Types of sexually transmitted infections
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are caused by about 30 types of known bacteria, viruses and parasites, which are spread through sexual intercourse.
There are 8 commonly known STIs. Four of these are currently curable: syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. It is estimated that, annually, about 357 million people contract one of these STIs. The remaining 4: hepatitis B, herpes, HIV and HPV are incurable viral infections that can be controlled with treatment.
STIs usually affect both men and women in similar ways. However, there are some exceptions. Regardless of the type, left untreated these infections can lead to a range of complications including chronic diseases, some types of cancer, problems during pregnancy, and the worst case scenario, death.
As mentioned, STIs are usually transmitted sexually, either via vaginal, anal or oral sex. They can also spread by non-sexual means, such as blood transfusions or mother to baby, while pregnant.
People can be carriers of any of these infections without having any idea, as many initial symptoms are either mild or non-existent. As a carrier, you will not necessarily contract the infection yourself, you may simply be the transmitter.
Although we live in the 'age of information' and plenty of sources of information on STIs, the infection rates continue to grow, especially among young people. It is estimated that in Spain, cases of syphilis and gonorrhoea are impost prevalent infections, seeing an increase of almost 55% in young people between 20 and 24 years. The Spanish Society of Contraception suggests that this is due to increasing numbers of young people choosing not to use effective contraceptive methods, such as condoms. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than one million people contract a sexually transmitted disease every day.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a very common problem - data from WHO states that over 1 million people catch an STI every day. We’re going to explain the different symptoms of STIs and they can be contracted with the help of information from the World Health Organisation.
Annually observed on September 4 since 2010, World Sexual Health Day (WSHD) is an awareness day managed by the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS).
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a very common problem - data from WHO states that over 1 million people catch an STI every day.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) are, in reality, a set of more than 100 types of common viruses that are mainly harmless, but around 30 of the types are associated with an increased risk of cancer.
According to WHO these types of viruses can be classified as either low or high risk and are caught through sexual contact with an infected partner. These viruses can anogenital warts, lead to the development of cervical, vulvar, vagina and anus cancer in women, and anal and penile cancer in men. Scientists say that 99% of endometrial cancers are linked to genital HPV infection.
Although there is no cure for HPV, two vaccines are currently on the market: bivalent and tetravalent. Both are understood to be highly effective in preventing infection with types 16 and 18 of the virus. These two specific HPV viruses are the cause of approximately 70% of cervical cancers. Experts say that the correct use of latex condoms may not eliminate all risk, but does significantly reduce the risk of contracting and transmitting HPV.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that attacks and weakens the immune system. As a result of this virus, the body becomes especially vulnerable to infection and disease. This virus is the cause of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), and has claimed the lives of more than 40 million people.
Contrary to belief, HIV cannot be transmitted by air or saliva. The most common forms of transmission are through unprotected sex or by exchanging needles or syringes with contaminated blood. Other forms of transmission are mother-to-child through pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
The time between HIV infection and AIDS diagnosis can range from 10 to 15 years (sometimes longer). Today there remains no cure for either HIV or AIDs. Although a well-known antiretroviral treatment can slow the development, as it stops the virus from multiplying. Antiretroviral drugs also help to reduce the amount of virus present in the blood.
There are two types of herpes simplex viruses: type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). It is estimated that there are 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 who have been infected by HSV-1 and 417 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 who have contracted HSV-2.
The first is transmitted by mouth-to-mouth contact (sometimes from an infected mother to baby during delivery) and causes cold sores or genital herpes. The HSV-1 infection is mostly transmitted during childhood, it is highly contagious and common worldwide. Unfortunately, many people infected with HSV-1 do not know that they are, because a herpes labialis infection does not usually have any symptoms.
HSV-2, on the other hand, is contracted sexually and specifically causes genital herpes. Both types of herpes simplex lead to life-long conditions. Antiviral drugs, such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir, are the most effective for people infected with HSV. These drugs help to control the infection and may reduce its intensity, but they cannot cure it.
This is one of the most common STIs caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It can affect both women and men but, many of those infected do not develop symptoms. It's most commonly contracted by young people, between the ages of approximately 15-25 years.
Chlamydia is transmitted primarily during vaginal, anal, and oral sex with an infected person. Chlamydia can also be passed to a baby during childbirth.
There are numerous symptoms linked to chlamydia, so it is common to be unaware that you have been infected. Women usually experience abnormal vaginal discharge with a strong odor, a burning sensation during urination, and pain during sex. Men often also experience discharge, but from the penis, a burning sensation when urinating, along with or itching around the opening of the penis.
Fortunately, the cure for chlamydia is a simple antibiotic treatment.
This infection is very common in young adults. The bacteria responsible for gonorrhea is called ‘Neisseria Gonorrhoeae’, and can infect the genital tract, mouth, or anus. Like syphilis, it is contracted through vaginal, oral, or anal sex or through mother-to-child pregnancy or childbirth.
In women, the first symptoms of gonorrhea are mild. Indicating signs that a woman has this infection can include bleeding between periods, painful passing water, and increased vaginal discharge. If not addressed promptly, gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause infertility.
Men on the other hand, may experience pain when urinating and discharge from the penis almost immediately after contracting gonorrhea. Long term effects of gonorrhea in men can cause problems for the prostate and testicles, if left untreated. The most common form of treatment is antibiotics, but experts say that treatment is becoming more difficult due to the increase in ‘drug-resistance’ problems.
Caused by a bacterium, syphilis infects the genital area, lips, mouth or anus and can be caught by both men and women. It is usually spread through sexual contact, although it can also be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy.
