When one looks around and takes note of the number of pregnant women in the country, particularly unwed ones, one knows for sure that these women are not protecting themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).
In addition, it is amazing to reflect on the number of women who come to the office for advice or a prescription for contraceptives, but not condoms. It is obvious that they want to protect them-selves against pregnancy but either don’t understand that contraceptives do not protect them against diseases, or that they don’t care. So let me emphasize from the start: Contraceptives, oral or injectable, protect you only against pregnancy, condoms protect you against both.
As usual, perhaps I can talk about a few of the more common STI’s, some of which are actually more prevalent than we think.
Some have called this the ‘clap’ and many a man has experienced its symptoms. Typically in a man, it causes severe pain while urinating and a discharge from the urethra (tube within the penis). Usually this occurs between two to five days after infection from a woman, but it can be up to a week. The discharge is unmistakable; yellow and pusy (purulent). He may also experience a tendency to urinate more frequently and with a serious urge. Left untreated, it may spread to other parts of his genitals, such as his testicles, and a long term complication is that his urethra becomes narrowed so that a surgeon has to insert an instrument every few months to open it so that he can urinate properly.
Women may not have symptoms except a yellow discharge as well and pain during sex because other organs in the pelvic region have been infected, organs inside and outside the general area. One of the most serious complications is what is called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or PID, which can lead to scarring of the tubes and infertility.
Tests can be done on the discharge to confirm the diagnosis, but really any doctor worth his or her salt can make a diagnosis by the story and examination. Treatment does not have to be by injection as in the old days. Tablets in single doses will do fine but see your doctor, not your pharmacist. There are good reasons for this.
These are no strangers to many women, particularly those who are diabetic. As a matter of fact, to the vigilant nurse or doctor, it can serve as a first sign of that disease. Also prone are pregnant women, those who are on contraceptives, antibiotics (as for acne) and those who are immunosuppressed (as in HIV). Those who douche may also have that problem. Usually, there is a thick, sometimes thin, cheesey discharge which may have a mild odor, but which itches and causes some burning on urination and redness in and just around the vagina. It causes no complications to the woman or man – it stays where it is. In men, there may be a few buttons in the groove below the head of his penis. For the women, there are creams and tablets to insert within the vagina, and a cream to use simultaneously on the outside, but nowadays a simple one time capsule will do the trick. Yeast infections are actually not anymore considered sexually transmitted infections.
This is taking over as a cause of infertility and disease in women from gonorrhea. The symptoms are essentially the same as are the signs. Usually, however, it takes a longer time to manifest. The discharge in the woman is almost the same, but in men, in whom the symptoms are the same, and also take a longer time, it tends to be clear or white and sticky. The consequences are the same, so get yourself treated by the doctor!
I will not say much about this because it is not very common these days. Elderly folks will know this very well. It starts out as a chancre, a sore in the genital area, usually on the shaft of the penis, or almost anywhere in the vaginal area for women. Strange thing about it, it is absolutely painless, so one may not notice it. Untreated, it goes into a second stage with a rash on some parts of the body, and still untreated it goes into a third or latent (hidden) stage for up to 20 or 30 years when it will affect the heart, major blood vessels and the brain. It was very often acquired by babies from their mother in the womb in the past. This is why every pregnant mother even today is asked to do a test called RPR, to determine whether there is syphilis in their body. Syphilis has remained treatable by penicillin over the decades, so it’s no problem for your doctor. Penicillin, luckily, is still one of the cheapest around. Bad news, it’s injections.
These are just as the name says. They are caused by a virus called human papilloma virus (HPV) and the importance of this is that it is implicated in cancer of the cervix, a major killer of women. They are soft, moist, minute, pink or red swellings that look like cauliflowers. They should be easily noticeable by both men and women and it is important that you consult your dermatologist or, better yet, your gynecologist for help.
This deserves some emphasis because it seems to be becoming a disease of the 2000′s again as it was in the early 1980′s. It occurs in both men and women as a vesicle (pimple) in the genital area or as groups of vesicles, 7 to 14 days after contact. These will eventually break down and form a very painful or tingling sore, particularly when wet. Untreated, this will last for about a week. But, it will recur because the virus never leaves your body, but hides in your nerve cells called dorsal ganglia. We can control it, but we cannot kill it. It is essentially a nuisance now and then. Some get it more often than others, in the same or different areas.
Females have a greenish yellow frothy discharge with irritation of the genital area. Men may have no symptoms, but sometimes things like irritations of the bladder occur.
A few things are important about these diseases: 1) they are preventable if you stick to one partner, 2) they are also preventable if a condom is used all the time correctly, and 3) they leave you more open to acquiring the HIV.
How much do I need to say about this? I will devote a whole issue to it sometime. Ask me questions.
See you next week.