STIs, STDs And Symptoms Of STDs
In 1999 the WHO recommended that STI be used in preference to STD because it allows for inclusion of sexually transmitted infections that do not necessarily develop into a disease. The medical profession now tends to use this terminology rather than STD for that reason. Which can cause confusion when it comes to determining what is an STI and what is an STD.
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What Is An STD And What Is An STI?
What is an STD and what is the difference between an STD and an STI?
STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. STD’s are a group of infections that are primarily transmitted by sexual contact, more particularly vaginal, anal and oral sex. There are over 30 different known sexually transmitted viruses, parasites and bacteria that can cause STDs.
An STI On The Other Hand….
An STI is a sexually transmitted infection. These days it’s common to see STI used interchangeably with STD but there is a difference between an infection and a disease. So when determining what is an STD we need to be clear about what an STI is too.
Infection And Disease – The Difference
Infection occurs when a parasitic species (ie a virus, parasite or bacteria) invades a host and colonizes. The infection may or may not have harmful effects on the host organism.
A disease is what happens when an infection takes hold and begins to damage or disrupt normal functioning in the host organism.
In other words, not all infections will cause disease but all diseases are caused by infection.
So what is an STD really? An STD is essentially the end result of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. And it’s when an STI reaches the stage of producing some of the better-known symptoms of STDs that, unfortunately, most people start to think about getting medical treatment.
No STD Symptoms Not A Guarantee
Many STIs take time to develop to the point where they produce visible or noticeable STD symptoms such as genital discharges, pain, discomfort, sores, fatigue, nausea, warts and even neurological changes. Therefore, just because you don’t have any symptoms of STDs doesn’t mean you don’t have an STI! Especially if you’ve had a number of sexual partners.
Having no STD symptoms also doesn’t mean you can’t pass on an STI. In fact it’s when an STD is still at the STI stage without any symptoms of STDs that you’re more at risk of picking it up or passing it on.
Prevention Always Better Than A Cure – Free STD Testing
Regular medical checkups are the only way to know if you have an STI. Many jurisdictions now offer free STD testing facilities to make it easy for people to get tested.
So if you suspect you may have an STI, or you’ve noticed you have what look like STD symptoms then you need to get checked immediately.
The best way to avoid all bar STIs that can also be transmitted via other means ie blood transfusion, saliva etc is to abstain from sex altogether! Something that is neither feasible nor practical given that, apart from other considerations, the survival of the human race currently depends on sex.
Condoms do help significantly but they’re no guarantee. Only having a few, or one, sexual partner/s who is also tested clear is another good way to avoid picking up an STI. Male circumcision is also thought to help prevent some types of STDs.
Vaccinations along with access to free STD testing are widely available throughout the developed world, which has reduced the risk of some types of infections like Hepatitis B and some strains of Human papillomavirus (HPV). Unfortunately people who live in underdeveloped countries are not so fortunate with vaccines often in limited supply or simply not available at all. Many of these countries also don’t have the range of free STD testing facilities available that developed countries have.
Quick Overview Of Types Of STI’s / STD’s
Many STI’s can be successfully treated or fully cured, often before they reach the state of producing STD symptoms. Curable STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis. Some of the treatable, but unfortunately incurable, STDs are herpes, hepatitis B, Human papillomavirus and HIV/AIDS. Resistance to some types of antibiotics is also happening with STDs like gonorrhea.
Types Of STI’s / STD’s
As mentioned previously, there are in excess of 30 currently known types of bacteria, parasites and viruses that can cause STDs.
Bacterial Forms Of STIs
Chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis), Gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae – ‘the clap’), and Syphilis (Treponema pallidum) are 3 of the most commonly seen types of bacterial caused, sexually transmitted infections. Other common bacterial types of STIs and STDs are:
- Candidiasis (yeast infection)
- Haemophilus ducreyi (Chancroid)
- Granuloma inguinale (Klebsiella granulomatis)
- Mycoplasma genitalium
- Mycoplasma hominis
- Ureaplasma infection
Common Parasite Caused Forms Of STIs
- Pthirus pubis (Crab louse or pubic lice)
- Sarcoptes scabiei (Scabies)
- Trichomonas vaginalis (Trichomoniasis or trich)
Common Viral STIs
- Hepatitis B virus (Viral hepatitis)
- Herpes simplex virus 1, 2 (Herpes simplex)
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Molluscum contagiosum (MCV)
Here are some of the most common STIs, STDs and symptoms of STDs:
Chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis)
Chlamydia trachomatis, or Chlamydia, is caused by a bacterium that infects the genital tract. A Chlamydia infection can easily go undetected, especially in the early stages, as Chlamydia symptoms may be so mild as to be almost non-existent. Chlamydia symptoms also generally show up between one and three weeks after initial exposure to the bacteria.
