Sexually transmitted diseases

Nobody wants to talk about them.  But everybody should be concerned about them.

Consider these facts:

  • Many STD’s have no symptoms!
  • One in four college students has an STD.
  • Only about 50 percent of college students use condoms during vaginal sex, even fewer with oral or anal sex.
  • College students under the influence of alcohol are the ones least likely to use adequate protection from STDs

Read more facts at nursingschools.net.

STD’s are not a new problem.  They’ve been around for hundreds (and maybe thousands of years).  The term refers to many different diseases and infections that are transmitted through vaginal, oral, and anal sex practices. 

Want more information?

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

What is it?

HPV is the most common STD.  It is a virus that can affect the genitals or cervix.  There are many types of HPV which can produce different symptoms.

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What are the symptoms?

Genital warts are very common and may appear as bumps on the outer skin surface.  They may look like the surface of a cauliflower and feel rougher than the surrounding skin.  Other types can affect the cervix without any notable symptoms, other than an abnormal pap smear result.

Can I get tested?

Diagnosis is made by visual examination in many cases.  Women can be tested for cervical disease with routine pap smears.  There is no laboratory test for men.

How is it treated?

External (skin) warts can be treated with freezing (cryo therapy), or topical medications. Cervical disease is sometimes treated surgically.

What else do I need to know?

Both men and women can get immunized against the most dangerous types of HPV.  Gardisil™ is one of several effective vaccines and is offered by Campus Health.  Many HPV infections will clear on their own in healthy young adults.   

How is it prevented?

Condom use offers protection in most cases.   Avoidance of sexual contact when infection is present is recommended.

Resources

Chlamydia (CT)

What is it?

A bacterial infection acquired through sexual contact.                           

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What are the symptoms?

Women may experience vaginal discharge.  Men may have some burning with urination.  However, often, there are no symptoms.

Can I get tested?

Yes!  The preferred testing method is with a urine sample.   In some circumstances, a swab taken from the cervix or urethra can also be done.

How is it treated?

A simple course of oral antibiotics.    

What else do I need to know?

In women, untreated chlamydia can cause damage to the fallopian tubes and result in infertility.  Prompt treatment helps prevent complications.

How is it prevented?

Condom use offers protection in most cases.

Resources

Chlamydia 

Herpes (HSV)

What is it?

Herpes is a viral infection usually affecting the mouth or genitals.

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What are the symptoms?

An acute infection starts with an itching or burning sensation, followed by clusters of very painful blisters.  There can be burning with urination.  With the initial outbreak, there can be fever, body aches, and swollen glands.  Some herpes infections cause such mild symptoms that they go unnoticed.

Can I get tested?

Diagnosis is usually made by physical exam.  A swab can be obtained from the blisters and blood tests are available.

How is it treated?

Herpes cannot be cured, but it can be controlled with antiviral medications.  

What else do I need to know?

Herpes can be spread even if someone doesn’t have symptoms.

How is it prevented?

Condom use offers protection in most cases.  Avoid sexual contact if any symptoms are present.

Resources

Herpes 

Gonorrhea (GC or “clap”)

What is it?

A bacterial infection transmitted by sexual contact.  It can affect the vagina, cervix, urethra, anus or throat.

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What are the symptoms?

Women may experience a yellow-green vaginal discharge, abdominal or pelvic pain, irregular bleeding, or painful urination.  Men may have painful urination or penile discharge.  Sometimes, there are no symptoms. 

Can I get tested?

Yes!  The preferred testing method is with a urine sample.   In some circumstances, a swab taken from the cervix or urethra can also be done.

How is it treated?

Gonorrhea is treated with oral or injectable antibiotics.

What else do I need to know?

Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious infections in the reproductive organs that may require surgical treatment or lead to infertility.  Arthritis and system symptoms can also occur.

How is it prevented?

Condom use offers protection in most cases.

Resources

Gonorrhea 

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

What is it?

PID is a complication of untreated CT or GC, or other bacterial infections.  The bacteria travel from the cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes.

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What are the symptoms?

Women may experience a vaginal discharge (that may go away), followed by pelvic pain and cramping.  There may be irregular vaginal bleeding or pain with sex.  Some women may have fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. 

Can I get tested?

Diagnosis is usually made by your history and brief physical examination (pelvic exam).  Urine and / or vaginal samples and cultures may be obtained.

How is it treated?

PID often requires aggressive antibiotic therapy, and abstinence from sexual activity.  In some cases, hospitalization and surgery may be required to totally cure in the infection.

What else do I need to know?

PID is a serious infection that can result in loss of fertility.

Resources

PID 

HIV

What is it?

HIV is a blood infection that can result in AIDS.

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What are the symptoms?

There are often no symptoms of HIV infection for many years.  Early symptoms may include swollen glands, body aches, and fatigue, similar to many other viral illnesses.

Can I get tested?

Yes.  A simple blood test can be ordered.

