What are STD?

Sexually transmitted diseases ( STDs ) are diseases that can be transmitted through sexual contact that caused by  bacteria, parasites, and viruses. They are also called, based on English, STI (sexually transmitted infections) or STD (sexually transmitted diseases). Often several infections occur simultaneously.

How do I recognize and protect myself from them?

A romantic night with a new acquaintance and unprotected intercourse can have unpleasant consequences without being noticed immediately. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea (gonorrhea) and syphilis are also an increasing problem in both homosexuals and heterosexuals.

In one, an infection remains undetected or manifests itself only by unpleasant itching. In the other, sexually transmitted diseases develop into a life-threatening infection or even cancer. One thing is certain, sexually transmitted diseases are a danger for the infected and their fellow human beings. Here’s what you need to know about sexually transmitted diseases and how to protect yourself from the growing threat.

How common are sexually transmitted diseases?

Since many infections remain undetected, not all infections are reported and the fear of going to the doctor is often very high, the number of unreported cases is very high. The number of new infections with sexually transmitted diseases is rising again. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 million people a day are infected with sexually transmitted infections worldwide. People with frequently changing sexual partners are more often affected by sexually transmitted diseases. The most frequently affected are people between the ages of 20 and 30 because they are the most active.

What are the most common sexually transmitted infections?

Since only a few diseases have a statutory reporting obligation, there is hardly any reliable data on the prevalence of STDs. According to estimates by the World Health Organization WHO, the following treatable diseases are particularly common:

  • Chlamydia: It is believed that chlamydia infections are one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Gonorrhea: Especially infections with the venereal diseases believed to be gonorrhea (gonorrhea) as well as syphilis (syphilis) have risen sharply in recent years
  • Trichomoniasis, an inflammation of the vagina and penis caused by the flagellum, Trichomonas vaginalis.
    In addition, genital herpes, genital warts, hepatitis B and C, and HIV are becoming more common.

How are sexually transmitted diseases transmitted?

Sexually transmitted infections are transmitted in various ways, especially in sexual contact. The single transmission path, however, depends on which disease you have exactly. A transmission is possible for example with:

  • oral sex
  • vaginal sex
  • anal sex
  • petting
  • use of sex toys
  • kissing

The pathogens may be transmitted via bodily fluids (e.g., blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and saliva) or even on contact of diseased skin lesions (e.g., warts, blisters, and pustules). Most of the pathogens enter our body via our mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are located in the following regions of the body:

  • mouth
  • intestine and anus
  • eye
  • urethra
  • vagina

For drug users, a transfer is possible through the sharing of syringes. Also, a mother can infect her child, either during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.

What are the symptoms of sexually transmitted infection?

The symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection are not always clear and sometimes difficult to recognize. In some cases, the symptoms disappear after a few days, but the infection persists. So it can happen that someone who does not know that he is infected infects many more people. Therefore, you should go to the doctor directly at the slightest sign. The online consultation on the subject of sexual health is a particularly discreet solution for contacting our doctors. In case of skin changes in the genital area there is even the possibility of a photo diagnosis by German doctors.

The following symptoms indicate a sexually transmitted disease:

  • Burning on urination (e.g., in gonorrhea),
  • Skin lesions such as blisters, warts or rashes (e.g., syphilis and genital herpes),
  • Itching in the genital area and anus (for example chlamydia, gonorrhea, fungal infections and trichomoniasis),
  • Unusual whitish or unpleasant-smelling discharge from the penis, anus or vagina (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea, fungal infections and trichomoniasis),
  • Pain in the lower abdomen, penis, testicles or vagina,
  • Bleeding disorders in the woman (for example in chlamydia and gonorrhea).

But also common symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, sore throat and loss of appetite can be triggered by a sexually transmitted disease.

Many sexually transmitted diseases can be cured if treated early enough. Those who wait too long to see a doctor risk serious complications and consequential damages. For example, the pathogens can infect other organs (e.g., brain, eye, heart), lead to cancer (e.g., cervix cancer and liver cancer), cause AIDS, or render infertile.

When should I get tested without symptoms?

With risky behavior and an increased risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases, one should be tested preventively regularly for communicable diseases. Anyone who has many different sexual partners (more than five a year) should test for sexually transmitted diseases at least once a year. The same applies to persons who have had sexual contact in the context of prostitution. Even with unprotected sexual contact with people from regions with a high rate of sexually transmitted diseases (for example, Asia or Africa), regular control is advised. In order to prevent transmission from the mother to the child, pregnant women should also be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

What can I do if I have an sexually transmitted disease ?

Anyone who is infected with a sexually transmitted disease must contact a doctor online or offline. Attempts to self-direct e.g. Healing with frequent washing or with your own medication can be dangerous. Only together with a doctor can you effectively combat the disease.

It is also important to inform the sexual partners. These must also be examined and possibly treated. As long as the illness has not healed and the doctor has not given the green light, sexual contact must be avoided.

Is one immune after the first infection?

No, with most sexually transmitted diseases one can always get infected again. If you have survived an infection, you are not automatically immune to the disease. For this reason, all sexual partners must always be treated during treatment, as otherwise a reinfection may occur.

How do I protect myself from sexually transmitted diseases?

The most effective protection against sexually transmitted diseases is sexual abstinence and avoidance of contact with foreign bodily fluids. An absolutely faithful relationship between two people is very safe when both are disease free. Sexually active people with changing partners should protect themselves and others through the following measures:

  • Vaccination against hepatitis A and B and human papillomaviruses (HPV),
  • Consistent use of condoms, i. vaginal, anal and oral penetration only with a condom and there should be no sperm and blood in the mouth, even a female condom (Femidom) can provide protection
  • Good intimate hygiene can reduce the risk of smear infections
  • At first symptoms of contagion go to the doctor immediately.
  • Regular check-up
  • Drug users can also protect themselves by using sterile syringes.

About the author – Dr. H.S. Hermanides
Dr. H.S. Hermanides obtained a PhD for her research on HIV in the Caribbean. She is currently working as a specialist in infectious diseases at the Red Cross Hospital in Beverwijk, The Netherlands.