Your introduction to STDs
General STD symptoms, risk factors & diagnosis
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are pretty common, with millions of new infections occurring each year globally. They are generally passed from person to person by having any kind of sex (vaginal, oral, and so on). In some rare cases, they might even be passed by heavy petting.
It is worth knowing that STDs may not essentially have symptoms. Thus, many people may live with these infections without realizing it. They may keep passing these infections to their sex partners unknowingly. This highlights the importance of regular screening by high-risk individuals.
STDs are caused by a range of microorganisms. Thus, there are bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, chlamydial infections. It is also vital to understand that some infections generally not regarded as STDs may also be contracted through sex. Thus, some people may get infected with hepatitis A, B, and C, even giardia infection.
STDs (Penyakit Menular Seksual) in Malaysia are quite common and cases of syphilis and gonorrhea are also rising. STDs prevalence is considerably high among sex workers (the majority of them have some infection); many of them harbor two or more diseases.
Symptoms of STDs
First and foremost, it is vital to understand that not all STDs cause symptoms. Further, some infections may cause milder symptoms in their early stages and go unnoticed. Just take an example of HIV. It may cause a flu-like illness after about a month. However, after that, it may not cause any symptoms for months or even years. The same is true for chlamydia, hepatitis C, and so on.
Some of the common symptoms associated with STDs are:
- Genital sores or sores in the rectal or even oral area
- Burning sensation or even pain while urinating
- Discharge from penis
- Unusual odor
- Enlarged lymph nodes like those of groins
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Rashes on the trunk, hands, and feet
Some infections may cause generalized symptoms like hepatitis or HIV. Thus, in many, they may cause fatigue, loss of appetite, itchy skin, gastrointestinal changes, pale skin, and so on.
What are the risk factors?
Unprotected sex is the number one cause of STDs. Thus, they are more common who have vaginal or anal sex without protection. The risk with oral sex is relatively lower, but it is still there. It is worth understanding that latex protection is highly protective against various infections, although some risk is always there.
Young age can also be regarded as a risk factor. It is because older adults generally have less sex and thus lower the risk.
Having multiple sex partners is a considerable risk factor, especially if one does not know the partners well.
Experience also shows that substance abuse considerably increases the risk of STDs. It is because a person is more likely to take risky actions under the influence of substances.
Further, injecting drugs is another risk factor. Sharing needles is especially one of the leading causes of HIV, hepatitis B, and C transmission.
Diagnosis of STDs
Perhaps the most common way of diagnosis of STDs is through a blood test. Specialists would generally look for certain infections using immunological methods. However, urine tests and swabs of genitals may also help identify the condition in many cases.
STDs tests in Malaysia are commonly available. If a person had unprotected sex or had close physical contact with sex workers, it may be a good idea to go for an STD panel. STD panel would generally test for most common infections.
Additionally, it is worth understanding that one may need to get tested multiple times. It is because different tests have different window periods. For example, the chances are slim that a person would be diagnosed with HIV or hepatitis within a week of having unprotected sex.
Most STD infections are curable, but not all. HIV is well managed these days but cannot be cured completely. Treating papilloma, hepatitis may also be challenging in many cases. However, early identification may help treat some of these infections more effectively.