Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are transmitted from one person to another through intimate physical contact either vaginally, orally or through anal sex. Having said that, there is a possibility of transfer from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
A person can have an STD without showing symptoms of the disease. Common symptoms of STDs include vaginal discharge, urethral discharge or burning in men, genital ulcers and abdominal pain.
More than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites are known to cause STDs. Some examples are syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis, which are curable. However, hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), HIV and human papillomavirus (HPV) still remain incurable.
More than 1 million STDs are acquired every day. Each year there are an estimated 374 million new infections with chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis. Without proper management, the burden of disease will further increase.
Not all patients with STDs present with symptoms. Some may be asymptomatic or present with mild symptoms.
The symptoms may be some unusual discharge from the vagina or penis with an abnormal odour. There may be sores or warts on the genital area causing redness and itching. Blisters and sores around the mouth can be found in patients that engage in oral sex. The patient may complain of painful urination which may aggravate a urinary infection. Fever may follow if the infection is sudden and severe.
In cases where STDs are suspected, a good history and thorough clinical examination coupled with either a screening or diagnostic test would aid in the final diagnosis. There are multiple screenings and diagnostic tests available using blood, swabs or biopsies taken from the lesions. Your doctor will advise on the most suitable test for you, hence do get consulted prior to a test.
Antibiotics can be used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Some analgesia can be used to alleviate the pain. Unfortunately, there are not many treatment options available to cure STDs caused by the virus.
There are some vaccines available for protection against viral STDs such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
The strategies for reducing STDs are many and multifactorial, such as the introduction of a vaccination program (HPV vaccination program), promoting monogamy among couples and the road toward sex education for all sexually active adolescents may be the way in the future.
The correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading STDs.
Sexually transmitted diseases have a drastic impact on the patients. Not only are they subjected to being stigmatized, but having an STD impacts their sexual and reproductive health.
Columbia Asia Hospital - Seremban
MBBS (India), MOG (UKM), Fellowship in Maternal Fetal Medicine (Malaysia & India)