Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)

Introduction to Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually Transmitted Diseases are infections that are transferred from one person to another either through direct sexual contact or by contact with blood or secretions of an infected person. Sexual contact includes kissing, vaginal intercourse, oral sex, anal sex and the use of sexual “toys,” such as vibrators. They can also be transmitted via the use of IV drug needles after its use by an infected person, as well as through childbirth or breastfeeding. Most STDs are curable if diagnosed and treated in their early stages, but some of them are very dangerous that they can even cause death. Some can also lead to related conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, and complications in pregnancy.
Most STDs can be avoided by practicing safe sex by limiting the partners, by using contraceptives such as condoms etc. STD’s are now preferably known as STIs because a person may be infected, and may potentially infect others, without showing any signs of disease.

Types of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually Transmitted Diseases can be caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses.
Some Common STD's are:

  • Bacterial Diseases
    • Chlamydia- Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It infects the urethra, rectum and eyes in both sexes, and the cervix in women. If left untreated, long-term infection can lead to fertility problems in women.
    • Gonorrhea- Cause by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can infect the urethra, cervix, rectum, anus and throat.
    • Syphilis- Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidium. It infects the genital area, lips, mouth, or anus of both men and women and can spread through the bloodstream to all parts of the body.
  • Fungal
    • Candidiasis or Thrush- It is a yeast infection caused by the Candida species of fungus Candidiasis. It is not a true STD but can be contracted sexually, causing burning, itching and discomfort.
  • Viral
    • Hepatitis B- Hepatitis' refers to viral infections that cause inflammation of the liver. There are several different types of hepatitis (Hepatitis A to G), of which Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common ones. Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease spread by the Hepatitis B virus and is frequently passed on through sexual contact or the exchange of bodily fluids with an infected person.
    • Genital Herpes- Herpes is caused by two strains of the herpes simplex virus, type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is more likely to affect the mouth and lips in the form of cold sores, whereas HSV-2 is more common and usually manifests itself in the genital and anal area. Herpes is spread by direct sexual skin-to-skin contact with the infected site during vaginal, anal or oral sex with or without visible blisters.
    • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/AIDS)- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that kills or damages the body's immune system which can lead to serious infections that don't often affect healthy people. Infection with HIV causes AIDS. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and is an advanced form of an HIV infection.
    • HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) - skin and mucosal contact- Human papilloma viruses (HPV) are common viruses that can cause genital warts  or cancers of the cervix, vagina, penis and anus depending on their severity & whether they are of high or low risk.
  • Parasites
    • Scabies- Scabies is an intensely itchy, contagious skin infestation of the parasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Scabies it not strictly a sexually transmitted disease, as the scabies mite can be passed on through other forms of prolonged direct skin contact.

Signs / Symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
STD symptoms vary, but the most common are soreness, unusual lumps or sores, itching, pain when urinating, and/or an unusual discharge from the genitals.

