Ever heard the saying that “Prevention is better than cure?” It is considered easier and wiser to avoid a problem completely than to spend time and resources fixing it. The same logic applies to your sexual health. Sexual health is a delicate matter, and as a sexually active person, you should protect yourself from the pitfalls of unprotected sex, including STIs.
Itching, burning sensation, and unusual discharge are common symptoms of a lot of STIs. Even though some can be treated and cured, others can only be managed and will require lifelong medication and treatment.
Treatment for Some Common STIs
Here are some of the most common STIs, their treatment methods and, of course, the safest course of action; prevention.
Human Papilloma virus (HPV):
HPV is a highly contagious infection that is caused by a virus. It is caused by a virus and is considered one of the commonest STIs. In fact, it is so common that the majority of sexually active people will get it at some point in their lives. There are more than 100 types of HPV, and it is possible to have more than one type simultaneously. HPV can cause severe health problems like warts in the genitals, the throat and even cervical cancer in women. It can also cause the development of cancers in other areas like the throat, head and neck.
Treatment: Most cases of HPV usually resolve independently without treatment, so a treatment plan is NOT available to cure the infection. However, if genital warts occur, they can be treated using prescription medications. It can also be burnt with an electric current or frozen with liquid nitrogen. Removing warts does not rid the body of the virus so warts may reoccur.
Gonorrhoea is a common infection that is caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoea. The bacteria thrive in wet regions of the body like the throat, anus and urethra.
If a woman gets gonorrhoea, she may experience symptoms like vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods, persistent urination, painful sexual intercourse, abdominal pain and sore throat. In men, symptoms include increased frequency of urination, discharge from the penis, sore throat and swelling at the penis opening.
Treatment: Gonorrhea is a curable infection so antibiotics are usually prescribed. Some of the commonly prescribed antibiotics include azithromycin and doxycycline.
Chlamydia is a common STI that is also caused by bacteria. Most times, it does not cause any symptoms, so the carrier may not know they are infected. In cases where symptoms do occur, men can experience testicular pain, green or yellow discharge from the penis, frequent urination and lower abdominal pain. In women, symptoms include pain during sex, spotting, lower abdominal pain, vaginal discharge and inflammation of the cervix.
Treatment: Luckily, chlamydia is easily curable. Like gonorrhoea, it can be treated using antibiotics like doxycycline and azithromycin.
Genital herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). It causes the formation of sores on the penis, buttocks, vagina or anus. A person which genital herpes may experience pain, itching, swollen lymph nodes and fever.
If the virus that causes herpes is on a person’s skin, it can be transmitted to another person when it makes contact with moist areas like the mouth, eyes and genitals. It can also be transmitted from an infected mother to the baby during delivery.
Treatment: Unlike diseases caused by bacteria, herpes has no cure. There is no drug to completely get rid of the virus, but antiviral drugs are available to stop the virus from multiplying. Your doctor will usually prescribe acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir to control outbreaks.
This is one of the most popular and most feared STIs. In some cases, when a person is infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), symptoms similar to the flu, like fever, headaches, rash and fatigue, may occur, making it easy for infected people to dismiss. There may also be swelling in the groin.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is sometimes called Stage 3 HIV. AIDS is a condition where the immune system is completely damaged due to exposure to HIV. Symptoms of AIDS include genital, mouth and anal sores, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, fever and pneumonia.
Treatment: HIV can only be managed, not cured. There are antiretroviral drugs to reduce the viral load to a level with little risk of passing on the virus. AIDS can also be treated using strict antiretroviral regimens that can help slow down the progress of the disease and prevent complications that may arise.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that usually starts with the development of a sore on the genitals, rectum or in mouth. The bacterium behind this nasty disease is called Treponema pallidum. It is very contagious and can be gotten through contact with the sore. The bacteria can also be spread through cuts on the skin.
However, it cannot be spread by sharing toilet seats and clothes or using the same kitchen utensils. There are four stages of syphilis, each having its unique symptoms.
- Primary syphilis is the first stage, and it happens about three to four weeks after the person is first exposed. It starts with a small sore called a chancre.
- Secondary syphilis is the next stage and is characterised by rashes on palms and foot soles, sore throat, headaches, fatigue, fever and swollen lymph nodes.
- The latent stage has no symptoms. The symptoms of the earlier stages clear out, but this does not mean the bacteria has been eliminated. It stays in the body until it progresses to the last and worst stage, tertiary syphilis.
- Tertiary can be life-threatening and lead to complications like memory loss, deafness, blindness, heart and neurological problems, mental illness and destruction of bone and tissue.
Treatment: A penicillin injection is usually effective against primary and secondary syphilis. Other treatment methods involve doxycycline, azithromycin and ceftriaxone.
If syphilis advances and damages nerves or organs, treatment cannot undo the damage. It can only get rid of the bacteria, preventing further harm.
During the treatment of any infection or disease, it is very important to follow the instructions laid down by your doctor and follow the prescribed dosage. According to the doctor, do not stop the medication until you have completed it.
Prevention of Common Sexually Transmitted Infections
When it comes to STIs, prevention is always the safest course of action. Remember that abstinence is the only way to guarantee your safety from diseases. If you are sexually active, you can protect yourself and minimize the risk of catching these diseases by practising safe sex every time you have sex.
Here are some ways to protect yourself and reduce your risk of getting infected:
- Always use a condom correctly during vaginal or anal sex
- Use dental dams for oral sex
- Get tested for STIs regularly, at least once a year
- Insist on your partners getting tested as well
- Wash your private parts before and after sex
- Get vaccinated against infections like HPV
STIs are very common, but many infected people are unaware they are carriers because they have not experienced any symptoms. But having no symptoms does not mean you are entirely free from STIs. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.
Note that this article is not meant to be a prescription for STIs. It is important that you consult a doctor, and get a proper diagnosis and prescriptions before you begin any treatment.
If you need medical attention because you are worried about your STI status, speak to a doctor on Doctall.