Infectious diseases transmitted primarily during sexual intercourse from one infected partner to another.
Currently, more than 30 STIs are known. The most common of them: syphilis, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, chlamydiosis, papillomavirus infection, mycoplasmosis, candidiasis, genital herpes, hepatitis B, AIDS, etc. You can get infected through sexual contact (not only through genital, but also during oral, anal), through contact with contaminated blood and rarely in the household way. STIs have a profound effect on sexual and reproductive health worldwide. According to WHO estimates, 375 million people get one of four STIs each year – chlamydiosis (141 million), gonorrhea (78 million), syphilis (5.6 million) or trichomoniasis (143 million). More than 500 million people live with genital HSV (herpes) infection. At any given time, more than 290 million women are infected with HPV, one of the most common STIs. It spreads fairly quickly among certain segments of the population. In recent years, rates of infection with venereal diseases have been steadily increasing. Statistics say that every 10 people on our planet suffer from STDs, not excluding children and the elderly. Syphilis is considered the most serious disease – damage to the nervous system, internal organs, negative impact on the gene pool, etc. For 20 years (1990–2000), 147 328 people have had syphilis in the Republic of Belarus. The peak incidence rate was 1996 (23616 new cases of syphilis). Despite the annual decrease in the incidence, the number of new cases of syphilis remains high (in Minsk, 2018 – 65 cases, 2019 – 70 cases). Unfortunately, this applies primarily to adolescents: often they begin sexual life early; change sexual partners, enter into sexual contacts with unfamiliar persons, exposing themselves to a significant risk of infection; they begin to use alcohol, drugs and other intoxicating and laughing substances early, which contributes to an easy change of sexual partners; they don’t know many issues of STI prevention, and sometimes they don’t want to know; they do not have enough money to buy means of protection against unwanted STIs; there are a number of physiological characteristics of the young generation, contributing to a greater likelihood of infection; due to the lack of proper sex education in schools and families.
Any sexually active person can become infected with an STI. Men and women can be infected by STIs, regardless of age, place of residence, ethnicity and income. For infection, there must be direct contact of a sick person with a healthy one, and in some cases it is not necessary sexual intercourse, everyday contact will be enough, as, for example, in the case of a viral disease. The danger increases in the presence of defects in the integrity of the mucous membranes and skin, which are the entrance gate to any infection. The risk of contracting STDs in case of anal contacts, the use of common personal hygiene products and sex toys increases at times.
Pay attention: almost all viral and bacterial venereal diseases penetrate the placental barrier, that is, they are transmitted to the fetus in utero and disrupt its physiological development. Sometimes the consequences of such infection appear only a few years after the birth of the baby in the form of dysfunction of the heart, liver, kidneys, developmental disorders. Regarding the type of pathogen, sexually transmitted diseases are: bacterial; fungal; parasitic; viral; protozoal.
There are the following reasons that contribute to the spread of STDs: very close household contacts; unprotected sex, which also includes anal and oral; use of shared towels; failure to comply with the necessary rules for sterilization of instruments (diseases are transmitted through infected instruments in cosmetology institutions, as well as in manicure and tattoo parlors);
WOMEN AND MEN... WHO RISKS MORE?
- The anatomy of a woman initially increases the risk of getting an STI in compare to a man.
- In women, the symptoms of infection will be less pronounced.
- Women are more likely to confuse STI symptoms with something else.
- Women often cannot see the manifestations of the disease as easily as men.
- STIs can lead to serious complications and affect the future reproductive plans of women.
- A pregnant woman can pass an STI to her baby.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a fairly common sexually transmitted infection in women and can be a major cause of cervical cancer.
- Women, as a rule, turn to the gynecologist more often than men to the urologist.
- Existing vaccine for preventing HPV and affordable treatment for other STIs can prevent serious medical consequences.
- Today, there is a lot of information resource available to women to learn more about the measures they can take to protect themselves from STIs.
