What are STIs (sexually transmitted infections)?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) refer to the infections that are transmitted through sexual contact, either vaginal, anal or oral, upon engaging in unprotected sexual activities. Some STIs like syphilis or herpes can be transferred through kissing as well.
People with vaginas often don’t show symptoms of these infections, which makes them harder to diagnose.
What are STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are when the STIs progress into diseases. When a sexually transmitted pathogen or virus enters the body and begins to proliferate, infection develops.
The infection may turn into a disease if the sexually transmitted bacteria or viruses have entered the body. When this alien presence officially impairs the body's regular functioning and processes, disease results.
What causes STIs and STDs?
STIs and STDs are caused in these ways:
- It can be caused by having unprotected sex (vaginally, anally or orally) with an infected individual. STIs can be spread even in the absence of any signs or symptoms demonstrated by an individual.
- Kissing a person who has an STI.
- Even if an individual is involved in genital play without penetrative sex, they can contract some STIs like syphilis or herpes.
- A woman can transfer an STI to her baby during breastfeeding.
Common types, symptoms and treatments of STDs in women
There are some STIs that affect women more commonly than men. The types, their symptoms and treatments are listed below:
The bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes gonorrhoea, a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. It is the oldest known STD on earth.
Wet surfaces in the body like the vagina or cervix serve as perfect places for the bacteria to prolifer. It can also reside in the tube that drains urine from the bladder (urethra). gonorrhoea can also be found in the rectum and the back of the throat (due to oral-genital contact).
Symptoms of gonorrhoea
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Frequent need to pass urine
- Vaginal discharge that is yellowish
- The genitals can become reddish or swollen
- Itching or burning sensation in the vagina
Treatment of gonorrhoea
A single injection is often administered to treat uncomplicated gonococcal infections pertaining to the cervix, urethra or anal region. Treatment for gonorrhoea should always include medication that will treat chlamydia as well as gonorrhoea because gonorrhoea and chlamydia frequently exist together in the same person. To avoid infecting the partners, they should also be administered treatment for both diseases.
Because the bacteria can survive under only certain conditions, this is one of the more easily curable STDs. Using condoms can provide adequate protection against infection. Condoms should be a part of oral sex since the bacteria can survive at the back of the throat.
Chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis) is a bacterium that causes a similar illness to gonorrhoea in terms of how it spreads and the symptoms it causes. The chlamydia bacteria, like gonorrhoea, is present in the cervix and urethra and can survive in the throat or rectum.
Chlamydia often has no symptoms, making it more difficult to diagnose. As a result, these people may unwittingly spread the illness to others.
Symptoms of chlamydia
The majority of women who have chlamydia don't show any signs or symptoms. But, some symptoms can include:
- Sexual encounters that are painful (dyspareunia)
- Discharge from the cervix
- Urination causes a burning feeling
- Lower abdominal discomfort
- Cervicitis, a condition in which the cervix becomes inflamed
- Bleeding in the intervals between periods
The infection can extend to the fallopian tubes in certain women, leading to a condition known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). It requires immediate medical attention, else it can be fatal in certain cases.
PID is characterised by the following symptoms:
- Pelvic discomfort that is too severe to bear
- Between-period vaginal bleeding
Chlamydia infection in the rectum may be devoid of symptoms. However, if signs of a rectal infection do develop, they may include:
- Rectal discomfort
Women can also get a throat infection if they have oral intercourse with someone who has the condition. Though it is possible to develop chlamydia without realising it, the following are signs of chlamydia infection in the throat:
- Throat irritation
Treatment of Chlamydia
Antibiotics are usually used to treat chlamydia. A condom or other protective barrier, as with gonorrhoea, stops the illness from spreading.
- Genital herpes
Genital herpes, often known as "herpes," is a herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection that is spread by close contact with the mucous-covered linings of the mouth, vagina, or genital skin. It can only be disseminated by direct person-to-person contact.
Symptoms of genital herpes
- Blisters around or around the vagina, anus, or buttocks are common symptoms for people with a vagina.
- Blisters can form in the mouth, on the lips, on the face, and anyplace else that has come into touch with infected regions.
- Before blisters develop, the region that has caught the disease can typically itch or tickle.
- Blisters can turn into ulcers (open sores) and leak fluid.
- A crust can form over the lesions after a week post-infection.
- It's possible that your lymph nodes will swell. Infections in the body are fought with the help of lymph glands.
- Headaches, body pains, and a fever are all possible symptoms.
Treatment of genital herpes
Herpes has no cure, although outbreaks can be treated. Oral medicines can stop the virus from replicating and perhaps cut the duration of an eruption in half.
Although topical medicines (those that are administered directly to the lesions) exist, they are typically less effective than other drugs and are not commonly used. It is more beneficial to take medication by mouth or intravenously in extreme instances.
