart from this, your Doctor would examine the patient and do a per speculum examination to examine the vagina and the cervix. A high vaginal swab test can be done to rule out certain STDs. If the patient presents with ulcers or sores, a swab of even these can be taken.
A PAP smear is usually recommended in a reproductive age group woman if more than 21 years of age and sexually active for past three years to rule out presence of abnormal cells of the cervix. A PAP smear test is not a test for the diagnosis of STDs but can show inflammation if present. IT is one of the screening tests for cervical cancer and it is done to evaluate the cervical cells for any pathology.
A PAP smear test can be combined with HPV DNA testing but a negative PAP smear doesn’t rule out the presence of STD.
Are sexually transmitted diseases curable?
Yes, many of the STDs are treatable.
The STDs caused by bacteria as mentioned before can be treated by giving antibiotics. These antibiotics can be given by oral route or by intravenous route.
STDs which are caused by viruses on the other hand pose a challenge to the health care provider. The treatment could be extensive and sometimes lifelong. eg. HIV. Some of these viral diseases have no cure as well. On the other hand, vaccines have been developed against HPV infection and are given to girls of teenage group.
Prevention is better than cure
As STDs can be quite bothersome both physically and mentally, nevertheless, prevention > cure. One of the simplest ways to prevent STDs is to use condoms. These not only prevent the transmission of STDs but also act as contraceptive device.
On the other hand, birth control pills, birth control implants and intrauterine devices prevent unwanted pregnancies but do not prevent STDs.
How do I protect myself from STDs?
Before getting involved with someone sexually, it is important to discuss the sexual history of the partner. Sometimes STDs have no symptoms and the only way out is regular screening.
Screening for STDs is also important for someone who is involved with multiple sexual partners as the risk of transmission could be high due to obvious reasons.
Nowadays, HPV vaccines are available which can go a long way in preventing HPV infection and also cervical cancer. Vaccination against HBsAg has been in force since long.
Someone who has been involved with someone having HIV or HBsAg, post exposure prophylaxis is given to lower the risk of acquiring these diseases. Nevertheless, these are also given to women involved with men of unknown status or even to rape survivors.
It is also advisable to visit the STD clinic with your partner for a better under understanding and timely management of STD.
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STDs are common and can occur to anyone. They can prevented easily and are often treatable. It is wise to visit your doctor without any delay for timely management.
Have you ever encountered any STD?