The clinical picture of sexually transmitted diseases is slightly different. After sexual intercourse, no symptoms may appear. Most women and men infected with STIs do not feel any changes at all because they do not exist or they can be in a place where they cannot be seen or felt, but, in general, there are a number of signs that are characteristic of almost every one of them: excessive weakness; purulent or mucous discharge from the urethra; turbid urine; burning and itching in the genital area; lymph nodes enlarged in the groin; discomfort during sexual intercourse and urination; pains localized in the lower abdomen; ulcers and abscesses in the groin, on the external genitalia; subfebrile condition. For other organs, symptoms may appear depending on the type of infection in case of which other systems are affected. For example, the liver suffers from hepatitis, the bones are affected in the last stages of syphilis, the joints can be affected by chlamydiosis.
SYMPTOMS OF VENEREAL DISEASES IN WOMEN
The presence of certain symptoms of STDs in women is explained by the peculiarities of their physiology. The following signs should alert the woman and become an occasion for an extraordinary visit to the gynecologist: pain and a feeling of dryness during sex; single or group enlargement of the lymph nodes; dysmenorrhea (violations of the normal menstrual cycle); pain and discharge from the anus; itching in the perineum; anus irritation; rash on the vulvar lips or around the anus, mouth, on the body; atypical vaginal discharge (green, foamy, with a smell, with blood); frequent painful desires for urination; swelling of the vulva.
VENERAL DISEASES IN MEN: SYMPTOMS
An STD can be suspected in men by the following signs: blood in semen; frequent and painful desires for urination; subfebrile increase in body temperature (not for all diseases); problems with normal ejaculation; scrotum pain; discharge from the urethra (white, purulent, mucous, with a smell); a rash of various kinds on the head of the penis, the penis itself, around it. Important: most of the venereal pathologies have an asymptomatic course. It is very important to seek medical help immediately after appearing of the first symptoms in order to prevent progression and the addition of complications.
In the presence of any suspicious signs from the genitals, especially after unprotected sexual contact, consult a doctor as soon as possible. Self-medication in this case is fraught with complications and serious consequences. Sometimes the symptoms of STDs fade away some time after the appearance, and the patient thinks that he is healthy and everything went by itself. But this only means that the disease has passed into a latent, that is, a hidden form, and continues to circulate in the body. Important: if you detect suspicious symptoms, you must always notify your sexual partner and undergo an examination with him and take tests for STDs.
TREATMENT OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS
Appropriate therapy is always prescribed only by the attending doctor and based on the results of the tests. Depending on the pathogen identified, a treatment scheme is drawn up.
Important: the patient after completing the course of treatment for STDs must necessarily re-pass all the necessary tests. This will accurately verify the cure. Bacterial infections are treatable. Viral – mitigation, relapse prevention.
COMPLICATIONS AND CONSEQUENCES OF STDs
Untimely treatment beginning of any sexually transmitted disease, or its absence, as well as self-medication, can cause such complications: ectopic pregnancy; adverse pregnancy outcomes; infertility; the transition of the disease into a chronic form; the spread of infection throughout the body; development of cancer of the rectum, cervix, prostate; decreased potency, up to impotence in men; increased risk of HIV infection, etc.
PREVENTION OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS
It is very important to follow certain rules in order to prevent infection of STDs and their spread. Today, unfortunately, there is no such method of contraception that would 100% protect against this group of diseases. Prevention of sexually transmitted pathologies is outlined as follows:
- Cancellation from casual sexual relations;
- informing the population about the transmission routes, symptoms, consequences of sexually transmitted infections;
- sex with only one partner; mandatory use of barrier methods of contraception, that is, condoms;
- compliance with the rules of personal hygiene, which implies the use of only your washcloths, towels, linen; visiting a gynecologist once every 6 months for women and a urologist once a year for men with mandatory tests for STDs;
- it is necessary to use the services of a tattoo, a cosmetologist, manicure exclusively in proven salons;
- vaccination against certain viruses (hepatitis, HPV); immediate medical attention after unprotected sexual intercourse and the detection of alarming symptoms after it.
In Minsk, it is possible to pass a medical test for sexually transmitted infections in healthcare facilities:
- Minsk city clinical dermatovenerologic dispensary, vul. Prylukskaja 46a;
- Polyclinic or women's consultation at the place of residence.
Valeologist of the 4th City Clinical Hospital named after M. Saŭčanka U. Čarnoŭ
The information was compiled using the material prepared by the head of the outpatient dermatovenerological department №4 of the healthcare institution city clinical dermatovenerological dispensary of Minsk U. Jaromič, medical and popular science literature.