Sexually Transmitted Infections / Diseases are common among the male population. The proportion of these infections continues to rise and increased awareness needs to be created to address the problem early. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are notorious for being dismissed as flu or other general illnesses due to similar vague symptoms.
50% of infected people are asymptomatic. (Show no symptoms) This is the primary reason why they spread the disease unknowingly.
Common Symptoms of Chlamydia include:
- Discharge (milky white discharge)
- Painful urination
- Painful ejaculation
Untreated Chlamydia can cause urethral infection and swollen, tender testicles. The treatment for Chlamydia includes oral antibiotics and it is usually recommended to treat the partner also. The infection usually clears in approximately a week.
Syphilis is a highly contagious disease that spreads mainly from unprotected sexual activity including oral and anal sex. Syphilis has multiple stages and initially the following signs and symptoms may occur:
Within 2-10 weeks after the first sore appears you may develop the following:
- Swollen glands
- Rash – small reddish brown sores
- Weight loss
- Large raised white grey lesions called condyloma lata can develop in all the moist areas of the skin.
- Sore throat
- Hair loss
If not treated at the primary stage then syphilis can progress to involve the cardiac system and the nervous system besides other complications. Syphilis is completely curable with prompt diagnosis and treatment. If detected late then there might be some permanent damage to the heart and brain.
Gonorrhoea is another common sexually transmitted infection often referred to as the “clap”. It is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoea, a bacterium. It presents in both men and women and the symptoms can include burning sensation while passing urine, discharge from the tip, need to urinate frequently and bleeding.
If left treated this can lead to epididymitis which can in turn lead to scarring and blockage of the sperm ducts. This can lead to male infertility. Hence it is important to be diagnosed and treated early. It is usually spread along with Chlamydia and you need to be checked for that too. It is best to not have unprotected sexual intercourse for 7 days of treatment as you are still contagious.
Genital herpes is caused by the virus HSV-2. Generally contracted during periods of weakened immunity, a genital herpes infection happens when there is reactivation of HSV -1 or HSV -2 viruses from its dormant stage. Most commonly this infection is asymptomatic. However one can also have crops of blisters, enlarged glands, fever, tiredness, headaches and painful urination.
Genital herpes infection is incurable and once contracted you might have periods of blister outbreaks throughout your life. Over time they might decrease in intensity and frequency. Antiviral medications that are to be taken during this infection can decrease the severity and frequency of the outbreaks.
Hepatitis means the liver is inflamed. The two viral infections that cause hepatitis and are spread by sexual contact are hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Hepatitis B virus does not cause many symptoms but may cause acute hepatitis in about 50 percent patients. In the case of acute hepatitis the symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, jaundice and generalised tiredness. It may also lead to chronic hepatitis which leads to an increased risk of liver cancer. Acute hepatitis can be treated with adequate rest and supportive medication while chronic hepatitis needs to be treated with interferon or antiviral medication. There is a vaccine for hepatitis B which is very effective.
Hepatitis C infection is also spread by sexual contact but rarely. A majority of these patients develop chronic infection with an increased possibility of liver damage. There is no vaccine available as yet for hepatitis C.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a protozoon. It passes from person to person through genital contact. It infects the urethra and hence the symptoms that are common are:
- Burning after urination
- Burning after ejaculation
- Irritation or itching inside the penis
Trichomoniasis can be diagnosed by a simple urine test and the treated promptly. Extra precaution must be taken to not consume alcohol 24 to 72 hours of consumption of antibiotics for trichomoniasis as they might cause severe vomiting.
HIV infection is also transmitted sexually and the virus acts by infecting your defence system and thereby weakening it. Hence patients suffer from opportunistic infections that occur during this weakened state of immunity. The clinical symptoms of HIV infection may take months or years to manifest and need careful screening and follow up of at risk individuals. Post exposure prophylaxis for HIV infection is available. Treatment with anti retrovirals for the infection has improved the quality and longevity of life for these patients. There is no vaccine available as yet for HIV infection.