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Healthy Living

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)

These are diseases, which are transmitted from one person to another mostly through sexual contact. Till recently, these diseases were collectively called Venereal Diseases (VD) after 'Venus”- the Roman goddess of love.

The major sexually transmitted diseases are:

  • Syphilis
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Chancroid
  • Lympho Granuloma
  • Granuloma Inguinale

The minor diseases are:

  • Non-specific Urethritis
  • Genital Warts
  • Molluscum Contagiosum
  • Genital Herpes
  • Trichomonasis

Major Diseases

  • Syphilis: This is the gravest and most feared venereal disease. Initial symptoms are light and may pass unnoticed. Untreated syphilis may irreversibly damage vital organs causing blindness, insanity, paralysis and death. A spiral shaped bacterium called “Treponema palladium” causes syphilis.

    Course of the Disease: The primary sore most often occurs on a man's glans penis (head of penis) or foreskin or on a woman's vulva (external genital) lips or clitoris. It starts as a small red spot that grows moist and eroded, with a hard base that feels like a button.

    First Stage Syphilis: Usually 10 to 40 days after the infection, a painless sore appears on the area that had directly been infected. Besides the genital area the sore can appear at the anus, on the lips or on the nipple. The glands nearby may be swollen. The chancre (sore) clears up on its own within 4 to 10 weeks. At this first stage, a complete cure is possible.

    Second Stage: Between six weeks and three months after the infection, a skin rash appears and patches of hair drop out. There may be headache, sore throat, a slight fever and swollen glands. Sufferers are very infectious and can transmit the disease even by kissing if the skin of the mouth is broken. All signs of the disease vanish within a year.

    Third or Latter Stage: After a lull of up to 30 years, the disease may attack any part of the body like heart, blood vessels, brain or spinal cord. Other effects include mouth ulcers and erosions of the skin, bones and ligaments. Major effects can be blindness, paralysis, insanity and death. Damage, by this time, is irreversible.

    Congenital Syphilis: Mothers with syphilis may pass it to their unborn babies via the placenta. One-third of the babies produced by these mothers, are born with syphilis. Treatment of the mother, early in pregnancy, protects the baby.

  • 2. Gonorrhoea: Gonorrhoea is a disease, which is produced by a bean-shaped bacterium called “Neisseria gonorrhoea”. It is mainly spread by sexual intercourse. Rarely, kissing or the use of soiled towels can also be the route of spread. Only about 20% of the infected women show symptoms of the disease. In both genders long standing infection can invade the blood stream and affect skin, joints and even the brain.

    Gonorrhoea in Men: Genital infection produces a watery greenish-yellow discharge from the penis. There is a frequent urge to urinate. Passing urine is very painful, with a burning sensation. Testes may swell and become painful. Anal infection in homosexuals can produce ulcers and sore throat. Long-term infection can produce painful joints (arthritis), skin rashes, brain fever and heart damage.

    Gonorrhoea in Women: Genital infection produces a red, raw vulva, with greenish-yellow discharge. There is a frequent urge to urinate. Urination is painful, with a burning sensation. Lower abdominal pain and menstrual irregularity may occur. Symptoms of anal and mouth infection are the same as in men

    Complications of Gonorrhoea:

    In Men:

    • Urethra (urinary tract in penis) can be blocked and thereby the kidney may be damaged.
    • Testes may get damaged and the man may lose the ability to produce sperm and thereby can become infertile.

    In Women:

    • Fallopian tubes can be damaged and blocked.
    • Ovaries can be damaged and the follicles and eggs will be killed.

    Both or any of the above can result in sterility (inability to bear or beget a child).

    In Newborns:

    • At birth babies can get infected in the eyes during their passage through the vagina. It may result in blindness.
  • Chancroid: This is produced by a bacterium called “Haemophilus ducrei”. Nearly three to seven days after the infection, several soft, painful ulcers appear on male or female genitals. Later a painful one-sided swelling develops in the groin.
  • Lympho Granuloma Vernerum: This is produced by “Chlamydia bacterium”. Around 5-21 days after the infection, a small painless ulcer may appear on the penis or vulva. Weeks later, painful swellings and abscesses appear on the groin. There may be fever, headache, pain in the joints and genital swellings.
  • Granuloma Inguinale: This is produced by “Donovan bacilli”. About two months after the infection, a red painless swelling appears on the genitals. It slowly spreads forming bright red ulcers, which heal very slowly. The scars often break down and tissue and even the penis may be destroyed.

      Minor diseases

      1. Genital Warts: These appear on the genitals or around the anus. Cluster groups give the appearance of a cauliflower. These are due to a virus. They appear one to six months after sexual contact.
      2. Molluscum Contagiosum: This is a harmless viral infection, which can be caught in swimming pools but is usually due to sexual contact. The virus produces small, painless, pink spots on the genitals. They appear months after contact and will be firm and smooth.
      3. Genital Herpes: This condition is produced by a virus. The same virus produces cold sores around the mouth also. About four to five days after sexual contact, itchy blisters appear on the genitals which burst and raw, shallow, painful ulcers are produced.
      4. Trichomonasis: This condition is produced by a parasite by name “Trichomonias vaginalis”. It produces a foul-smelling greenish vaginal discharge. There is pain and itchiness in the vulva and vagina. Intercourse is painful. Most infected men suffer from no symptoms and act as carriers.

      Some General Symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

      The following are only a few important signs indicating sexually transmitted diseases. The list is by no means exhaustive. When in doubt, please consult your family physician.

      Indications in the genital area:

      • A sore, ulcer or rash on the penis, vagina or vulval lips
      • A sore, ulcer or rash on or near anus
      • Swollen glands in the groin
      • A burning sensation or pain on urination
      • An itchy or sore vagina or an itchy penis tip
      • Pain on intercourse
      • Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
      • A frequent urge to urinate

      Indications in the other parts of body:

      • Patchy hair loss
      • Eye infection
      • A sore ulcer or rash in the mouth
      • A sore throat
      • Body rash
      • A rash, sore or ulcer on finger or hand

      Related Conditions from Internal Spread of Diseases:

      • Abdominal pain
      • Low backache
      • Excessively painful periods
      • Nausea
      • Low grade fever

      Advice to Infected Persons:

      • If you suspect that you have a sexually transmitted disease, have a medical examination done as soon as possible.
      • Consult a qualified doctor. Call on your family physician.
      • Follow the prescribed treatment fully.
      • Never go to quacks, who may appear in newspapers or billboard advertisements. Due to their ignorance the disease will progress to a stage where the damage will be irreversible.
      • Confide in someone you trust.
      • Warn your sex partners to seek medical aid.
      • Avoid sexual contact.
      • Avoid re-infection. Avoid promiscuous sexual activity.

      Some Tips on How to Avoid Getting Infected

      The following procedures will help to reduce the risk of infection. It can in no way guarantee prevention of STD

      • Wash genitals daily.
      • Change underwear daily. Use only cotton underwear.
      • Avoid contact with chemicals that irritate the genitals.
      • Wipe the bottom (anus) from front to back (especially women)
      • Keep sexual contact to one partner, who is free from infections
      • Look for discharge or sores on a new partner's genitals.
      • Use a condom during intercourse.
      • Wash genitals before and after intercourse.
      • Urinate immediately after intercourse.


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