I remember growing up and being terrified of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Despite myself, I still am. And who isn’t? The way people put it, you make one decision — sleep with one wrong person — and it’s all over. You’re infected with some nebulous disease, and, once you have it, you’re dead.
That was the general impression, anyway. Until recently, I wasn’t sure what most STDs even did. In reality, many STDs are treatable with antibiotics. They spread when partners aren’t tested before having sex, and what makes them so dangerous is that their symptoms can be difficult to recognize, if they have initial symptoms at all. This allows them to spread to more vital parts of the body, which is when the real danger begins. Now, for the obligatory reminder: the best thing you can do for yourself, before or after you’ve contracted an STD, is to talk to your doctor. The faster you get yourself treated, the better things will be in the long run! And while condoms help, the only certain way to prevent STDs is abstinence.
There are two types of STDs: bacterial and viral. The bacterial ones are the ones you can cure; viral STDs, like HIV/AIDS, HPV, herpes and hepatitis are the ones you can only manage. If you contract one of these, you’re likely stuck with it for the rest of your life. Keep in mind that not having symptoms doesn’t mean you’re cured; you can still pass infections onto others even if you’re feeling fine, yourself. Below is a list of STDs, what they do, and how they’re treated.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea both cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause infertility and early births in women and infection of the urethra and rectum in men. Both are treated with antibiotics. If you are infected with gonorrhea, both you and your partner need to be treated and retested after three months to make sure the infection has passed.
At first, syphilis causes sores to appear on the body. Then it causes rashes throughout the body, often accompanied by fever, weight loss and swollen lymph glands. All of these will fade without treatment, but the disease will lie dormant in the body and wreak havoc on the heart and brain later. Patients who aren’t treated have been known to suffer dementia, paralysis, and blindness among other things. But don’t worry! While syphilis used to be a huge health issue, penicillin and its more scientific-sounding cousins have kicked its butt. So much so that one dose is said to be enough to cure it if it’s caught early enough. While undergoing treatment, it is crucial that the patient abstain from sexual contact to avoid spreading the disease.
Also known as trich, this disease is very common and very curable with the right medication. The problem is that most people don’t show symptoms. The main problem with it, other than the discomfort while using the bathroom, is that it can increase the likelihood of you catching and spreading other STDs. If pregnant, a woman can also give birth earlier than expected and trich can also cause a low birth weight in the child. The good news is, you can be treated for trich while pregnant.
This is one you’re stuck with for life. What that means is you get outbreaks from time to time, though medicines and suppressive therapy can lessen the number and severity of said outbreaks. These herpes are similar to the viruses that cause cold sores. If you or your partner has genital herpes, you can reduce the chance of you or your partner getting infected by avoiding sex when outbreaks occur. If pregnant, it’s possible to pass the disease onto your child, which can result in a fatal infection called neonatal herpes. In cases like this, it’s imperative that you speak to your doctor.
This disease causes warts to appear on your hands, feet and genitalia which often disappear on their own. While that doesn’t sound serious at first glance, it can also cause cervical cancer in women. Vaccines exist that can help prevent the contraction of HPV. As a viral disease, this is another example of an infection that sticks once you’ve caught it.
This virus causes liver damage over time, and all treatments for it aim to prevent said damage from happening. There are currently five drugs on the market that do this, though each come with drawbacks that would require a doctor’s visit to go over. In severe cases, a liver transplant may be the best option. Symptoms of Hepatitis B include fever, headache, stomach pain, fatigue and jaundice after most other symptoms go away. Three or four doses of a vaccine can help prevent you from contracting the disease.
The scariest of all, AIDS starts out as HIV, which is a virus that weakens the immune system and causes you to get other diseases more easily. Over time HIV develops into AIDS, in which symptoms get worse and eventually kill you. The disease can be passed even if you have no symptoms, and the virus can lie dormant in the body for years. Prevention is essential, because this disease has no cure. Treatments for HIV and AIDS involve taking a huge amount of preventative drugs, which in themselves can have negative side effects. Fortunately, though, AIDS patients’ life expectancy is expanding. Many people with the disease are now expected to live normal lifespans due to these treatments. But again, seeing a doctor right away is essential if you think you’ve been infected with HIV.