The Most Common STDs

It’s really important to stay on track with your health, and be well informed about possible health issues that may occur. We present to you Dr. Hadley’s crash course in the most common STDs, causes, symptoms, manifestation and treatment.

As you all know STD is an abbreviation for the term Sexually Transmitted Disease. This means that these illnesses are most commonly transmitted through sexual intercourse (not necessarily through penetration but by other sexual activities that don’t include penetration as well).

When they hear STD, most people think HIV. Which is of course correct, AIDS is one of the more serrious STDs out there, but it’s definitely not the only one. Here are the most common ones:

1. Condylomata Accuminata

These are genital warts caused by Human Papilloma Virus. The most common types are 6, 11, 16, 18, 31 or a combination of these. They can appear on the vulva, vagina, anus, cervix or the penis and the anal area in men. They can look like small warth-like growths, but they usually spread to form narrow-based pedunculated cauliflower growths. So, they can either appear in one small clump or in many clumps that vary in size.

Obviously they are sexually transmitted, but the infection level is in fact moderate. The infectivity actually multiplies profusely when the immune response is lowered – in patients with HIV, pregnant women, smokers or when there is malnutrition. The incubation period lasts from 2/3 weeks up to 7 to 9 months after exposure, but can be even longer in some cases.

The most important thing is to have them checked out, and put under control with proper treatment in accordance to your doctor’s advice, because there is a chance they can develop into cancer. This chance is heightened in people with atypical and persistent warts, in which case a PAP smear and colposcopy/biopsy are not only recommended but necessary!

2. Trichomonas Vaginitis

women gynecology test

This is an STD caused by Trichomonas – a pear-shaped one-celled protozoa, slightly larger than white blood cells, that are extremely motile. Even though it’s considered an STD it can also be transmitted through toilet seats, wash cloths, douche equipment, or even from a bath.

It’s usually NOT symptomatic in men, but they CAN be a transmitter, and usually do transmit it to their partners. What’s interesting is that it’s also asymptomatic in 50% of affected women. For the other 50% the symptoms include: severe vulvar and vaginal edema, excoriation, itching or burning, malodorous and frothy thin greenish-yellow discharge, red patches on the cervix and Vaginal mucosa (typically called strawberry patches).

Trichomonas prefer a pH higher than that of a normal vagina and therefore may multiply more rapidly during or immediately after menstruation or pregnancy

Management and treatment are very important because trichomonas can carry bacteria into the tubes and cause PID or other health problems. There are many vaginal creams that can be used on doctor’s recommendation, and there is medication not only for the affected person but also for their partners. It’s not recommendable to treat it during the first trimester of pregnancy but after, or before, you should definitely consult with your doctor and manage the problem.

3. Chlamydia

This is the most prevalent STD. Chlamydia is in fact a gram-negative intracellular parasite that is smaller than bacteria and larger than viruses. It is responsible for many diseases including: PID, Nongonococcal (and postgonococcal) urethritis, Chronic conjunctivitis (which can cause blindness), Chlamydiae blenorrhea (generally contracted by the fetus via passage through an infected birth canal). Also, chlamydia is associated with infertility, stillbirth and fetal wastage, neonatal infections, cervical dysplasia and many more conditions.

It can be asymptomatic but the most common symptoms are: mucopurulent foul-smelling vaginal discharge draining from the cervix, erythema, edema, cervicitis, bleeding, urethritis etc.

What’s really important is to know that cotton swaps are absolutely TOXIC for chlamydia – always use synthetic ones to swap the area. For further treatment consult with your doctor and follow his advice, considering many things that can go wrong with this condition.

4. Herpes Virus Simplex

There are 2 types of Herpes virus which have cross reacting antibodies: type I and type II. Type I is almost always non-genital, it’s oral. Type II is almost always GENITAL. The primary infection usually occurs after puberty in the years when you’re being sexually active. It is manifested as a vesicular eruption of the skin and mucous membranes caused by herpes virus.

Recurrence of the herpes virus can be triggered by illness, emotional stress, intense sunlight, genital irritation, menstruation, poor nutrition. In recurrent episodes lesions tend to be fewer in number and smaller while they usually are larger and cover a larger area in the primary episodes.

The incubation period averages on 6 day, but can last anywhere between 2 and 20 days. Treatment and management depends heavily on whether you’re pregnant, sexually active, and whether it’s a primary or a recurrent which is why you’ll need to consult with your doctor to get the right advice, tests and medication.

5. Gonorrhea

young gynecologist at clinic

Gonococcus can affect conjunctiva of the eyes, male urethra, female reproductive tract and rectum. What’s interesting is that a prior infection does confer antibodies but does NOT grant immunity.

It’s often asymptomatic but some of the symptoms can be: urinary frequency, slight burning sensation while urinating, forming of pus in the tubes, discharge of pus from the urethra etc. The more common symptoms are fever, nausea, abdominal pain, tenderness etc.

The onset is 3 to 7 days after the first menstruation following the exposure.

As far as treatment goes, again, consulting with your doctor is crucial to get the right one, seeing as how management of this condition differs for pregnant and non-pregnant patients.

6. Pediculosis Pubis

Commonly known as crabs. This is an infestation of the vulva caused by crab louse, Phthirus pubis or its nits. It can be contracted through contact with an infected person, or through objects such as clothing, towels, bed linens etc.

Patient will most probably notice lice or nits on body hair (although it can go unnoticed). Typically it’s the pubic hair that will be affected but in some cases they can also be found in stomach hair, on thighs and even on the eyelashes or eyebrows.

Treatment is somewhat similar to the treatment for head lice but again, it’s crucial to follow doctor’s advice.

7. Syphilis

This is an acute and chronic STD. It’s highly contagious, and from the moment the lesions are present getting someone infected is likely to happen.

Incubation for the primary stage is 10-90 days (averaging on 21). Lesions in this phase, whether single or multiple, are so mild they often go unnoticed. Basically what happens is that the ulcer that forms is superficial and painless. So, if left untreated, signs and symptoms resolve spontaneously in 3 to 5 weeks.

But the infection is still present and it’s far from over – next comes the secondary phase. Incubation for the secondary stage is 17 days to 6 months after contact. Typical symptoms are a painless rash anywhere on the body, fever, lethargy, headache, weight loss, anorexia etc. If not treated, signs and symptoms resolve spontaneously in 2-8 weeks (averaging on 4 weeks).

After the secondary lesions are gone – begins the latent stage. The infection is dormant in the body. But WILL manifest itself several years later as a multi-organ degeneration.

So you see that this one is nothing to kid about. Once you’re infected, even though there are treatments available, it’s highly likely that you’ll stay positive for life. This is why catching it on time is very important – getting checked out on a regular basis, taking care of yourself, and taking care of staying protected is key, not only to stop syphilis, but all of the above!

About the author

Dr. Hadley

Dr. Hadley is YouQueen's resident gynecologist with over 25 years of experience as a specialist with her own practice. Feel free to ask her questions in the comments.

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