Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is an uncommon sexually transmitted disease caused by certain types of the bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It is spread through having unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Lymphogranuloma venereum causes painful and swollen lymph nodes, which can then break down into large ulcers. The disease goes through 3 distinct stages as it develops. The first 2 stages of lymphogranuloma venereum may be minor, and you might not even be aware of any symptoms until you reach stage 3, called the genitoanorectal syndrome.
Molluscum contagiosum is a common painless and usually harmless viral infection of the skin. Although it is painless and usually goes away after several months, some cases can last a few years. Molluscum can spread to surrounding skin by scratching or rubbing and can spread to others by skin-to-skin contact or handling contaminated objects such as towels, toys, and clothing. Poor hygiene and warm, moist climates encourage the spread of molluscum. Use of public or school swimming pools is associated with childhood infections.
Primary syphilis is the name given to the first part of the disease caused by infection with the sexually transmitted bacterium, Treponema pallidum. The disease is divided into 3 parts, and it is important to recognize the first part (which involves the skin) so that you can get treated before the disease progresses to the second and third parts, which affect the brain and cause early death. The classic skin lesion of primary syphilis is a red bump on the genitals that opens into a sore, called a chancre. The sore is typically painless and will heal on its own without treatment, but the disease will still be present, so it is very important to show the sore to your doctor. If treated early, syphilis can be completely cured. Syphilis, like other sexually transmitted diseases, is passed from person to person during oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse. It can also be passed from a mother to a baby during birth. If a baby gets syphilis, he/she often dies.
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhea. It is a contagious sexually transmitted disease spread by unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an infected partner. The bacterium can live in the mouth, semen or vaginal fluids of infected persons. It is possible to be infected without symptoms and continue to spread the disease.If the infection is not treated, it can spread to other parts of the body, including the throat, joints, and eyes (potentially leading to blindness). Complications from gonorrhea infection include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can affect fertility in women; inflammation of the testicles (epididymitis), which can lead to infertility in men; blindness in an infant infected during delivery; and widespread infection with a fever, rash, and joint pain.
Primary HIV infection (PHI) is an illness that can develop when a person becomes infected with HIV, also known as the virus that leads to AIDS. PHI occurs in about half of people who are exposed to HIV; it develops in weeks to months after infection with HIV and often mimics the flu with fatigue, muscle aches, swollen glands, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is very difficult to tell the difference between a regular viral illness such as the flu and PHI, although only those who are at risk for exposure to HIV can develop PHI. Tell your doctor if you have had unprotected sex with an infected partner or shared needles or syringes with an infected person. It is important to know as early as possible if you have HIV because you want to protect yourself (by seeing an HIV specialist and perhaps beginning a regimen of antiviral drugs) and protect others. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS.The HIV virus lives in some body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk) but not others (sweat, tears, or urine). It is transmitted when the former types of fluids are spread to another person by oral, anal, or vaginal sex; breast-feeding; or intravenous drug use. HIV can also be passed from a mother to a baby, either during the pregnancy or delivery.
Pubic lice (pediculosis pubis), also known as crab lice or crabs, is a louse (a type of wingless, bloodsucking insect) that can live and multiply (infest) on skin that grows pubic hair. Pubic lice most commonly affect the pubic hair, but other hair-bearing areas, such as the armpits and eyelashes, eyebrows, or scalp, may also be affected. The infestation usually causes itching, but it can occur without any symptoms. It is spread by close physical contact or contaminated clothing, bedding, or towels (fomites). Pubic lice infestations may occur with other sexually transmitted diseases.
Genital warts (condyloma acuminata) are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which has over 100 different strains. Subtypes number 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts and are considered low risk because they very rarely will cause genital or anal cancer. On the other hand, subtypes 16 and 18, for example, are considered high risk because, although they rarely cause genital warts, they can lead to cervical or anal precancer and cancer. HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity; there does not need to be vaginal or anal intercourse to spread the infection. Most people who become infected with HPV will not have symptoms and will clear the infection on their own. For people who do develop genital warts, there are many options for treatment, all of which are meant to remove the visible warts. There is no cure for genital warts. Gardasil® is a vaccine that protects against the 4 strains of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts. In the US, Gardasil is approved for girls/women and boys/men ages 9–26. In 2011, Health Canada approved the vaccine for women up to the age of 45.
Valentine’s Day has arrived! Whether you embrace this day or cringe at the mere mention of it, we can all agree that romantic relationships play a huge role in our emotional and physical well-being. Just one encounter with an infected partner can affect our lives and health forever. No matter what your relationship status is, everyone can benefit from a little education on sexually transmitted diseases.