  • Chlamydia
    • Chlamydia usually doesn't cause symptoms. If it does, there might be a burning feeling during urination or an abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis.
    • In both men and women, chlamydia can infect the urinary tract.
    • In women, infection of the reproductive system can lead to Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause infertility or serious problems with pregnancy.
    • Babies born to infected mothers can get eye infections and pneumonia from chlamydia.
    • In men, chlamydia can infect the epididymis, the tube that carries sperm. This can cause pain, fever and rarely, infertility.
  • Gonorrhea
    • Symptoms of gonorrhea usually appear between 1 and 14 days after exposure, but it is possible to have no symptoms. Men are more likely to notice symptoms than women.
    • Symptoms can include:
    • A burning sensation when urinating
    • A white/yellow discharge from the penis
    • A change in vaginal discharge
    • Irritation or discharge from the anus (if the rectum is infected)
  • Syphilis
    Syphilis symptoms can be difficult to recognize and may take 3 months to appear after sexual contact with an infected person. They include:
    • One or more painless ulcers on the penis, vagina, vulva, cervix, anus or mouth
    • Small lumps in the groin due to swollen glands
    • A non-itchy rash
    • Fever or flu-like symptoms
    • Left untreated, the infection progresses to a latent stage. This may be followed by tertiary syphilis, which can seriously affect organs such as the heart, and can sometimes lead to death.
  • Candidiasis or Thrush
    • The symptoms of a thrush infection are:
    • In women - irritation, itching, thick white discharge, redness, soreness and swelling of the vagina and vulva.
    • In men - irritation, discharge from the penis, difficulty pulling back the foreskin usually caused by the swelling of the head of the penis
  • Hepatitis B
    • Persons who become infected with HBV experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, but may still carry the infectious virus and pass it on to others. When symptoms do appear they are similar to those of hepatitis A and may include:
    • A short, mild, flu-like illness
    • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
    • Loss of appetite
    • Weight loss
    • Jaundice (yellow skin and whites of eyes, darker yellow urine and pale feces)
    • Itchy skin
  • Genital Herpes
    • Symptoms of herpes usually appear 2 to 7 days after first exposure to the virus and last 2 to 4 weeks. Symptoms include an eruption of small, painful, fluid-filled blisters or ulcers that appear on the skin or on the mucous membranes, such as those lining the eyes, vagina, cervix, lips, and gums or inside of the mouth. The skin around the blisters is often red. Other multiple symptoms for both men and women could be as follows:
      • Itching or tingling sensations in the genital or anal area
      • Small fluid-filled blisters that burst leaving small painful sores
      • Pain when passing urine over the open sores (especially in women)
      • Headaches
      • Backache
      • Flu-like symptoms, including swollen glands or fever
      • Mouth sores
    • Once the first outbreak of blisters has gone, the herpes virus hides away in nerve fibres near the infection site, where it remains dormant, causing no symptoms. Symptoms may come back later (particularly during times of stress and illness) but usually in less severe and shorter episodes.
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/AIDS)
    • HIV infection mostly goes unnoticed & without symptoms in the symptoms in the early stages. People who get the virus may develop a brief cold or flu-like illness 2 to 6 weeks after becoming infected.  The immune system of the individual may get severely affected beginning with mild infections or further develop into chronic symptoms such as:
      • Swollen lymph nodes
      • Weight loss
      • Fever
      • Cough
      • Shortness of breath
    • During the late HIV stage, more serious symptoms may start to appear such as:
      • Swelling of lymph nodes for over 3 months
      • Chronic diarrhea
      • Lasting headaches
      • Persistent, unexplained fatigue
      • Soaking night sweats
      • High fever (greater than 100°F ) & chills for several weeks
  • HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) - skin and mucosal contact
    • Some sub-types of human papilloma virus (HPV) cause genital warts. They can appear on the skin anywhere in the genital area as small whitish or flesh-coloured bumps, or larger, fleshy, cauliflower-like lumps.
    • They are unlikely to cause pain but may itch and can be difficult to spot.
    • Often there are no other symptoms of genital warts, but if a woman has a wart on her cervix she may experience slight bleeding or unusual coloured vaginal discharge.
  • Scabies
    • Symptoms begin 2 to 6 weeks after infection and include:
    • Burrows that appear as silvery or brown wavy lines up to 15 millimetres (half an inch) in length. The burrows can appear anywhere, but usually occur on the webbing between fingers and toes, on the genitals, around the anus, or on the buttocks, elbows or wrists.
    • An intensely itchy rash of inflamed pimple-like lumps (papules/lesions) as an allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs and feces.
    • Widespread itching, particularly at night or after baths when the body is warmer, as a reaction to the mites.

Related Tests to Sexually Transmitted Diseases

  • Herpes Simplex Virus
  • HPV
  • HBSAg
  • HIV I & II
  • Western Blot

Synonyms : Venereal disease (VD)
Book Related Tests
  • TORCH - 8
  • HBe Antigen (HBeAg)
  • HSV(Herpes Simplex Virus) 1&2 IgM
  • HSV(Herpes Simplex Virus) 1&2 IgG
  • HIV I & II
  • HIV - Western Blot (Confirmatory Test)