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A Breakdown of Sexually Transmitted Infections and Its Effects on Women

A Breakdown of Sexually Transmitted Infections and Its Effects on Women

Nearly 20 million people in the United States of America get diagnosed with STIs every year out of which nine million are women. Here are some important things you need to know.

STIs are sexually transmitted infections which can progress into STDs if timely treatment and precautions are not taken. STIs become serious when the virus or bacteria enter the body and start multiplying, making the infection more progressive. Both men and women of all backgrounds and economic levels in the US can contract sexually transmitted infections. According to Women's Health, nearly 20 million people in the United States get an STI each year. More than nine million women in the US have been diagnosed with STIs every year. But half of all new infections are among young people 15 to 24 years old. Therefore, it's also important to educate children about the need to protect themselves.

It is common knowledge that most STIs are only spread through direct sexual contact, where one comes into contact with infected body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluids, semen. Another commonly known way for STIs to spread is through sharing needles or syringes used for injecting drugs, ear piercing, tattooing, etc. But they can also be spread through contact with broken, infected skin or mucous membranes, such as sores in the mouth.

Pixabay
Pixabay

The most commonly transmitted STIs

1. Gonorrhea

2. Syphilis

3. Chlamydia

4. Human papillomavirus (HPV)

5. Hepatitis B

6. Genital Herpes

7. Zika

8. HIV Aids

It's important to be aware of the STIs that have a greater significance in affecting your health. STI symptoms can be mild or will be completely absent compared to STDs where the symptoms are more prominent. When women experience STI symptoms it's easily mistaken for yeast or a urinary tract infection. If you're worried about getting STIs, it's crucial to get it checked with your local doctor to identify the symptoms:

1. Severe pain when you urinate

2. Unusual vaginal bleeding

3. Rashes in uncommon places

4. Unusual discharge from the penis, vagina or anus

5. Sore or blisters around the genital area

6. Lumps or growth of extra skin around the genital area

Pixabay
Pixabay

Women's experiences with STIs are different from that of men. They are more susceptible to STIs than men which is primarily because of their anatomy. Women's vagina is covered with a thin delicate mucous membrane while men have a thicker coating on their penis. Hence, this increases the chances of virus, bacteria, and infections to grow or pass through in women. The vagina provides a perfect environment for bacteria and virus to thrive if a healthy vaginal pH level isn't maintained. The normal pH level of the vagina is between 3.8 and 4.5, however, anything above 4.5 allows bacteria to grow.

Secondly, the symptoms are less obvious for women because many of them are easily mistaken for less harmful and common infections such as urinary tract or yeast infection. For example, when you see vaginal discharge after your periods, you might not pay heed because slight vaginal discharge does occur normally, or you may think that burning/itching is related to a yeast infection. Men, however, will notice discharge since it is uncommon amongst them.

Due to these reasons, most women end up delaying treatment for STIs while increasing the risk of the infection affect their overall health. You can't be too sure of STI symptoms, so it's always better to consult your doctor when you notice irregularities in your body. It's important to go for regular tests if you're sexually active. Men show more prominent symptoms for STIs such as Gonorrhea or Chlamydia as compared to women. Symptoms include pain when urinating, penile discharge and swollen testicles for Chlamydia. 

If you let the infection go untreated, it's bound to cause long-term complications like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID is common in women and can lead to infertility, chronic pelvic pain or ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that takes place in the fallopian tubes rather than the uterus). Untreated HPV, which is a common infection among 290 million women, can lead to cervical cancer or changes in the cervix.

Women can pass STIs to their unborn children if left untreated. According to the National Institutes of Health, it's significant for women to be tested for STDs or STIs as part of their prenatal care. Early treatment can prevent the transmission of diseases and reduce the risk for the mother as well as the child. STIs during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy and other complications. There are several tests and vaccines that can be taken to prevent a higher risk for women. "An effective CMV vaccine for women of childbearing age could greatly reduce the disability caused by the virus," said Dr. Duane Alexander, Director of the NICHD, the NIH institute that funded the study.

Pixabay
Pixabay

Prevention of STIs

According to a study by Dr. Jeanna M. Piper, Microbicide Branch, Prevention Sciences Program, "Many different types of initiatives have been attempted to reduce the annual incidence of STIs including systematic initiatives (e.g. public health policy changes) and community-based programs (e.g. targeted educational campaigns)." Sexual intercourse is a part of life and it's a natural process, however, countermeasures can be taken to prevent getting STIs, like:

1. Get vaccinated

2. Get yourself and your partner tested for STIs and STDs regularly

3. Use contraceptives

4. Limit the number of sexual partners

According to the National Institute of Health, symptoms or progression of STI or STD can be reduced through different kinds of treatments. Several methods of treatment are provided to treat STI and STD-causing bacteria. The treatments provided are based on the complication of the bacteria or virus attained. The most common treatment given is antibiotics, which is done orally. For some STIs, treatment may involve getting a shot. For other STIs that can't be cured, like herpes or HIV and AIDS, medicines can help reduce the symptoms.

Consult your local doctor if you're faced with these symptoms to get yourself immediately treated.

 

References:

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/sexually-transmitted-infections#18

http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/sexual-health/womens-health/women-and-stis/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sexually-transmitted-infections-stis/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(STIs)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610536/

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/newsroom/releases/experimental_vaccine_during_pregnancy

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/stds/conditioninfo/types

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pelvic-inflammatory-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352594

https://www.healthline.com/health/mens-health-signs-of-common-stds#hepatitis-b

https://www.healthline.com/health/gonorrhea

https://www.healthline.com/health/std/syphilis

https://www.medinfi.com/blog/chlamydia-symptoms-causes-men-women/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI27az3_zf3wIVApKPCh0ynwaxEAAYBCAAEgIiHfD_BwE

https://www.healthline.com/health/human-papillomavirus-infection

https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/vaginal-ph-balance#normal-ph

https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis-b

https://www.healthline.com/health/std/genital-herpes

https://www.healthline.com/health/zika-rash

https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids

https://www.cdc.gov/std/health-disparities/stds-women-042011.pdf

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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