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STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)

What you need to know:

Sexually transmitted disease (STD) is the category used to describe all diseases that are primarily spread from person to person through sexual contact. Sexually transmitted diseases are among the most common infections diseases in the U.S. today. More that 25 STDs have been identified, and they affect 12 million women and men in the U.S. annually. Helping people in your community have a better understanding of the basic facts about STD symptoms, transmission modes, and treatment is the first step toward preventing future infections and reinfections.

Key Points about Sexually Transmitted Diseases:

  • STDs affect men and women from all backgrounds and economic levels. They are most prevalent among adolescents and young adults. Nearly two-thirds of all STDs occur in people younger that 25 years of age.
  • The incidence of STDs is rising, in part because in the last few decades young people become sexually active earlier and are more likely to have multiple partners during their lives.
  • Many STDs initially cause minimal or no symptoms, particularly in women. When symptoms develop, they may be confused with those of other diseases not transmitted through sexual contact. However, even when an STD causes mo symptoms, a person who is infected may be able to pass the disease to a sex partner. This is why many health officials recommend periodic testing for people who have more than one sex partner.
  • Health problems cause by STDs tend to be more severe and more frequent for women than for men, in part because the frequency of asymptomatic infection means that many women do not seek care until serious problems develop.
    • Some STDs can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which, in turn, is a major cause of both infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. The latter can be fatal.
    • STDs in women may be associated with cervical cancer and in men, rectal cancer. One STD, human papillomavirus (HPV) causes genital and rectal warts and also can lead to cervical, rectal, and other genital cancers.
    • STDs can be passed from a mother to her baby before or during birth; some of these infections in the newborn can be cured easily, but others may cause the baby to be permanently disabled or die.
  • When diagnosed early, almost all STDs can be treated effectively. Some organisms, such as certain forms of gonococci (the bacteria that cause gonorrhea), have become resistant to the drugs used to treat them and now require newer types of antibiotics. The most serious STD without a cure is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Having other STDs greatly increases one's risk for becoming infected with HIV.


What you need to know:

Each year in the US there are over 100,000 new cases of syphilis and over 3,000 babies born with the disease. Currently, Chicago is ranked number one in the nation for the highest amount of syphilis cases.

Cause: Treponema pallidum bacteria.

Transmission: Syphilis is transmitted during sex (vaginal, anal, and oral) though direct mucous membrane contact with a syphilis sore, lesion, or moist rash. Although uncommon, syphilis also can be transmitted by moist kissing (if one of the people has a lesion on their lips or in their mouth) and by touching (if bare skin touches a syphilis sore, lesion, or moist rash). A person can infect others only when syphilis sores are present. Syphilis cannot be spread by sharing needles. Pregnant women can pass the disease to the developing fetus through the placenta.


First Stage

A single chancre at the site of infection. This open small sore is usually painless and it lasts 1-5 weeks and heals even without treatment.

Second Stage

Outbreak of one or more rashes, which rarely itch. Rashes can appear as the first-stage chancre is fading or up to ten weeks later. The rashes take many forms and can look like symptoms to other diseases. The rashes last 2-6 weeks and clear up on their own. Second stage symptoms also can include fever, swollen lymph glans, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and tiredness.

Third Stage/Latent Stage

No symptoms. As the second-stage rashes fade, the disease may begin to attack the nervous system and internal organs, mainly the hart. The resulting internal damages do not show up until many years later. This happens in about one-third of untreated persons.

Late Stage

Symptoms include: inability to coordinate muscle movements; paralysis; no feeling of pain; blindness; insanity; personality changers; impotence; shooting pains; blockage or ballooning of the blood vessels; tumors on the skin, bones, liver, or other organs; severe stomach pain; repeated vomiting; damage to knee joints; and deep sores on the soles of feet or toes.

Treatment: Syphilis may be successfully treated at any stage. If caught early, syphilis is easily treated-usually be two shots of benzathine penicillin in one visit. Persons who have had syphilis over one year need longer treatment. Treatment will destroy the syphilis organisms in the body, but will not repair any of the damage done to the internal organs or the nervous system. There are no over-the-counter medicines or home remedies that cure syphilis.

Complications: Untreated syphilis slowly kills nearly 20% of those with the disease.

The fetus of an infected woman has about a 40% chance of dying before birth. A baby born to a mother whose infection was never treated, or treated late, will almost always be infected with syphilis. About 12% of infected newborns will die. Untreated babies may be developmentally delayed or have seizures. If untreated babies survive to adolescence, they have a 40% chance of developing symptoms of late-stage syphilis.

HIV risk: Syphilis sores increase the risk of contracting HIV. The open sores act as open doors to HIV, allowing the virus to enter the body easily.


What you need to know:

There are over 700,000 cases of gonorrhea each year in the US. Gonorrhea is sometimes called the clap, drip, dose, strain, gleet, morning drop, and GC.

Cause: Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria.

