by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Sexually transmitted disease ,or STD’s and formerly known as venerial disease (VD), are infections that are acquired through sexual contact. Some STD’s can also be transmitted from a mother to her infant during pregnancy and/or child birth.
STD’s are some of the most commonly diagnosed infections in the US with over 20 different types of STD’s affecting more than 19 million men and women every year. STD’s can affect people at any age, all ethnic groups and socio-economic backgrounds. The incidence of STD’s has been increasing in recent years and health officials attribute this to the increase in sexual activity at a younger age and that more people are having multiple partners. The group with the greatest increase is the high school to college youth as they are the most sexually active. Another factor is that many times there is ans STD present, however, there are no symptoms to alert the person to it’s presence. This allows the infection to be passed on. It is more common for women to carry an STD infection without symptoms than men though men can also be asymptomatic.
The three most commonly diagnosed types of STD’s are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Genital Herpes. Chlamydia is the most frequently diagnosed of the three, however symptoms often don’t appear for 3-4 weeks after becoming infected. The symptoms differ somewhat between men and women. Women will experience an abnormal vaginal discharge that usually has and odor, spotting between periods, periods are usually more painful, pain with urination, itching and/or burning in the genital area and pain with sex. Men usually experience pain and inflammation around the testicles, pain with urination and itching around the end of the penis as well as a discharge from the urethra.
Gonorrhea, also known as “the clap” though not as frequently diagnosed as chlamydia remains one of the most common STD’s affecting people today. Many people with gonorrhea have no symptoms until weeks after being infected. Women when they do have symptoms will have many symptoms that are similar to a yeast infection so the frequently self treat with over the counter medications for a yeast infection instead of seeking treatment for gonorrhea. As vaginal discharge is a symptom for many different problems, all of which require treatment, it is always best to seek medical attention for a correct diagnosis. Men usually experience symptoms of gonorrhea sooner than women, usually with in the first 2 weeks after being infected. Many symptoms of STD’s are similar, pain and inflammation around the testicles, burning with urination and a discolored discharge from the end of the penis.
Both chlamydia and gonorrhea are bacterial infections and are successfully treated with antibiotic’s. In the past penicillin was the drug of choice but science and research have produced many new and more effective medications.
Genital herpes continues to be a significant health issue, primarily because it is highly contagious. Unlike chlamydia and gonorrhea that are cause by bacteria and treated with antibiotics genital herpes is caused by a virus, the herpes simplex virus. Which means there is no cure, as with the strain of herpes simplex that causes chicken pox once infected the virus remains dormant in the body. It is estimated that 45 million Americans are currently infected with the genital herpes virus and another 1 million are being diagnosed every year. Some officials estimate that 80-90% of those infected either don’t recognize the symptoms of genital herpes or don’t have any symptoms. Those that do have symptoms will have small blisters or sores around and on the genitalia of both men and women. Though genital herpes can’t be cured there are medications available to treat out breaks and relieve symptoms.
Again, my moto, prevention is always better than treatment. The best, safest and most effective way to prevent STD’s is abstinence, the next would be participating in a long term mutually monogamous relationship. If you are someone that prefers other options the correct use of latex condoms is approximately 90% effective in preventing STD’s. It’s also important to realize that the younger you are when you start having sex the greater your lifetime risk for becoming infected with an STD. So learn the risks, causes and symptoms of STD’s and be proactive in protecting yourself.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.