DERMATOLOGY > INFECTIONS
SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES
What are sexually transmitted diseases (STD)?
Sexually transmitted diseases, also known by its acronym STD and as venereal diseases in the past, are a series of clinical infectious and contagious conditions which are transmitted sexually. No type of sexual contact, either it is vaginal, anal, or oral, is free of contagion. Additionally, they can be transmitted by sharing syringes or, unfortunately, from a mother to their child during pregnancy or childbirth.
These diseases are, mainly, caused by different types of bacteria (gonorrhoea) and virus (HIV or HPV), but there is also some caused by certain fungus and protozoans.
Next, we will describe some of the most frequent STD although, unfortunately, they are not the only ones. In order to get information of sexually transmitted diseases not described in the following section, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be delighted to clarify any doubt you may have, as well as to inform you about any possible treatment and effective prevention methods.
Gonorrhoea is an STD caused by bacteria. It usually develops and multiplies in any part of the reproductive or urinary system that is wet and warm (the cervix, the uterus or Fallopian tubes, or the urethra), although it can also appear on the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus.
Symptoms of this disease are usually very mild, regardless of the affected area. In women, a burning sensation while peeing can be mistaken by a vaginal or bladder infection. There can also be an increase in vaginal discharge or bleeding between periods. Men, for their part, can also feel discomfort while peeing and, in some cases, there can be a white, yellowish, or greenish substance discharge from the penis, or testicular pain or swelling. If gonorrhoea is developed in the rectum, symptoms that might appear are secretion, itching, pain, bleeding, and pain while defecating. Infections on the throat, finally, will only cause pain. But, as we have mentioned, the presence of symptoms is very mild or almost non-existent, this is why detecting the disease before it causes serious damage is really complicated.
If left untreated, gonorrhoea can spread and cause damage such as pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility in the case of women, and epididymitis or infertility in the case of men. As a last resort, gonorrhoea could spread to the blood and joints and cause death.
Diagnosing gonorrhoea, on the other hand, is as simple as making a blood test. In addition, any sexually active person can contact their physician and be tested.
Treatment will be determined by a doctor and can be used by pregnant women to avoid transmitting the disease to her children. Although, unfortunately, no treatment for gonorrhoea can repair the permanent damage it has already done, such as the inability to have children.
Syphilis is another STD which is easy to treat during its primary and secondary stages, but which might have some complications during its third and last stages. Treatment is carried out with penicillin and, in case of allergy, with other antibiotics in pill or injection form.
Symptoms appear between ten days and three months after the contagion as sores on the areas where the infection penetrated, usually the penis, vagina, anus, rectum, tongue, or lips, and also inflammation of the lymphatic nodules. If the disease is not treated at this stage, the sores will disappear, but the disease will move to the second stage where the symptoms are even more serious: rashes with no itching on the palms of the hands, on the soles of the feet, or anywhere on the body; headaches; fatigue; fever; weight and hair loss; join pain; and swollen lymphatic glands. After the second stage, the disease starts a latency period that may last for years before entering the third stage. Depending which organ is affected by syphilis, the disease may attack the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, bones, skin, or blood vessels causing serious damage such as blindness, deafness, memory and coordination loss, psychosis, depression, cardiac disorders, paralysis of the limbs. During this last stage, syphilis can cause death.
Syphilis during the pregnancy may bring many complications, including congenital syphilis or the loss of the child.
Fortunately, there is a treatment to cure this disease. However, it is essential to treat it during the first stages.
Condyloma is an infection located in the genital area. There are several types of condyloma and they are all related to sexually transmitted diseases, usually to human papilloma virus or HPV and syphilis.
It usually appears like a wart which can be either papular, soft and of the same skin colour; keratosis, hard, calloused and very similar to regular warts; or flat, papules with a flat centre. However, and depending on the type of condyloma we are facing, it can also appear with a cauliflower shape. Certainly, its appearance is more common on the genital, reproductive, and urinary areas, those parts of the body with wet and warm environment which favours its reproduction.
Its symptoms are a burning and stinging sensation which can cause more serious problems such as the obstruction of the penis, vagina, or anus if their size increases. Unfortunately, there is not any treatment that can make them disappear for ever. If the warts are big, they can be removed using different methods. The only measure that can be taken is to keep a regular colour in order to watch any possible evolution of the disease.
The herpes virus is incurable and recurring. The treatment, through oral antiviral medications, makes it possible to keep the breakouts, symptoms, and contagion level under control.
The symptoms, as in gonorrhoea, are mild or are not usually related to a genital disease. Some people do not even get to have ulcers. During the first breakout, the symptoms become stronger, and they appear in the form of lack of appetite, fever, general discomfort, muscle pain, swollen lymphatic glands, small and painful blisters full of liquid on the inside and outside of the vagina and cervix in the case of women; on the penis and scrotum in the case of men; and around the anus, on the thighs, buttocks, tongue, mouth, eyes, lips, fingers, and other parts of the female and male bodies.
In order to alleviate the symptoms of the ulcers caused by herpes and lower the risk of new breakouts, it is convenient to avoid wearing synthetic socks, underwear, or trousers, and wearing cotton loose clothes instead. Hygiene of the genital area should be gentle and only using specific water and soap. Baths with warm water may ease the pain, but you should be very careful to dry the blisters delicately and not to leave any moisture.
Contagion probability between two people during intercourse is extremely high, especially during the absence of breakouts. This is why starting the treatment as soon as possible is very important. In spite of everything, some people are especially prone to the side effects caused by the medication used as treatment. In order to solve these problems, and if any of the ulcers gets infected by accident, or if you have any questions, you should ask your doctor for advice.
Diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in Valencia
• Dr. Gabriel Serrano Sanmiguel