Sexual health is an important part of our health yet is something that is often neglected, perhaps out of embarrassment and fear about the process of diagnosis and treatment.
Many put all the emphasis on testing for HIV, but then completely neglect to test for other STIs (sexually transmitted infections) that are just as (if not in some cases, more dangerous) when left untreated.
The scary truth about STIs is that there are many people who are completely unaware they have been infected. Without knowing you may be at risk, you could pass it on to future partners, you could be at risk serious illness (or even death) and untreated STIs can affect your ability to have children.
Who is most at risk of an STI?
Generally speaking, anyone sexually active, who does not use a condom is at most at risk of an infection. People under the age of 25, who do not routinely use condoms, have a new sexual partner, or have had more than one sexual partner in the previous year, are in the high risk category too.
Even if you have had one sexual partner for a long period of time, it is important to have regular checks as it isn’t just your own sexual history that you have to worry about. You need to be mindful that your partner has also got a sexual history.
STIs can happen to anyone who is sexually active regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation.
Symptoms of an STI
Only a few patients will develop symptoms of an STI, with the most common general symptoms being a painful rash on the genitals, pain when passing urine, symptoms of discharge, bleeding after sex or between periods, testicular soreness or pelvic pain in women.
Symptoms of chlamydia and gonorrhea can start within a few weeks of infection, but could present months later once the infection has started to affect other parts of the body. The longer the infection goes untreated, the higher the chance of developing complications.
As an egg donor, you will receive a free medical screening that will give you full insight into your own medical history (such as genetic disorders). You will also receive a free screening for HIV, and the following STI’s:
- Chlamydia tops the list of the most common STIs and is , accounting for 47% of STI diagnoses.
- When an infection goes untreated or undetected, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a condition in which the woman’s entire reproductive tract becomes inflamed. Recurrent episodes of PID are most likely to cause scarring.
- PID can cause scarring and adhesions in the fallopian tubes. If the baby is exposed to the bacteria in the birth canal, blindness can occur.
- Worldwide, chlamydia is the leading cause of preventable blindness. For this reason, babies receive an antibiotic eye ointment at birth, and pregnant women are routinely tested for STIs.
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that can infect almost anyone. Once infected, your body retains the virus for life.
But if you’re pregnant or have a weakened immune system, CMV is cause for concern. A woman who develops an active CMV infection during pregnancy can pass the virus to her baby, who might then experience signs and symptoms.
- For people with compromised immunity, especially due to organ transplantation, CMV infection can be fatal. CMV spreads from person to person through body fluids, such as blood, saliva, urine, semen and breast milk. There’s no cure for the virus. However, medications can help treat newborns and people with weak immune systems.
- People at greater risk of signs and symptoms of CMV include:
- Newborns infected with CMV before birth (congenital CMV).
- Infants who become infected during birth or shortly afterward (perinatal CMV). This group includes babies infected through breast milk.
- Most babies with congenital CMV appear healthy at birth.
- A few babies with congenital CMV who appear healthy at birth can develop signs over time — sometimes not for months or years after birth. The most common of these late-occurring signs are hearing loss and developmental delay. A small number of babies may also develop vision problems.
- Babies with congenital CMV who are sick at birth tend to have significant signs and symptoms, including:
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Enlarged and poorly functioning liver
- Purple skin splotches or a rash or both
- Abnormally small head (microencephaly)
- Enlarged spleen
- Gonorrhea is known to be a curable STI that can affect both men (urinary tract) and women (urinary tract and reproductive organs).
- If left untreated gonorrhea can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat as well as cause long term health issues such as urethritis, sterility in men, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), scarring and blockage of the fallopian tubes, ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.
- An infected woman can pass gonorrhea to her baby during birth. In the US, medicated eye drops are administered to babies at birth to prevent eye infection from gonorrhea.
- This viral STI is caused by the herpes simplex virus. herpes can be passed from a mother to her child during childbirth which can result in blindness of the infant and even death.
- Many healthcare providers suggest a pregnant woman with herpes have a c-section to prevent the baby from being infected.
- A bacterial STI that progresses through three distinct stages. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics if detected early on.
- Syphilis is considered a very serious STI. Symptoms may disappear, but the virus can still be alive within the body where it can attack organs like the heart, where it can cause heart disease; and the brain which can lead to brain damage, paralysis and even death.
- Pregnant women who have syphilis will pass it to their baby. This STI may damage a baby’s skin, eyes, teeth, bones, and liver.
- This STI is caused by a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis that infects the urinary tract of men and the urinary tract and/or the vagina in women.
- Women with Trich during pregnancy are at risk for preterm labor and birth, and their baby is more likely to have a low birth weight.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID):
- PID can lead to infertility, an ectopic pregnancy (during which a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, most commonly in a fallopian tube), formation of scar tissue both outside and inside the fallopian tubes which in turn can lead to tubal blockage, and long-term pelvic/abdominal pain.
Hepatitis B (This is usually worse than Hep C)
- Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It can cause chronic infection and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- It is spread through contact with blood and body fluids of an infected person. A mother who has the virus can pass it to her baby during delivery. Medical experts recommend that all pregnant women get tested for Hepatitis B.
- The Hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least 7 days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine.
- The Hepatitis B vaccine is the best way to prevent infection.
- There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. Therefore, care is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance, including replacement of fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Chronic hepatitis B infection can be treated with medicines, including oral antiviral agents. Treatment can slow the progression of cirrhosis, reduce incidence of liver cancer and improve long term survival.
- This infection of the liver is caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus spreads through the blood or body fluids of an infected person.
- About 75% to 85% of people who have it develop a long-term infection called chronic hepatitis C. It can lead to conditions like liver cancer and cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver.
- The once-daily pill combination of elbasvir and grazoprevir called Zepatier has been shown to have the ability to cure the disease in as many as 97% of those treated. It follows the success of another once-daily treatment called Harvoni that cures the disease in most people in 8-12 weeks.
- For some patients, the decision to get tested is easy – they may have been told by a partner that they are at risk of developing an STI, or they may have noticed symptoms themselves.
- For other patients, the decision to get tested may prove more difficult. The latest research suggests that approximately 50% of men and 80% of women will not experience symptoms with a chlamydia infection.
Treatment of STIs
The good news is that most STIs are treatable. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics. Genital warts and herpes symptoms can be managed, but both are life-long conditions as the viruses that cause them cannot be cleared from the patient’s system and can flare up over time.
Whilst there is no cure for HIV, there are now treatments that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives.
It’s not easy to let a previous or current partner know about a positive test result, but it is extremely important. With the complications of STIs being far-reaching, early detention and treatment is imperative.
For ANY advice on STI screening or if you have any concerns about your own sexual health, please do not hesitate to contact us now.
Love DESA x