Transmission: Gonorrhea is transmitted during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. The disease spreads through direct contact with the bacteria on mucous membranes. Men do not need to ejaculate to spread the disease. Bacteria can be passed to another person almost immediately, even before symptoms appear. If there is a discharge, people can spread gonorrhea from one part of the body to another. For example, wiping discharge from the vagina can spread infections to the urethra or rectum. A pregnant woman may pass gonorrhea to her newborn, leading to eye infections or blindness (eye ointments reduce the chance of this).

Symptoms: Many male, and most females, have on symptoms.

For males: burning during urination and/or a thick yellowish or greenish discharge or drip. Symptoms may appear two to eight days after becoming infected.

For females: an infection in the cervix may cause a thick yellowish or greenish discharge. Sometimes the small glands on either side of the vagina?s opening can swell.

For both: rectal symptoms like pain during dowel movements, pus and/or blood. Throat symptoms like dry, sore and scratchy.

Treatment: A shot of the antibiotic ceftriaxone is the treatment of choice. Antibiotic pills also are effective. Antibiotics destroy the bacteria but cannot repair the damage. Penicillin is not recommended. There are no over-the-counter medicines of home remedies that work against gonorrhea.

Complications: For males, it can move up from the penis to the prostate gland, bladder, or testicles. Urine can be hard to pass; scar tissue may block the sperm ducts.

For females, infection can spread from the cervix. PID develops in about 10 to 20% of women with untreated gonorrhea (typically within 2 to 3 months). Gonorrhea during pregnancy may cause spontaneous abortion, premature labor, or neonatal death.

Genital Warts

What you need to know:

Genital Warts is a chronic and sometimes recurring STD that has no cure. Other manes for genital warts are: venereal warts, moist warts, human papillomavirus, and HPV. There are over one million new cases of genital and rectal warts each year. Over 40 million Americans currently carry HPV.

Cause: Human papillomavirus

Transmission: Genital warts are transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. An infected person is able to pass it on to others without symptoms. The virus lives inside cells and under the surface of the skin or mucous membranes. Once infected, a person should always use condoms. Unlike other STDs, it is very rare for infected mothers to pass the virus to their babies at birth.

Symptoms: People with HPV may grow warts within 3 weeks to 20 months. They can carry HPV and never develop symptoms.

Genital warts can be tiny and flat, or obvious bumps. They may be smooth or have fingerlike stalks that roughen the surface. Most warts are about ? inch across and 3/8 inch high. They can occur along or in clusters. Warts may first appear as small, hard spots where the virus entered the body. This can be on the tip or shaft of the penis or inside the body (i.e.: vagina, anus, mouth). It is hard to remove all the growths and cells holding the virus. Genital warts may return weeks or months after treatment. A person carrying HPV may have it for life.

Treatment: Genital warts can be treated with a variety of techniques. Common treatments include putting podophyllin liquid on the warts and freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen. Other treatments include applying a special acid, surgery, laser treatment, drying, and burning. Doctors often need to repeat treatments to remove the warts. Over-the-counter medicines for removing common skin warts never should be used on the tender skin in or around the anus, genitals, or mouth.

Complications:HPV infection has been linked to both female and male cancers.

Some types of HPV can infect a woman?s cervix, causing changes in the cells. Cervical cancer caused by HPV can be prevented. A woman diagnosed with cervical HPV should have regular Pap smears. As well as individuals diagnosed with rectal HPV should have regular anal Pap smears to prevent rectal cancer. Warts may interfere or block body openings, such as the urethra, anus, or vagina (especially during pregnancy or whenever the immune system is weak).

Persons with warts that are unusual, dark, or will not go away with treatment should have a biopsy done on them.

Hepatitis B

What you need to know:

Hepatitis is a potentially serious liver disease. Hepatitis B is a common and preventable type of viral hepatitis. The incubation period of HBV is 45 to 180 days; usually 60 to 90 days.

Cause: Hepatitis B virus (HBV)

Transmission: HBV is a blood borne infection, usually transmitted by vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person; sharing needles; occupational or other exposure to infected blood; or perinatal (prenatal) transmission from an infected mother. Hepatitis B is not spread by stool contamination of food or beverages, or be casual contact with friends or co-workers. 6-10% of the people infected with hepatitis B become chronic carriers.

Prevention: Abstain form sexual intercourse or use condoms; Avoid sharing needles; Immunization; Use universal blood and body fluid precautions.

Symptoms:Slight fever, tired feeling, loss of appetite, stomachache, nausea of vomiting, and jaundice. Young children may have mild diarrhea without jaundice. HBV may cause long-term complications and rarely, death. Most people infected with HBV have no symptoms.

Screening: Testing is available through private and some public health care providers. STD clinics do not offer screenings.

Treatment:At present, there is no cure for hepatitis B.? Partners or other exposed persons can be treated with immune globulin for temporary protection. A vaccine is available- three injections usually given over three months.


