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Top 5 sexually transmitted infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are diseases that are passed on from one person to another through sexual contact. These diseases are known also as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or venereal diseases (VD). Sexually transmitted infections can be passed on through vaginal intercourse, oral and anal contacts. Some VDs can spread through the use of unsterilized drug needles, from mother to baby during childbirth, during breast-feeding and blood transfusions.

Sexually transmitted diseases are well known for thousands of years. According to World Health Organization, worldwide, there are more than 1 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections acquired each day. Top 5 sexually transmitted infections include the following:

Top 5 sexually transmitted infections – Chlamydia

Chlamydia is very common sexually transmitted infection caused by bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, which can damage female reproductive organs. Even though symptoms of Chlamydia are usually mild or absent but this infections can cause serious complications that cause irreversible damages, including infertility. The highest rates of Chlamydia are noted among youth (15-19 year old females). Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral contacts. Multiple sexual partners are increasing the risk for Chlamydia transmission – the greater the number of sex partners, the greater the risk of infection.

Top 5 sexually transmitted infections

Often Chlamydia is called “silent” infection because the majority of infected persons have no symptoms. About 75% women who have Chlamydia have no symptoms and only 25% women with this infection could mention all typical symptoms such as:

  • Yellowish vaginal discharge (mucus or pus),
  • Frequent urges to urinate (much more than usual),
  • Burning sensation or pain during urination,
  • Pelvic pain or low back pain,
  • Nausea,
  • Fever (often low-grade fever),
  • Pain during intercourse,
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods or after sexual contacts,
  • Eye infections (conjunctivitis).

Top 5 sexually transmitted infections – gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is very common sexually transmitted infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas such as cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes and urethra. This infection can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus. Gonorrhea cannot be transmitted from toilet seats or door handles. The bacterium that causes gonorrhea requires very specific conditions for growth and reproduction. It cannot live outside the body for more than few seconds or minutes, nor can it live on the skin of the hands, arms or legs. It survives only on moist surfaces (most commonly in vagina and cervix). This infection can be spread from one part of body to another by touch. Typical gonorrhea symptoms include the following:

  • Intensive yellow discharge,
  • Frequent urination,
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination,
  • Vaginal burning sensation,
  • Vaginal itching,
  • Bleeding between periods,
  • Irritation of the outer area of the vagina (redness and swelling of genitals).

Top 5 sexually transmitted infections – trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is also very common sexually transmitted infection that affects young sexually active women. Trichomoniasis is caused by single-celled protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. About 20% of women develop vaginal trichomoniasis during their reproductive period of life. Trichomoniasis can affect both men and women but women are much more likely to suffer from symptoms once infected. Trichomoniasis is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse.

Trichomoniasis symptoms usually appear in women within 5-28 days of exposure. Most typical trichomoniasis symptoms include the following:

  • Greenish yellow frothy vaginal discharge,
  • Fishy vaginal smell,
  • Vulva irritation and/or discomfort during intercourse,
  • Painful frequent urination,
  • “Strawberry cervix” (lesions form on cervix and vaginal walls, giving the appearance of redness),
  • Lower abdominal pain or pelvic pain.

Top 5 sexually transmitted diseases – genital herpes

Genital herpes is caused by herpes simplex virus (type I or type II). Both types can infect the mouth (producing cold sores) or the genital area (genital herpes). This infection can be transmitted through intimate contact with the mucous-covered linings of the mouth or the vagina or the genital skin. Herpes simplex virus enters through microscopic tears or through cracks in the skin and mucous membranes. Once inside, it travels to the nerve roots near the spinal cord and settles there permanently. Genital herpes can be spread by direct contacts including sexual contacts (vaginal, anal, oral) and skin-to-skin contacts (including kissing).

Infected people can pass infection without noticing. Usually herpes virus retreats into the nerves and lies dormant. Even when there are no symptoms of herpes, transmitting the virus is still possible (asymptomatic viral shedding). Therefore many people with genital herpes are not aware they have the infection.

Genital herpes symptoms appear from time to time in episodes. After contracting the herpes virus, women may experience the episode within few days, but it may take much longer (sometimes years) before symptoms are noticed. When it gets into skin cells the virus reproduces itself and starts to multiply, making the skin red and sensitive. During first episode (usually within 2-20 days after contact) the following symptoms could occur:

  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches),
  • Lower back pain and/or pain in legs,
  • Genital burning sensation,
  • Burning sensation and/or pain during urination,
  • Unusual vaginal discharge,
  • Swollen lymph glands,
  • Small red bumps on genital area which later develop into painful blisters – blisters first opening and then healing with the regeneration of new skin tissue.

The first episode is the most severe, with most episodes lasting 10-21 days.

Top 5 sexually transmitted infections – HIV

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). This virus may be passed from one person to another when infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions come in contact with person’s broken skin or mucous membranes. Unfortunately HIV does not have any specific symptoms but some symptoms should be mentioned:

  • Mild flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, lack of energy),
  • Skin rashes and skin sores,
  • Swollen glands,
  • Fever and night sweats,
  • Menstrual changes,
  • Unexpected bacterial or yeast infections.

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