How is it treated?

There is no cure for HIV or AIDS.  There are treatments available to control the virus and reduce the rate of associated diseases and complications.

What else do I need to know?

HIV is transmitted through contact body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk).  It is spread through unprotected sexual contact, sharing needles or syringes with an infected person, or other contact with infected body fluids.   

How is it prevented?

Condom use (male and female) offer some protection from sexual transmission.

Resources 

HIV 

Syphilis

What is it?

A bacterial infection spread by sexual contact.

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What are the symptoms?

The first symptom may be a painless open wet sore on the genitals or mouth (the chancre), which will heal without treatment.  If untreated, rashes, fever, sore throat, fatigue or, in later stages, heart or neurological symptoms may occur.

Can I get tested?

Yes.  A simple blood test can be ordered for diagnosis. 

How is it treated?

In the early stages, antibiotic treatment is effective.   Damage caused by later stages may not be reversible.  Severe untreated syphilis can be fatal.

What else do I need to know?

Syphilis can be transmitted to the unborn child.

How is it prevented?

Condom use offers protection in most cases.

Resources 

Syphilis
For men 

Trichomonas

What is it?

Trichomonas or “trich” is an infection caused by a single cell organism called a protozoan.  It is a common cause of vaginal discharge.

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What are the symptoms?

Women may experience a frothy, foul-smelling vaginal discharge that itches or is irritated.  There may be vaginal spotting or symptoms of a bladder infection.  Men may have discharge from the penis or pain with urination.

Can I get tested?

Yes.  A small sample of the discharge can be collected and examined under the microscope.

How is it treated?

Trich is easily treated with a specific medication. 

What else do I need to know?

Ask for testing for other STD’s as trich can be present with other diseases.

Resources

Trich 

Body or Pubic Lice (Crabs)

What is it?

Lice are tiny insects that can attach themselves to skin and hair.  They are easily transmitted through sexual contact or sharing beds, clothing, or infected furniture.

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What are the symptoms?

Intense itching is usually the first symptoms.   Lice or eggs may be visible in the pubic area.

Can I get tested?

Diagnosis is usually made by symptoms and brief examination.  Often, the insect can be seen with the naked eye or basic magnifying glass.

How is it treated?

Topical medicines (over the counter and by prescription) are recommended.  Bed linens, clothes, and towels need to be thoroughly washed and your residence cleaned and vacuumed. 

What else do I need to know?

Thorough cleaning of your living space and linens should reduce the chance of reinfection.  You should abstain from sexual conduct until all treatments have been completed.

Resources

Lice 

Scabies

What is it?

An itchy skin condition caused by a mite (a tiny member of the spider family).

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What are the symptoms?

The mite burrows under the skin, creating small raised lines that are visible.  There is usually severe itching, especially at night.

Can I get tested?

Diagnosis is usually made by symptoms and brief examination.  Scabies often occurs in areas where there is skin to skin contact.

How is it treated?

Topical medicines (over the counter and by prescription) are recommended.  Bed linens, clothes, and towels need to be thoroughly washed and your residence cleaned and vacuumed. 

What else do I need to know?

Thorough cleaning of your living space and linens should reduce the chance of reinfection.  You should abstain from sexual conduct until all treatments have been completed.

Resources

Scabies 

Molluscum Contagiosum

What is it?

Molluscum is a viral skin infection.

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What are the symptoms?

The usual symptom is scattered, fleshy, dome-shaped lesions on the areas of skin-to-skin contact.  They are usually painless but can itch slightly.

Can I get tested?

Diagnosis is made by visual examination.

How is it treated?

Molluscum can be treated with freezing (cryo), topical chemicals or prescription medication.  They may require repeated treatments.  Molluscum will eventually go away without treatment.  However, it may be contagious even when there are no bumps.

What else do I need to know?

Sharing towels or clothing can also transmit molluscum.  Reducing or eliminating contact with the affected skin area can reduce the chance of spreading the lesions.

Resources

Molluscum 

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

What is it?

BV is the most common vaginal infection.  It is caused by a shift in the vagina’s bacterial  environment or acid base balance.

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What are the symptoms?

There is often a white, watery discharge, often with a “fishy” odor.  There can be irritation, vaginal burning, pain with sex, or frequency of urination.

Can I get tested?

Diagnosis is made by physical exam and by checking the discharge under the microscope.  Sometimes the vaginal pH is also checked.

How is it treated?

The most common treatment is with an oral medication.  There are also vaginal creams and gels that can be used. 

What else do I need to know?

BV is very common and often recurrent.  Your provider can give you more information about prevention and treatment for recurrent infections.  Condom use, of course, is recommended.

Resources

BV 

Other Diseases

There are other physical conditions that can be acquired through sexual contact, but they are not necessarily considered STD’s.  Close physical or skin-to-skin contact, even that of a non-sexual nature, can spread these infections.