STIs or STDs?
When a person thinks about the risks that exist when you have sex, we more often think STDs or sexually transmitted diseases. But to the average person, the term STIs can easily not occur to you. Now an infection entails that a virus, bacteria, or parasite has invaded your system and keep in mind that not every infection you get in your life equals symptoms.
If an infection progresses and begins to show clear symptoms, then it is classified as a disease. So you can think of it this way, not all the STIs become STDs but all STDs start as an STI. So, now at this time you know the difference between the two, so let us dig in on types of STDs and how to treat and prevent them.
Causes of STDs
STIs are infections that are commonly transferred from one person to the other through sexual contact. Which includes contact with body fluids or with vaginal, anal, or oral sex. And as stated earlier not all of them have to develop into a disease. They may leave the body on their own, such as hepatitis B, or by treating them with medication. However, if you should leave an infection in your body and it is already showing symptoms by damaging and interrupt its normal functions, then at this point it becomes an STD.
The following STI symptoms, if they should appear, it can start with:
- Bleeding or a discharge from the vagina or penis
- Feeling uncomfortable or even pain during urination and/or sexual activity
- A feeling of itchiness around the vagina
- If you should feel pain or swelling around the testicles
- After sexual intercourse you might experience unexpected bleeding
- You may experience a rash, or sores, or even bumps around the groin area or mouth
Be sure to remember that, as mentioned above, not all STIs have symptoms. Symptoms tend to vary if the infection becomes an STD. Some will be similar to the the earlier mentioned symptoms, from unexpected bleeding, to pain when urinating and during sexual intercourse. Still STDs can manifest in different ways, and show symptoms other than the ones stated:
- Feelings of nausea
- Experiencing changes in your hearing and vision
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Unexplained repetitive pain
- Lapses in memory and loss in weight
- Experience swelling
Different kinds of STDs
If you look it up, you will find that there are a number of varying STIs, but do not worry that is not the focus of this article. Thankfully the number of STDs are fewer in comparison. They are all different from the next, and will be explained more in depth below. They range from STIs that cause infections like chlamydia, and gonorrhea which can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or even some types of cancer which is caused by HPV or human papillomavirus.
Syphilis is an infection that is generally seen as an STI, but it is an uncommon infection. Initially the infection appears as a single to several round sores that show up either on the mouth, anus, or genital region. Now if it is left to do as it pleases in the body, then it will move on to its latent stage which shows no symptoms to take notice of. And roughly 10 to 30 years later, a serious disease named Tertiary syphilis can develop. This can occur in around a quarter of infections, and now it has the ability to affect your internal organs and may lead to death.
Consequences of this disease affect your internal organs and entail the following symptoms:
- Lapses in memory
- Developing heart disease
- Your vision is affected and can cause vision loss
- Your mental health is affected
- Loss in hearing
- Developing infections in the spinal cord and brain
When you get tested and detect syphilis as early as you can, this enhances your chances of getting treated before it can cause considerable damage to your body. Penicillin injection can cure you of bacteria causing the disease and remove it from your body, but sadly it can not reverse any damage caused by it. If it is not caught and treated early enough, it can cause complications in major organs such as the heart and in these cases you will need to get further treatment.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Even though this infection affecting the female reproductive organs is considered a disease, there are some women who do not experience any visible symptoms. Common root causes for this disease are chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and gonorrhea. If they are left untreated in the person, then it can develop into PID. However, a tidbit to keep track of is that not these pathogens are not the only cause for PID, the cause does not need to come from an STI.
Other bacterial infections may also play a role for the formation of the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 2.5 million women in the U.S have communicated that they suffer from a lifetime diagnosis of PID.
Same as with STIs in general, not all Human papillomavirus (HPV) strains lead to the formation of a disease, but other strains that do exist. If you are infected with such a strain then you may develop abnormal growth in certain areas of your body and are listed below.