Experts from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases indicate that the early stage usually causes a single, small and painless sore. However, these sores make it easier to catch or spread HIV during sex.
Occasionally, syphilis can cause inflammation of nearby lymph nodes and rash on hands and feet, but in general symptoms are not obvious and it can take years to diagnose this infection if regular sexual health checks are not undertaken.
If you have syphilis while pregnant, this can lead to birth defects miscarriage. However, in general - if this infection is identified early, it can be quickly cured by antibiotics.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite. Most people with trichomoniasis show no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they appear 5 to 28 days after the infection. Symptoms in women include greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge, discomfort during sex, vaginal odor, painful urination, or itching inside the vagina.
If symptoms are present in men, they are usually in the form of whitish discharge from the penis or will have issues urinating or ejaculating. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, this disease is cured with antibiotics, which must be taken by both the infected person and his or her partner (if the infected person has one).
Widespread across India, Guyana and New Guinea, this infection is caused by the bacterium Klebsiella granulomatis and affects twice as many men as women. Unlike sexually transmitted diseases, it is rarely spread during oral sex.
Symptoms do not always occur immediately, it can take between 1 to 12 weeks to show signs of infection. Half of people infected by donovanosis will experience ulcers in the anal area. Small, red, fleshy bumps tend to appear on the genitals or around the bum, which become raised nodules known as 'granulation tissues'.
In advanced stages, this infection can demonstrate symptoms similar to lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), genital cancers, or anogenital cutaneous amebiasis (chronic skin infection).
Hepatitis B is a life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is transmitted through a person's blood or other body fluids. It is listed as one of the world's major health problems. According to the WHO, in 2015 almost 900,000 people died from this disease and its associated complications.
The virus can survive up to 7 days outside the body and its average incubation period is 75 days.
Symptoms include yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. People with acute hepatitis can develop acute liver failure, which can lead to death.
There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. Therefore, the focus of treatment is on maintaining well-being and nutritional balance. Despite no known cure for hepatitis B, a vaccine is available. This vaccine is said to be most effective when given to newborns, during the first 24 hours of life.
Molluscum Contagiosum causes papules (spots without pus) and nodules (small, spherical shape concretion consisting of the accumulation of lymphocytes, mainly in the conjunctive tissue of mucous membranes).
It is a virus that can affect children, when they come into direct contact with a wound on the skin or an object that has the virus (such as towels or toys). It can also infect adults via sexual intercourse. Papules are usually found on the genitals face and, or thighs. The first signs molluscum contagiosum may be mistaken for herpes or warts, but unlike herpes, molluscum contagiosum is painless.
This virus can be treated with the help of medications. Lesions or wounds on the body can remain on the body for months or even years. In some cases, they can be removed via minor surgery.
Pubic lice are tiny insects that infect an area of pubic hair and deposit their eggs in it. The appearance of pubic lice are very similar to sea crabs, hence this infections nickname 'crabs'. This type of STI is easy to cure and does not usually cause any major long term problems.
This infection is not associated with lack of hygiene, as many believe, anyone can be easily infected. Pubic lice easily pass from one person's hair to another when their genitals are very close or in contact. This causes strong itching in the intimate area, which usually gets worse at night.
Crabs are often treated with medications that contain a substance called permethrin. Medications to treat genital lice are easy to use and come in different formats such as gel, shampoo, lotions, and foam.
Chancre is a genital infection that is caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi. Chancres (or ulcers) appear mostly on the penis and scrotum of men and lower lips of the vagina in women.
The symptoms that indicate the infection are red spots that gradually turn into ulcers. They bleed easily and excrete thick yellow pus. Chancre appears between three and seven days after sex and the infection can remain in the body for up to a month.
This STI is very common in underdeveloped countries and is particularly painful.
Genital warts are caused by HPV (Human papillomavirus), which can infect both men and women. Warts are soft, moist bumps that appear in single or multiple forms.
Genital warts can be spread during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Using a condom can reduce the chances of passing on the infection, but does not completely prevent this possibility.
According to WHO, genital warts should always be treated as soon as possible. HPV vaccines can help prevent some HPV infections that cause genital warts. However, even after treatment and elimination, the virus remains in the body for a while, so warts may come back.
Caused by a microscopic mite 'Sarcoptes scabiei', scabies is an infection whereby small insect like parasites (scabies mites) infect the outer layer of the skin.
Scabies causes rashes, irritation, and a lot of itching. Like lice, scabies is not dangerous and can be easily cured. The treatment is based on taking medicine orally and creams that kill the mites and their eggs.
PID is an STI that affects only females. It is an infection found in the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Most of the time, it is chlamydia or gonorrhea bacteria cause PID. It can cause chronic pain and other serious health problems, such as infertility.
The main symptoms of PID are: fever, pain or tenderness in the pelvis, lower abdomen or lower back, and causes coloured vaginal discharge.
PID is mainly treated with antibiotics. If you contract you have PID, it is very important that your sexual partner is also treated.
Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) is an infection in the area of the urethra, the tube removes urine from the body. NGU can be contracted through the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.
This disease causes discharge and pain or discomfort when urinating. Women may experience abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding unrelated to menstruation. A complication of NGU is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Non-gonococcal urethritis can develop without the need for sexual transmission. Women who have this infection may have a miscarriage if they are pregnant, chronic pelvic pain, or vaginitis if it is left untreated.
The most common antibiotics to treat NGU are tetracycline, doxycycline, and azithromycin. The best way to avoid this infection is to use condoms when having sex.