Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that typically spread with any type of sexual contact. Millions of people are affected by new STIs each year. The majority of infected people do not exhibit any major symptoms, or sometimes very mild signs that go unnoticed, or symptoms that are mistaken for another condition. This means that people who have an STI may not even know it—and thus, unknowingly spread it to others. If not adequately treated, it can also result in health issues later in life.
There are more than a dozen STIs to be wary of. In this post we will delve deeper into the four STIs that are most prevalent and impact sexually active people the most frequently.
Most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection
This viral infection can affect the genitalia (vulva, cervix, or penis), anus, and throat. Both intercourse and skin-to-skin contact can lead to the transmission of HPV. The infection generally presents with no symptoms, although some people may experience warts on the hands, face, genitalia, and other areas of the body. They are spreadable, and other dangers include a compromised immune system and scarred skin. If HPV is not treated, it can cause sores in the throat or upper respiratory system. Moreover, the warts have the potential to develop into cancer. Therefore, it’s crucial to undergo routine STD testing if you engage in sexual activity in order to determine whether you have contracted this virus and whether you carry the HPV 16 or HPV 18 strain that has been linked to cancer.
Both men and women can be shielded against this virus by the HPV vaccine. Although older teens and young adults can also receive the vaccine, it is most effective when administered between the ages of 11 and 12. In general, it is thought to be less effective when administered to people beyond the age of 26.
This is the most prevalent bacterial infection that can be transmitted from intercourse, anal sex or oral sex. Chlamydia may be difficult to detect because it does not always cause symptoms during its early stages, but those that do may experience:
· unpleasant urination
· sexual discomfort
· pain in lower belly
· rectal discomfort, leakage, or bleeding
· unusual discharge from vagina, anus or penis.
Left untreated, the infection can have serious implications for women as it can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, create pelvic inflammatory disease, which can permanently harm the reproductive system.
The term ‘hepatitis’ refers to a variety of inflammatory liver disorders, most of which are caused by viral infections. The infections are typically obtained through the exchange of bodily fluids during intimate activity, such as kissing, genital touching, or sharing sex toys. However, they can also be acquired through exchanging razors or needles that have come in contact with contaminated blood.
Hepatitis infection symptoms include:
· dark urine
· flu-like symptoms
· pale stool
· abdominal pain
· yellowing of skin and eyes
· lack of appetite.
If left untreated, hepatitis, as well as the majority of liver infections, can develop into cirrhosis and cause liver failure, cancer, and even death.
Fortunately, all of these STDs are curable, and in order to avoid long-term consequences, patients should get treatment as soon as they have symptoms.
Genital herpes is one of the most highly contagious sexually transmitted diseases, caused by the herpes simplex virus. The infection spreads through sexual intimacy and can cause cold sores or genital herpes. Itching or tingling skin that develops into herpes sores is one of the earliest symptoms of genital herpes in women. Blisters on or around the mouth, buttocks, hips, thighs, genitalia, or rectum are the characteristic appearance of herpes sores. This is referred to as an ‘outbreak.’ When the blisters rupture, painful sores are left behind that may not heal for a week or longer. During the initial outbreak, people can have additional flu-like symptoms which affect their whole bodies, such as:
· body aches
· painful urination
· swollen lymph nodes in the groin
While there is no cure for the disease, there are medicines available that can ease your symptoms and prevent you from passing the infection to others.
If you are living with an STI, it is important to have an open conversation with your partner as well as your doctor. Practice safe sex. Almost all STIs can be prevented through the use of condoms. If you are sexually active, get screened and, where necessary, use effective treatment.