- Penile cancer
- Oral cancer
- Vulvar cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Anal cancer
The two most likely culprits of HPV strains that tend to cause cancerous growths are HPV 16 and HPV 18, this was reported by the National Cancer Institute. Statistically, HPV causes 60% of penile cancers, 75% of vaginal cancers, and 90% of anal cancers. Each cancer is different as well as its symptoms depending on the area it appears in. Common symptoms include bleeding, swelling, and pain. Treatment options can handle the developing cancer if caught early on, and there exist tests that are able to detect any cell changes caused by HPV to stop it from becoming cancerous.
STDs with pregnancy
Certain STIs may reach a baby during pregnancy, or even a newly born baby with the infection happening in childbirth. But that is definitely the case for all STDs. Genital warts or HPV infections may rarely reach the fetus, but it may happen. If the mother contracts syphilis during pregnancy then it may infect the fetus, and may lead to the baby’s death inside. Also PID can impact the health of a mother, by possibly causing infertility (1 in 10 people) and increasing her chance of an ectopic pregnancy.
Other things to think about when you are pregnant:
- Talk with your doctor if you have an STD, as they need to double check if the medication is safe right now or even delay taking it
- You should get tested for STIs such as syphilis or HIV, to get treatment before any complications happen
- A C-section or cesarean procedure might be needed to deliver your baby, if the HPV infection does not allow for the vagina to stretch well enough
HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus when it infects a person it slowly infiltrates their immune system, and turns them into “factories” for its reproduction. Eventually the immune cell is destroyed as they emerge from it, this damages the person’s immune system and elevates your risk of developing all kinds of infections. It can even contribute to the development of certain cancers.
Nowadays HIV infected people lead easier lives, due to modern medication that fights the virus more successfully. And if left untreated then it can develop AIDS or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, where your body is now vulnerable to serious infections as you majorly lack a functioning immune system. Visible symptoms include the following:
- Opportunistic Infections are more common due to drop in immune cells
- Neurological conditions due to migration of the virus to the brain
- Quick weight loss
- Several types of cancer AIDS affected people are susceptible towards
- Fatigue felt in the body, possible reason being the body spending energy to fight off the infection
- Sores or ulcers develop usually in a small percentage of patients
Till now there is not a cure for AIDS, but avenues for a cure in the future might show itself soon enough. Before AIDS patients could not hope to live long with their immune system not functioning as it should, but nowadays if they start treatment early and take their prescribed medicine they can live as long as HIV-ve people.
Diagnosing STDs by your symptoms is not always an easy task, at that point they will need to examine you and order tests to be done to aid in the diagnosis. And depending on the STD, there will be varying levels of invasive testing.
- Blood tests
- A physical examination
- Body fluid swabs
- Certain procedures like a keyhole surgery can be used to diagnose, patients usually recover within a week
Obviously the best way to avoid getting an STD, is by preventing an STI and stopping it from escalating to STD. Pretty much the only way to avoid that is by not having sex at all, but since that is not a realistic solution you will need find ays to have safer sex and reduce risk of infection. Make sure to talk with your new partner about your sexual history, before getting into it and discuss what both of you are comfortable with.
Get regular tests for STIs every 3 months if you have multiple partners or every 6 if you are monogamous and only one partner. Also getting tested for HIV every 3 to 6 months for your safety and your partner. If the other person refuses then do not engage sexually with him. Using condoms and making sure it fits properly is a great way for STI prevention regardless if you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex. But you can use dental dams to perform oral sex safely. If you should fall under the category of likelier HIV infections then you can use PrEP every day. Also think about getting vaccinated for hepatitis B and HPV.
Just as different STDs have varying effects on the body, the treatment options are also different and depend on the condition affecting the body. Some STDs require a lifestyle change, such as abstaining from sex until you finish your treatment. Remember you can’t always fix the damage done to you by an STD, just like till now there is not a cure for AIDS. Current available treatment options include:
- Surgical procedures
- Laser therapy
- Oral/topical medication
To conclude what has been said in this article
A great deal of STDs are treatable and can be easy to manage if you catch them early on, and some can endanger your life such as AIDS if not caught and managed early. As mentioned above, not all are curable but some have less major effects on your body and cause less damage. Remember to have safe sex and to get tested regularly if you should be sexually active and especially if you have multiple partners.