Despite modern contraceptive methods and medical measures, sexually transmitted diseases are still widespread today. With modern treatment methods, however, these can largely be cured and the symptoms alleviated.
What are STDs?
The term sexually transmitted diseases is understood to mean all infectious symptoms which can be transmitted by pathogenic germs and which are spread through sexual intercourse.
The definition of sexually transmitted diseases conceals health impairments that already existed in ancient times and modern clinical pictures. The first group mainly includes gonorrhea, syphilis, ulcus molle, granuloma inguinale (donovanosis) and lymphogranuloma venereum.
The most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases today are AIDS, hepatitis B, trichomoniasis, genital herpes and vaginal fungus. In medical jargon, venereal diseases whose transferability is based on sexual contact are summarized under the acronym STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases).
Although some forms of the disease are closely related to the group of sexually transmitted diseases, their overall appearance is not pure sexually transmitted diseases. These are also related to skin diseases. See the article: Skin Diseases
In venereology, sexually transmitted diseases are treated, the pathogens of which are transmitted from one person to another through sexual intercourse.
In this context, different sexual practices such as anal sex or conventional sexual intercourse can enable transferability. The cause of sexually transmitted diseases is the spread of pathogens through the so-called exchange of body fluids. Contaminated syringes in connection with the consumption of drugs are also possible causative factors for sexually transmitted diseases.
Pregnant women who suffer from a sexually transmitted disease can transmit the pathogen to the unborn child via the placenta. During childbirth, it is also possible that a child may be infected with various pathogens from a sexually transmitted disease.
Typical & common diseases
- Chlamydia (chlamydial infection)
- Gonorrhea (gonorrhea)
- Genital warts (HPV) (genital warts)
- Ulcus molle (soft chancre)
Symptoms, ailments & signs
Depending on the specific sexually transmitted disease, different symptoms can occur. However, there are general signs of infection with a sexually transmitted disease. A typical symptom of a sexually transmitted disease is sudden itching in the genital area. This is often accompanied by a burning sensation when urinating.
The itching can vary in intensity, but tends to increase as the infection progresses. Some STDs can also cause skin changes. In some cases, ulcers also form. The penis, labia, mouth and anus are particularly affected. The skin changes can also regress on their own.
Most venereal diseases are characterized by a noticeable discharge from the vagina or penis and anus. In women, this often has an unusual, mostly green, yellow or brownish color and an extraordinary consistency. In men, this is usually slimy. The discharge smells bad in most cases.
In women, it can also lead to menstrual disorders, bleeding between periods or missed periods come. Other non-specific symptoms may indicate infection with a sexually transmitted disease. This can lead to swelling of the lymph nodes, fever, sore throat, loss of appetite, fatigue and tiredness.
Diagnosis & course
Characteristic for the diagnostic surveys and the course of the sexually transmitted diseases are their disease-specific signs and physical changes. Different pathogens come into consideration for infection with a sexually transmitted disease, which means that the forms of the disease are quite diverse and specific.
In order to differentiate between the individual venereal diseases, the venereologists, the specialists in venereal diseases, have general and specific diagnostic methods at their disposal. As with all infectious diseases, the symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases increase extremely if the course is untreated and can lead to death.
In the case of sexually transmitted diseases, the doctors’ diagnostics are based on the information provided by those affected, the examination of changes in the genital organs and the skin, and laboratory tests. These are particularly closely related to microbiological examinations that are carried out on swabs and body fluids.
If a sexually transmitted disease is not treated properly, there is a risk of complications in the further course that can even reach serious proportions. Female patients in particular are often affected by pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Bacteria that penetrate the upper genital tract via the vagina and cervix are responsible for the widespread infection.
PID is noticeable through pain during sexual intercourse or when urinating, pain in the abdomen, intermenstrual bleeding, heavy menstrual periods, nausea, vomiting, discharge and fever. This sequela is mainly caused by gonorrhea or chlamydial infections. About 10 to 15 percent of all untreated patients suffer from pelvic inflammatory disease.
Infertility is a dreaded complication of sexually transmitted diseases. It shows up in both women and men. In women, an untreated sexually transmitted disease can affect the fallopian tube. In men, chlamydial infections are mostly responsible for their sterility. The highest risk of infertility is in young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Some sexually transmitted diseases cause severe damage to a woman’s reproductive organs. This can lead to an ectopic pregnancy, which leads to health problems and in severe cases can even be life-threatening.
Men are at risk of a sexually transmitted disease causing epididymitis, which is an inflammation of the epididymis. Swelling occurs in the area of the testicles from which the sperm are produced. A gonorrhea or chlamydial infection is often responsible.
When should you go to the doctor?
In order to check for existing illnesses, it is generally advisable to take part in the check-ups offered at regular intervals. If unprotected sexual intercourse with a stranger has taken place, a doctor should also be consulted as a safeguard. If there are complaints in the abdomen or directly on the genitals, a doctor’s visit is necessary as soon as possible. Pain, swelling, or redness are considered unusual and should be investigated.
If lumps, ulcers, open wounds or warts form, the irregularities should be presented to a doctor. Itching, a general feeling of illness or increased body temperature is cause for concern. If women have irregular menstrual periods, this is a warning that should be followed up.
