You always run the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) when you indulge in any sexual activity. But did you know that there are at least ten types of STIs? Not sure you can name all of them? We give you a breakdown of each one of them.
Let’s get straight to the point. Having an STI will not ruin your life. Most STIs are curable and the chronic, incurable ones can be managed when detected early. Some, however, if left untreated can lead to infertility or serious complications (e.g. AIDS or Syphilis). The key is to protect yourself with condoms, know the symptoms, and get tested and treated regularly to prevent the spread of the disease.
1. Trichomoniasis (aka Trich)
Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by a protozoan called Trichomonas vaginalis. The bug can cause irritation and inflammation of the genitals resulting in burning, itching or foul-smelling vaginal discharge. Up to 50% of those infected have no symptoms. Left untreated, it can cause chronic inflammation and increase your risk for other STIs.TRANSMISSION: Vaginal intercourseCURE: 1 week of antibiotics
2. Human Papillomavirus (aka HPV)
HPV infection is a viral infection that causes a range of symptoms from none to genital warts to cervical changes that can lead to cervical cancer. There are over 200 types of HPV strains and it’s the most common STI affecting up to 90% of sexually active adults at some point. The good news is that you can protect yourself from the high-risk HPV types that develop into cervical cancer by getting the HPV vaccine.TRANSMISSION: Any sexual contactCURE: No cure, but often the immune system clears the virus within a year or two. Some high-risk types are not cleared and lead to cervical cancer therefore it’s important to be routinely screened with your doctor.
3. Genital Warts
Genital warts show up as cauliflower-like bumps in the genital regions surrounding the anus and vagina. While the warts are itchy, they are usually painless. A less common strain of HPV that isn’t associated with cervical cancer is usually the culprit for genital warts.TRANSMISSION: Any sexual contactCURE: Can be removed with creams, cryotherapy (freezing them off), or surgery, however, they are likely to come back.
4. Pubic Lice (aka Crabs)
Lice are tiny insects that infest the pubic hair, suck your blood, and lay eggs. The result? Your pubic area itches like crazy.TRANSMISSION: Sexual contact, linen, and clothesCURE: Topical creams and lotions
Herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The virus can cause painful outbreaks on the mouth, vagina, rectum, and butt cheeks.TRANSMISSION: Kissing and any sexual contactCURE: Incurable, but a daily antiviral pill can prevent outbreaks
6. Gonorrhoea (aka Clap)
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that can lead to vaginal discharge, inflammation, and pelvic pain. Sometimes, it has no symptoms, therefore if you’re sexually active it’s important to be screened regularly. If left untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy and infertility.TRANSMISSION: Oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse, mother-to-child transmissionCURE: A combination of oral and injectable antibiotics
Chlamydia is often a silent bacterial infection, meaning many people do not have symptoms. Sometimes, you may experience pelvic pain, vaginal discharge, and burning during urination. If left untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy and infertility.TRANSMISSION: Oral, vaginal, or anal intercourseCURE: A course of antibiotics
Syphilis, a bacterial disease that is rumoured to have plagued Beethoven and Oscar Wilde. Painless sores are first and tell-tale signs of syphilis. Then the infection can spread showing up as a rash on the palms and soles of your hands and feet. If left untreated, it can damage the heart and nervous system, and even make one go mad!TRANSMISSION: Oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse, mother-to-child transmissionCURE: A course of antibiotics
9. Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a virus that affects the liver and can lead to chronic liver disease or failure, sometimes even liver cancer. Fatigue, fever, jaundice, dark urine, and abdominal pain are warning signs, but some have no symptoms at all. You can avoid infection by receiving a series of vaccines, usually given in childhood.TRANSMISSION: Sexual intercourse, intravenous (IV) drug use, and rarely, acupuncture, tattooing and body piercings. Can be passed from mother-to-newborn during childbirth and breastfeeding.CURE: Usually your immune system can fight the infection, but in some cases, it may become chronic and need to be treated with long term antiviral medication .
10. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is a sneaky virus that hides inside the cells of your immune system, weakening your ability to fight off other infections. When first infected you may feel like you have a bad case of the flu. If untreated, you will begin to experience severe symptoms and the virus can then lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), which is deadly. The good news, if it’s caught early, it can be treated with daily medication and people can lead normal healthy lives.TRANSMISSION: Sexual intercourse, exposure to infected blood (e.g. IV drug use), and mother-to-newborn during childbirth and breastfeeding.CURE: There’s no cure yet, but daily antiviral medications can suppress the virus . There are also medications you can take prophylactically to prevent acquiring the virus if you’ve been exposed.
If you’re sexually active, it’s important to get routine screening even if you have no symptoms. Explore our website to find out more about the symptoms and testing of STIs here. As always, you can consult a Veera provider to answer any questions or help diagnose and treat STIs. Stay safe, Veera ladies!
Reviewed by: Dr. Shailly Prasad, Resident Physician, Obstetrics & GynecologyDisclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician.