What is an STD and how can you protect yourself?

May 22, 2009 by admin 

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An STD (sexually transmitted disease) is a disease caused by a pathogen (e.g. virus, bacterium, parasite, fungus) that is transferred from person to person largely through sexual contact. Many STDs can be painful, aggravating, crippling, and life threatening.
Occurring most commonly in sexually active teenagers and young adults, especially those with numerous sexual partners, STDs affect an estimated 200 to 400 million people worldwide – men and women of all economic classes. In the United States more than 13 million people are infected each year and more than 65 million have an incurable STD.
Most STDs cause relatively harmless disease, with no or few symptoms. Nevertheless, there are some STDs that produce persistent asymptomatic (neither causing nor showing symptoms of disease) or minimally symptomatic disease. Some people can carry the disease for days or weeks, while other people will carry for longer periods, even life. An infected person, or a carrier can spread the disease through sexual contact during this time.
In persistant infection, the pathogen escapes detection by the immune system and stays fairly inactive (called latency), causing no apparent disease. However, certain triggers like stress, immune suppression or injury can reactivate latent pathogens. In some cases, reactivated disease will not exhibit symptoms ( chlamydia). In others the symptoms are overt (genital herpes) or severe and even fatal (HIV / AIDS).
STD infection can cause complications that include:
Pelvic inflammatory disease (women)
Inflammation of the cervix (women)
Inflammation of the urethra (men)
Inflammation of the prostate (men)
Fertility and reproductive system problems (men and women)
Infants that are infected while in the womb or during birth can possibly be stillborn, blind or have permanent neurological damage.
While viral STDs, such as Genital Herpes and HIV, can’t be cured their symptoms can be regulated with medication. Bacterial STDs, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, can be cured with antibiotics. Respectively, fungal and parasitic diseases can be cured with antifungal and antihelminthic agents. Getting an early diagnosis and treatment will increase your chances for a cure.
Monogamy with an uninfected partner is the only surefire way to avoid infection with an STD yourself. It is important for you and your partner to talk about eachother’s sexual and STD history before having sex. Prevention is possible through understanding STDs and how they spread.The use of condoms will greatly reduce your risk for transmission.
Some of the behaviors and conditions that can increase your risk for STDs are:
Engaging in sex when either partner has unhealed lesions (Genital Herpes sores, Genital Warts)
Enema or rectal douching before rectal intercourse
Rectal or vaginal irritation or infection
Sexual activity that may damage the mucosal lining of the vagina or rectum
Tampon use (tampons can cause vaginal dryness and cellular abnormalities)
Vaginal dryness (use a water-based lubricant)
If you suspect you have an STD, go see your doctor immediately.
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