What you need to know:

Genital herpes is a chronic, recurring and sometimes painful STD affecting 30 million Americans, with 500,000 new cases each year.

Cause: Herpes simplex virus (HSV) I or II

Transmission: Genital herpes is transmitted during sex (vaginal, anal, and oral) through direct skin-to-skin contact. The virus can be passed whenever it is present on the skin, such as right before an outbreak when no symptoms are present. An infected person also is able to pass HSV to others without sores or symptoms. During oral sex, oral herpes (cold sores caused by HSV I) can infect genitals and genital herpes (HSV II) can infect the mouth. The virus can be spread to the eyes or other parts of the body by touching herpes sores then touching other areas. Individuals infected with genital herpes should consistently use condoms. But during outbreaks and while sores are present, a person should not have sex, even if undergoing treatment.

Symptoms: The first symptoms can appear 2-10 days after infection or years later. An outbreak consists of small red bumps on the butt, thighs, fingers, vagina, anus, and on or inside the penis. The first outbreak is usually the most severe and lasts 2 to 3 weeks. The bumps turn into blisters or open sores, scab over, and heal without scars. Symptoms also include swollen lymph glands, muscle ache, headache, fever, painful or difficult urination, and nausea.

Treatment: Herpes has no cure but can be managed with prescription drugs to decrease the frequency, pain, and length of the outbreaks. The blistered area should be kept clean and dry. There are no over-the-counter medicines or home remedies that work against herpes.

Complications: If the woman is having an outbreak at the time of delivery, a baby can get herpes at birth. Infection may lead to blindness, brain damage, or death. If a female is infected during pregnancy, the risk of transmission to the infant of miscarriage increases.

HIV risk: People who have herpes have a higher risk of contracting HIV. HIV may be able to enter the body through the herpes sores.


What you need to know:

Scabies and pubic lice are two common parasites infestations that may be sexually transmitted. Scabies are caused by tiny parasites, called mites. Mites burrow beneath the skin of infested people. The mites lay eggs under the skin, causing bumps that can later erupt. Pubic lice are commonly called crabs, named for their crab-like claws that let them cling to human hair (mainly pubic hair).

Transmission: The bugs may be transmitted form person to person by:

  • Direct skin to skin contact, including sexual contact, and
  • Shared articles, such as clothing and bed linen.

A person can transmit scabies or lice until the parasites and eggs are destroyed by treatment.

Incubation:Scabies- first infestation, 2-6 weeks. For repeat infestation, 1-4 days. Public lice- if many lice are transmitted at once, the incubation period is short. If few are transmitted, symptoms are delayed several weeks.

Symptoms: Scabies- Scratching of small raised bumps, rashes, or blisters on skin. Itching can be intense, especially at night. Scabies often concentrate on the hands, wrist, genitals, breasts, stomach, waist, thighs, and buttocks.

Pubic lice- Itching of the genital area; visible lice or eggs in the pubic hair or eyelashes; bluish spots in the pubic area or thighs where the lice have bitten.

Treatment:Public Lice can be killed by special lotions that are available over-the-counter. A second treatment is needed only if lice or eggs remain after the first. Clothing and linen used in the past week should be washing in hot water and/or dried in a hot cycle, or dry cleaned. Treatment for scabies is available only by prescription. A second application is repeated one week after the first.


What you need to know:

Chlamydia is the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease in the US today. There are approximately 4 million new cases each year. About two-thirds of those diagnosed are under the age of 25.

Cause:Chlamydia trachomatic bacteria

Transmission: Chlamydia is transmitted during vaginal, and anal, and oral sex. The disease spreads through direct contact with infected mucous membranes (the moist skin of the vagina, penis, anus, and throat). Men do not need to ejaculate to spread the disease. A pregnant woman may pass chlamydia to her unborn during delivery, leading to eye infections or pneumonia.

Symptoms: Medical test have shown that 25% of men and 70% of women with chlamydia have no symptoms. Symptoms, if they appear at all, show up slowly. This is one reason why chlamydia is so common.

For males: burning during urination and/or a runny, whitish discharge from the urethra (the tube inside the penis). It may take two or more weeks before a man notices any symptoms.

For females: burning during urination and/or an abnormal vaginal discharge. Women rarely have early symptoms.

Treatment: Antibiotic treatment will destroy the chlamydial organisms in the body, but it will not repair any of the damage done. A single dose of Azithromycin can be taken in liquid form or as four pills. The antibiotics, tetracycline and doxycycline, also cure chlamydia, but patients need to take these medications for at lease one week. Penicillin cannot kill chlamydia.

There are not over-the-counter medicines or home remedies that work against chlamydia.

Complications: For males, if the infection reaches the testicles, it can produce scar tissue that blocks the sperm ducts. This would cause the man to become sterile. Chlamydia can also cause prostatitis, which is an inflammation of the prostate gland.

For females, chlamydia can spread, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause infertility.


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