An STI, or sexually transmitted infection, is an infection that has been contracted and spread from sexual contact.
Previously, the term STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) has been used to describe such an infection; however, the term disease should be used to describe a complication of a sexually transmitted infection. A sexually transmitted disease is more severe than the initial infection.
Both men and women are vulnerable to STIs, with the symptoms varying from person to person. While some individuals have mild symptoms or no symptoms.
The prevalence of sexually transmitted infections is high, recognized in more than 1 million cases globally every day. The annual estimated incidence tops 374 million cases of STI, which only takes into account the four major types.
There are several types and subtypes of STIs. In what follows, we’ll be discussing the five (5) most common STIs and their causes.
Types of STI’s and Their Causes
According to the World Health Organization, over 30 types of bacteria, viruses, and parasites can spread through sexual activity. Consequently, the risk of developing any type of sexually transmitted infection is quite high from unprotected sexual intercourse.
While there are many infections and diseases that can derive from these bacterias, only four types of infection are completely curable. These are syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. Other infections, including Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B, and Herpes (HSV-2), are infections that do not have a cure and will remain a chronic disease.
The following are the common types of sexually transmitted infections:
- Genital Herpes
As the most commonly reported sexually transmitted infection in the US, chlamydia can spread through any form of sexual activity. It can be detected easily by urine screening or during a routine pelvic examination.
If left untreated, Chlamydia can develop into a more serious disease known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID can cause extensive infection of the reproductive organs that may affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant.
The second most commonly reported STI is gonorrhea, which is typically seen in tandem with chlamydia. Like most STIs, gonorrhea can be caused by any form of sexual activity.
Caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV-2), genital Herpes is most commonly contracted through sexual contact with someone who already has the virus.
Signs and symptoms of genital Herpes are unique in that the infection itself can be dormant, presenting itself sporadically over time. These symptoms include burning, irritation, and pain in the genital area. The lesions often appear as acute vesicular eruptions and may be accompanied by constitutional symptoms, including fever, lymphadenopathy, and tender inguinal lymph nodes.
While there is currently no cure for Herpes, there are prescription medications that can reduce symptoms, ease pain, and reduce the infectious rate of the virus.
HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus, which is a virus that is spread by sexual contact. HPV is the most commonly transmitted STI.
Although not yet curable, the most virulent subtypes of HPV can be prevented by vaccination. HPV can cause genital warts, abnormal pap smears, and, in some cases, cervical cancer in women with a history of the infection. Although men can get genital warts or HPV-related cancers, they are usually just carriers of HPV.
Unlike the two most common STIs, chlamydia and gonorrhea, syphilis is caused by direct contact with a syphilis lesion during sexual intercourse. The bacteria then causes infection of the genitalia, which usually manifests in the typical sore known as a chancre. There are several stages of the disease process. The sore is typically the first stage.
While symptoms of syphilis are unlikely to present themselves early on, if left untreated, the disease process can worsen, leading to a much more serious illness. Complications, such as heart issues, neurological defects, brain tissue damage, paralysis, and blindness can result, and the condition can lead to death.
Syphilis is a clear example of how early detection and rapid initiation of treatment can prevent severe consequences.
Available Treatment for STI’s
Treatment for STIs will depend on the pathogen causing the infection. For example, in the case of syphilis, the pathogen is a bacteria, whereas, in the case of Herpes, the pathogen is a virus. In addition, syphilis can be cured, yet Herpes does not have a cure.
A critical aspect of the treatment for these infections is that the initiation of treatment occurs as soon as possible. Even more important is the use of preventative measures, such as abstinence, vaccination, condom usage, and making responsible sexual decisions to protect from contracting the illnesses.
Yet, STIs are unavoidable and unpredictable in some cases, even in the safest and most responsible of situations. In the case of STIs involving bacterial infections, antibiotics are the treatment. Antivirals help to manage the cases of viral STIs, such as Herpes.
Vaccination against HPV can reduce the likelihood of contracting this illness and is recommended for males and females between the ages of 9 to 26 but can be given to older adults as well now.
While some STIs aren’t curable as discussed, for the most part, all can be managed effectively if not treated thoroughly.
After testing positive for an STI, it’s imperative to seek treatment immediately. In addition to treatment, it’s also essential to communicate with a sexual partner so that they may be tested and treated as well.
It’s best to avoid STIs completely by taking all precautions. STIs can cause many problems with your health, so responsible behavior is essential.