- Human papillomaviruses (HPVs)
The human papillomavirus (HPV) spreads through direct skin contact among people. HPV comes in over 100 different types, with more than 40 of them being transmitted through sexual contact and affecting your genitals, mouth, and throat.
Some HPV infections in the vaginal area do not result in any health issues, while others may be linked to cervical cancer. Some HPV strains, however, can cause genital warts and even cancers of the cervix, anus, and throat.
Symptoms of HPV
- Mostly, there are no symptoms or effects on your health.
- It can create significant health concerns if the infection does not go away on its own. Warts in the vaginal area and warts in the neck are examples (known as recurrent respiratory papillomatosis).
- Cervical cancer, as well as malignancies of the genitals, head, neck, and throat, can be caused by HPV.
Treatment of HPV
Because most HPV infections are self-resolving, there is no cure for the infection. Doctors may want to run a test in a year to determine if the HPV infection is still persisting and any abnormalities in the cells have occurred that need to be looked into further.
Prescription medicines, electrical current burning, and liquid nitrogen freezing can all be used to cure genital warts. However, removing physical warts does not treat the virus, so warts may reappear.
Precancerous cells can be eliminated with a quick treatment at your doctor's office. Cancers caused by HPV can be treated with chemotherapy, radiation treatment, or surgery. Multiple approaches may be utilised at times.
A vaccination against four major HPV strains linked to the development of genital warts, cervical and anogenital carcinomas, is now available and has been deemed safe by the FDA to be used on both men and women in the age bracket of 9 and 26 years.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection weakens the immune system and makes the body more susceptible to a variety of infections, as well as the development of some malignancies.
HIV is a virus that is spread largely via sexual contact or sharing needles. The disease is known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome when the signs of HIV are severe (AIDS).
Symptoms of HIV
Despite the fact that there are no particular symptoms or indications that indicate HIV infection, many persons may have a vague sickness two to four weeks after becoming infected. The following symptoms may be present during the start of the illness:
- Muscle and joint aches and pains
- Throat irritation
- Lymph nodes that hurt
The typical period from infection to the onset of symptoms associated with immunosuppression (decreased immune system function) is ten years. The following are serious complications:
- Infections that are unusual or cancers
- Loss of weight
- Degeneration of the mind (dementia)
Treatment of HIV
There is currently no treatment for HIV/AIDS. This disease cannot be gotten rid of automatically. There are, however, a variety of medicines that can help manage HIV and avoid problems.
What steps should you take if you have been diagnosed with an STD?
After being diagnosed with an STI, there are a few things you should do:
- Begin any treatment that your doctor suggests right away.
- Inform your partner(s) that they, too, require testing and treatment.
- Until your illness is resolved or your doctor gives you permission, refrain from having sex. When it comes to bacterial infections, you should wait until both you and your companion have been healed by the treatments.
- To decrease the risk of spreading a viral infection to your partner, wait until they are on antiviral medicines if required. Your doctor will be able to tell you when you should expect to see results.
Which specialty doctor should women consult for STDs?
Internists, family practitioners, and pediatricians are among the primary care professionals who can help women with STDs. Women's STDs are frequently treated by obstetrician-gynecologists'. Immunologists, hepatologists, and gastroenterologists may be consulted for some STDs, such as HIV and hepatitis.
How can women prevent STDs?
Women can opt for certain preventive measures to protect themselves from STIs.
A Pap smear should be done every 3 to 5 years for individuals who have a vagina. It's also a good idea to inquire if you should get checked for any additional STIs or if the HPV vaccine is recommended. If you're sexually active, you should consult your doctor about STI testing.
Make sure to use protection
A condom or other barrier technique, whether for vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse, can help protect both you and your partner. Female condoms and dental dams can offer some protection.
Communication is key
It's critical to be open and honest with your doctor and your partner(s) about your sexual history.
STI during pregnancy
While pregnant, a woman can get STIs. Some people are unaware they have a disease since many don't have symptoms. As a result, at the start of a pregnancy, physicians may do a complete STI panel.
You and your kid might die as a result of these diseases. Because STIs can be passed on to your kid during pregnancy or delivery, it's critical to get treatment as soon as possible.
During pregnancy, antibiotics can be used to treat all bacterial STIs. Antivirals can help you avoid transmitting a viral infection to your child.
STI arising from sexual assault
As a result of a sexual assault, some persons will get STIs. When women go to the doctor right after an assault, the doctor tries to get DNA and assess injuries.
They look for possible STI diagnoses during this procedure. Even if it has been a long time since a sexual attack, you should get medical attention. Your doctor or another healthcare professional can talk to you about whether or not you should report the incident, as well as any health-related concerns.