The Risks Of Sexually Transmitted Infections
patient visits a doctor for a persistent rash on both his palms which has not settled despite taking medications over a month. He is well-qualified, earns very well and is a divorcee with a dose friendship with a female colleague. His symptoms are investigated and the clinical suspicions about him having syphilis is confirmed. He recovers fully after three weeks of medication. This is an example to make people realize that sexually transmissible infections can have a varied presentation and background.
What Is It?
STIs are a group of infections acquired predominantly, but not in all cases. by sexual contact. These have been known to occur from ancient times but the pattern has changed drastically over the last few decades These diseases can be caused by microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi or ectoparasites. And the diseases caused could vary from relatively innocuous conditions to some potentially lit e-threatening conditions like HIV.
The WHO estimated over ten years ago. that over one million people each day became infected with a sexually transmitted infection and most experts believe the figure is considerably higher today. The majority of these new infections occur in young adults aged up to 25 years. while approximately one third occur among individuals younger than 20 years of age. Globally, girls aged 14 to 19 are almost twice as susceptible to STIs as boys of the same age.
Some common STIs are syphilis, gonorrhoea. herpes simplex, genital warts, chancroid, chlamydia, pelvic inflammatory disease, scabies, yeast infection, hepatitis B and HIV.
The primary cause is unprotected sex with a partner whose health status is not known. Incidence is more in persons having multiple partners, those who migrate alone for careers, commercial sex workers and their clients, seamen, alcoholics and recreational drug users to name a few. Besides these, there are uncommon situations of non-sexual transmission of STIs, through blood transfusion, contaminated needle stick injuries and transmission from mother to the baby.
- After a variable period, after the germs have been acquired, they could manifest as sores/ulcers, burning/itching of affected area, pain during urination, discharge of pus, swelling, small growths, swelling in groin area, fever, pain in lower part of the abdomen, pain during/after sex, rash on other parts of body etc.
- Some infections remain localized to the area of initial involvement while other infections spread through the blood to other parts of the body.
- Initial symptoms and signs may be very subtle and the infection may get detected on other areas.
- Many times the infection may simmer silently before exploding. The person having a silent infect,on is often responsible for transmitting it to a sexual partner. Silent infection can be detected through appropriate laboratory investigations.
Women And STIs
- Women have a higher risk of acquiring STIs due to anatomical issues like larger surface area of genitals, the microorganism containing semen getting deposited inside and the lack of power to negotiate in terms of contraception.
- Women also may have the disease for a longer time, before it is detected, in case the signs of disease manifest on the vagina or cervix.
- They also tend to hesitate more in seeing healthcare professionals.
Besides affecting health, STls could lead to genital cancer, risk of mortality. miscarriages and transmission of STIs to a baby during pregnancy leading to birth defects and infection.
A person with any symptoms should consult a specialist. Financially challenged persons could avail of such facilities in public hospitals and special clinics. Laboratory investigations are carried out to confirm clinical diagnosis and pick up silent diseases. Remember. a lab test may take some months to be positive after acquiring a STI, while some may not become negative even after a STI has been fully treated. Hence, you must seek the help of a medical professional for correct interpretation.
Appropriate measures help cure certain STls and control others. Spouse/partner of the infected person should also be examined and treated if found affected. It is essential to take a complete course and not stop treatment the moment visible signs of the disease subside.
At the risk of sounding outdated and moralistic, the safest method is to exercise contact with a single known partner as In marriage and abstinence before marriage.
Other Measures: Use of contraceptives, avoiding addiction to alcohol and recreational drugs, regular screening in case of risky sexual behaviour. getting the partner screened and treated, screening of women during pregnancy and HPV vaccination. It is also advisable to get screening done for STIs before getting married.