If Chlamydia is left untreated it can cause urinary tract infections and also pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID has the potential to cause major pregnancy issues for women, including life threatening ectopic pregnancies as well as infertility in severe cases. It’s important therefore if you do notice any Chlamydia symptoms that you seek medical advice immediately. Most free STD testing facilities can test for Chlamydia and other common types of STIs.
Common Chlamydia Symptoms
The most common Chlamydia symptoms are
- Genital discharges (vaginal in women and penile in men)
- Pain whilst urinating
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Pain in the testicles
- Pain during sex for women
- Bleeding in between periods
Gonorrheae (Neisseria gonorrhoeae)
Gonorrheae is another bacterial infection that affects the genital tract but can also appear in the eyes, mouth, throat and anus. It usually takes around 10 days from initial exposure for gonorrheae symptoms to appear but it can also take months, during which time the infected person may be unwittingly spreading the bacteria through further sexual contact.
Common Gonorrheae Symptoms
- A bloody or cloudy, thick vaginal or penile discharge
- Pain whilst urinating – may also be a burning sensation
- Bleeding in between periods or abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding
- Itching in the anus
- Pain during bowel movements
- Swollen and painful testicles
Trichomoniasis (Trichomonas vaginalis)
Trichomoniasis vaginalis is a one-celled, microscopic parasite spread by sexual intercourse with an infected person. In men it generally inhabits the urinary tract, often without symptoms. In women it characteristically infects the vagina. If symptoms do appear they range from mildly irritating to severely inflamed and usually appear between 5 to 28 days after initial exposure.
Common Trichomoniasis Symptoms
- Vaginal discharge – clear, white, greenish or yellowish
- Penile discharge
- Vaginal odour
- Itching or irritation in the vagina and inside the penis
- Pain whilst urinating
- Painful intercourse
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
HIV is a virus that severely affects the body’s capacity to ward off illness-causing bacteria, viruses and fungi. In extreme cases HIV can bring about AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), a seriously life threatening disease.
Common HIV Symptoms
- Loss of weight
- Shortness of breath, coughing
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph glands and lymph nodes
HSV (Herpes Simplex)
Genital herpes is a virus-caused STI that is extremely contagious and a problem because many people who have it don’t realize as HSV symptoms can be so mild they’re almost non-existent.
Common HSV (Herpes Simplex) Symptoms
- Blisters, ulcers or little red lumps in and around the anal, genital and surrounding areas.
- Pain or an itchy feeling in the buttock, genital and inner thigh areas.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) And Genital Warts
This is another common viral type of STI. Some types of HPV are strongly implicated in cervical cancer and other types produce genital warts.
Common Genital Warts Symptoms
- Small grayish or flesh colored swellings in the genital area
- Discomfort or itchiness in the genital area
- Bleeding during intercourse
- Warts in close proximity that look like a cauliflower
Hepatitis A, B and C are infectious diseases caused by viruses. Hepatitis B is considered an STI because it is spread via venereal fluids and saliva.
Common Hepatitis Symptoms
- Discomfort and pain in the abdominal and liver area
- Vomiting and nausea
- Appetite loss
- Dark urine
- Painful joints and/or muscles
- Jaundice – yellow tinge to skin and whites of the eyes
Syphilis (Treponema pallidum)
Syphilis is the result of bacterial infection. It commonly affects the genitals, mucous membranes and skin but can spread to other areas of the body, including the heart and brain.
Common And Advanced Syphilis Symptoms
- Coin sized reddish brown sores over parts of the body, including soles and palms.
- Aches and soreness
- Distended lymph nodes
- Tiredness and discomfort
- Reduced co-ordination
- Problems with movement
- Changes in behavior
If you experience any of these common Chlamydia symptoms or any other symptoms of STDs seek medical assistance. However, by the time you see many STD symptoms you’ve probably already had the STI for some time. When it comes to the question of what is an STD remember that it’s the end result of picking up an STI. Therefore, if you even suspect you may have contracted an STI, it’s vitally important to either contact your doctor or find your closest free STD testing facility.