If you experience changes in libido or sexual dysfunction, you should see a doctor. If you experience a headache, agitation, or unusual discharge from the vagina or penis, a doctor is needed.
An increased susceptibility to illness, hair loss or general weakness are also reasons for a doctor’s visit. An unpleasant odor in the genital area, numbness of the skin or inflammation of the urinary tract must be examined and treated by a doctor. Discomfort in the anus, a stinging sensation in the genital area or cracks in the skin must be treated medically before further diseases break out.
Treatment & Therapy
In order to be able to treat venereal diseases successfully and to avoid further transmission of the pathogenic triggers to the sexual partner or a newborn baby, action is required from the first signs.
After the unequivocal diagnosis of the sexually transmitted disease, a medical treatment is carried out after the check-up by the doctor. This is based on disease-specific drugs. Since some sexually transmitted diseases are not exclusively related to health impairments of this type of disease, the treatment is based on the cooperation of various medical specialties, which include the dermatologist, the urologist and the gynecologist in addition to the venereologist.
When treating venereal diseases, specialists separate female and male venereal diseases and those that can affect both sexes. When choosing the medication, the main aim is to stop the germs from multiplying and spreading in the organism.
In addition, the specialists include active substances in the therapy of venereal diseases that alleviate very specific symptoms. This is about pain reliever and anti-inflammatory drugs that can be used both externally and internally.
The causative agents of the sexually transmitted diseases can be bacteria, viruses, single-cell parasites, arthropods (pubic lice, mites in scabies) and also fungi. For this, the treatment with ointments or rubs as well as medicinal liquids has proven itself.
An extremely complex treatment with the most modern drug compositions is carried out in the case of HIV infection. The determination of the drugs is based on the respective stage of the disease.
Outlook & forecast
The prognosis of sexually transmitted diseases has to be assessed individually. It is determined according to the underlying disease and the stage of the disease. If left untreated, many sexually transmitted diseases will deteriorate. With some diseases, there is a risk of premature death. In addition, the diseases are basically contagious and can be transmitted to other sexual partners.
There is a good chance of recovery from a bacterial infection. The administration of antibiotics already improves within a few days. In most cases, the patient is discharged from treatment free of symptoms after about two weeks. The prognosis of a viral infection is less favorable. The patient receives long-term treatment for many underlying viral diseases, as there is no cure given current medical options. A drug therapy minimizes the symptoms and improves the quality of life.
The later a sexually transmitted disease is diagnosed, the less favorable the prospect of recovery. In some cases, noticeable symptoms or impairments appear at an advanced stage. This makes the diagnosis more difficult and can significantly worsen the prognosis. Pregnant women have an increased risk of miscarriage and subsequent infertility if they have a sexually transmitted disease. In the event of a birth, the risk of infection in the womb can lead to health problems in the newborn.
In order to avoid infection with a sexually transmitted disease and thus to protect yourself and other people, it is important to use condoms, especially with unknown sexual partners. In a steady relationship or partnership, it makes sense to also practice protected intercourse as long as the disease is not cured.
Follow-up care for venereal diseases must be based on the exact disease. For treatable diseases (such as syphilis or chlamydia), follow-up care consists of one or more check-ups. If no more pathogens can be detected, the patient is considered cured. Further aftercare measures are not necessary for most sexually transmitted infections that can be cured by medication. In addition, very potent antibiotics are used for venereal diseases of a bacterial nature.
This is different with sexually transmitted diseases, which are not curable or remain in the body despite symptomatic healing. Examples are HPV and HIV infections as well as herpes in the genital area. These ailments can only be treated. In the case of HIV, for example, it is necessary to force lifelong therapy with lifelong check-ups.
In the case of warts and the like, close checks must be carried out after treatment. Subsequently, the relevant bodies and the neighboring regions should be checked regularly. For all sexually transmitted diseases, part of the aftercare is to have a possibly existing partner urgently examined and, if necessary, to have therapy in order to avoid re-infection.
In some cases where STIs are more common in a person, making sensitive changes in sexual behavior can help prevent new infections. As a preventive measure, safer sex is usually better than follow-up care after sexually transmitted infections and lengthy therapies.
You can do that yourself
It is imperative that sexually transmitted diseases be treated by a doctor, even if the symptoms appear to be less severe. Treatment with home remedies is completely inappropriate here. As long as there is a risk of infection from an affected person, sexual intercourse must not be carried out unless the partner knows about the risk and consciously accepts it.
Whoever deliberately infects another person with a sexually transmitted disease is committing a criminal offense. For a conviction, the so-called conditional intent, i.e. the accepting acceptance of infection by an unsuspecting third party, is sufficient.
Even if sexually transmitted diseases are still taboo, those affected should not be afraid to confide in their doctor. Confronting venereal diseases is an everyday experience for medical professionals. A patient has no reason to be ashamed in front of his doctor.
Anyone who is sexually active and regularly changes partners should familiarize themselves with the symptoms of the most common sexually transmitted diseases so that they can recognize them promptly and take the necessary measures. The most common occurrences in Germany are chlamydial infections, gonorrhea (gonorrhea) and syphilis.
The two last-mentioned sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented through the consistent use of condoms, also during anal or oral intercourse. The risk of a chlamydial infection is significantly reduced by condoms, but not excluded, as the pathogens can also be transmitted by droplet infection.