February 14, in addition to Valentine’s Day, is the European Sexual Health Day, although few people are aware of it. However, it is worth remembering, because sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continue to grow, and a lot, in our country. Especially among those under 25 years of age, but they have also increased in those of 30, 40 and 50 years. The reason? The risk is underestimated and protective measures are not taken.
However, contracting an STI and not treating and diagnosing it in time involves health risks. It can cause menstrual disorders, pelvic pain and affect the reproductive system and cause abortions or infertility problems. In the case of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), it can generate lesions that favor the development of cancer. But most women believe that this issue does not concern them, since they do not know of cases in their environment or they believe that their friends have not been infected”, explains Dr. Antonella de Ponte, gynecologist at Dexeus Mujer. However, they are unaware that STIs do not always cause symptoms, and when they do exist, they are not always visible. In addition, infected people do not know it, or do not usually tell it and do not always inform their partners, especially if they are in sporadic relationships, which facilitates its transmission, ”she adds.
For this reason it is important to take preventive measures and carry out specific control checks, especially if we are in risky relationships or do not know if our partner may be infected. If you want to find out, consult your gynecologist, and if you have recently had a risky relationship and do not know if you may have been infected with an STI, at our center we offer a Visit Service in a maximum of 24 hours.
These are the most frequent, viral and non-viral:
It is caused by a bacterium. It is more common among women under 25 years of age. It affects the genital organs, the rectum and the throat. It is often asymptomatic. For this reason, in our center we offer to do a specific test to all young people who already have sexual relations when they come to visit each other. If left untreated, it can cause health problems and affect the reproductive system.
Symptoms. Some of its symptoms, if present, are: the need to urinate more frequently and a burning sensation when doing so, altered vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding between menstrual cycles or after vaginal penetration, discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse, abdominal pain, low back pain and fever.
How can it be prevented and treated? The correct use of condoms is the only method that can help reduce its transmission. To diagnose it, a specific test must be done. It can be easily treated with oral antibiotics. If you have been infected, you must inform your partner(s) so that they can also carry out the treatment.
It is caused by a bacterium. It is transmitted during sexual relations (vaginal, anal, oral) without protection, by contact with the genital, pharyngeal and rectal secretions of infected people. If not diagnosed and treated early, it can cause health problems, as the bacteria can spread through the reproductive system and, in some cases, cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women, skin lesions, and joint pain.
Symptoms: If they appear, they are similar to those caused by Chlamydia infection. To make the diagnosis it is necessary to do a specific test and take samples of the urethral, vaginal, anal or pharyngeal secretions of the infected person.
How can it be prevented and treated? It is treated with antibiotics, taken orally or with injections. It often coincides with chlamydial infection, so in some cases treatment is prescribed for both.
It is caused by a bacterium. It is transmitted through vaginal, oral or anal sexual practices. If left untreated, it can cause serious health problems, including changes in the cardiovascular and nervous systems. A simple blood test allows to know if a person is infected or not.
Symptoms. It causes lesions on the skin and mucous membranes that are not always visible. From there, the bacteria spreads through the body through the blood and lymphatic system.
How can it be prevented and treated ? The correct use of condoms during penetrative sexual practices (vaginal, anal and oral) helps prevent its transmission. It is also important to avoid contact with skin or mucous membrane lesions during sexual intercourse. It can be cured with antibiotic treatment. For people allergic to penicillin there are other antibiotics available.
It is caused by a parasite. It mainly affects women. It is transmitted during unprotected vaginal intercourse with an infected person, and by contact with genital secretions from the penis or vagina. It can also be spread by sharing sex toys.
Symptoms: More than 50% of infected people are asymptomatic and, therefore, do not know they are infected, unless they undergo a diagnostic test. When there are symptoms, from contagion to its appearance it can take from four days to five weeks in the case of women, and around five days in the case of men. It is usually necessary to take a sample of vaginal secretions to confirm the diagnosis.
How can it be treated? It is easily cured with oral antibiotics. If you have been infected, you should tell your partner so they can also get tested and treated.
It is caused by the herpes simplex virus or HSV. There are several types of herpes simplex virus, but only two, HSV-1 and HSV-2, cause genital herpes. HSV-2 is the main cause of herpes in the genital area, although it can also infect other parts of the body—for example, the mouth—during oral sex.
Symptoms: In most cases it does not cause symptoms. When they exist, they present in the form of multiple lesions, such as vesicles or painful ulcers.
How can it be prevented and treated? Currently there is no curative treatment for genital herpes infection, but there are drugs that can reduce the symptoms, number and duration of repeated outbreaks. The condom helps reduce the risk of transmission.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
It is transmitted during sexual intercourse with or without penetration (vaginal, anal); through direct skin contact. There are approximately 120 different varieties, of which only about 14 are considered high risk. During life, even if we have passed any of the varieties, we can become infected again by one of the others. Therefore, it requires constant review.
Symptoms: The infection can go unnoticed because sometimes it does not cause symptoms or the lesions it produces (warts or warts) cannot be seen with the naked eye due to their size or location (cervix, urethra, etc.). In addition, several months can pass between the time of infection by the virus and the appearance of genital warts. Warts can also appear in the mouth, lips, or throat. Warty lesions are considered low risk, but lesions caused by high-risk varieties or serotypes, precursors of cervical cancer, can only be detected by cytology. Some patients may experience some symptoms such as postcoital or intermenstrual bleeding, pain with intercourse or pelvic pain.
How can it be prevented and treated? To protect yourself, if you do not know if your partner may be infected, it is important to use condoms or other barrier methods during sexual practices (vaginal, oral or anal). However, keep in mind that areas that cannot be covered with a condom are left unprotected (for example, the scrotum or vulva), so it is important to be aware of possible symptoms and have regular check-ups. Cytology can detect if there is any alteration, but for the diagnosis a specific test must be done. Warts can be treated to make them go away, but there is no treatment to get rid of the virus. It is our immune system that must defeat it.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
It is a virus that attacks the immune system, weakening the defenses and making us susceptible to many infections. HIV is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids from an infected person, such as blood, breast milk, semen, or vaginal secretions, and can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth. It is not possible to become infected through contacts such as kissing, hugging, and handshakes, or by sharing personal items, water, or food. It can be transmitted as long as a sufficient amount of blood, semen, or vaginal discharge arrives. The risk of contagion depends on the sexual practice. If anal or vaginal penetration occurs without a condom, the risk is high, while in relationships that involve oral contact with the genital organs, the risk of contagion is lower. If you have menstruation or mucosal lesions, the risk increases. For a while people do not have an infection, which facilitates its transmission.
Symptoms: HIV infection is not the same as having acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. AIDS is a disease that destroys the immune system. It is produced by the HIV virus. AIDS favors the appearance of opportunistic infections and other more serious health problems, such as cancer.
How can it be prevented and treated? Using barrier methods such as condoms reduce the risk of transmission. HIV infection currently cannot be cured, but antiretroviral therapy, which combines several drugs, reduces the amount of HIV in the blood and prevents it from replicating in the body. It also helps the immune system to recover. These treatments must be followed throughout life.