In Part 1 of this series we covered the top 7 complaints ‘down there’.  In this post I’m going to drill into the fifth item on that list, Sexually Transmitted Diseases.  It’s summer time which means more people are out and about having fun, leading to more sex.  The CDC estimates that 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur each year, almost half among 15-24 year old’s.  So go on, share this blog post with your kids!

Vaginal irritation can be caused by a number things, but if you have recently had a new sex partner, then an STD is likely.  The most common STDs include:

1.  AIDS / HIV

AIDS is a condition where the immune system begins to fail, weakening a person’s ability to fight infections.  There are 60,000 new infections each year.  Symptoms can include fatigue, inability to fight infections, blotches on or under the skin, diarrhea, and swollen lymph glands.  AIDS is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids.

2.  Herpes

With 45 million infected annually Herpes Simplex is a common STD.  It is a viral disease that is transmitted by skin to skin contact and appears as blisters, ulcers or sores.  Symptoms include swelling, itching or tingling areas on the body along with body aches and pains and abnormal discharge and pain during urination.   Many people are infected with a common herpes virus that HSV1 that leads to the common cold sores. Depending of sexual practices, HSV1 can also affect the genitals as a result of oral sex. Another common place to find herpes is on the buttocks, as a result of spooning after sex. The challenge with herpes is that is not curable.   Another challenge is that a sexual partner can be actively shedding the herpes virus without evidence of a blister on the mouth or genitals.

3. Chlamydia

With 4 to 6 million people infected each year, chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial infection in the developed world.  Although you may notice body aches and pains, swelling, itchy or tingling areas, or abnormal discharge and pain during urination, chlamydia is often asymptomatic.  Chlamydia is transmitted through bacteria passed through sex – in bodily fluids and on the skin.  Chlamydia can have an unusual presentation called Reiter’s syndrome.  Individuals may experience arthritis, conjunctivitis, and a rash on the palms and soles called keratoderma blennorrhagicum.

4.  Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a contagious bacterial infection that infects about 700,000 people each year.  It is most often transmitted through sexual contact and symptoms may include swollen lymph glands, body aches and pains, or abnormal discharge and pain during urination.

5.  Hepatitis B&C

Hepatitis is a serious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus.  Symptoms of Hepatitis include fatigue, swollen lymph glands, body aches and pains, diarrhea and blotches on or under the skin (flu-like symptoms).  Approximately 300,000 people are infected each year through contact with bodily fluids or skin and shared items.   It is important to diagnosis Hepatitis, because left untreated it can results in liver cancer.

6.  Syphillis

Infecting 50,000 people each year, Syphillis is a bacterial infection caused by Treponema Plidum and is spread primarily through sexual activity.  Symptoms can include fatigue, swollen lymph glands, and body aches and pains.  Syphillis is spread through sex and close contact.  Syphillis is on the rise again. Early detection is key, because left untreated syphilis can affect the heart and the nervous system.

7. Genital Warts

Genital warts present in about 3 Million people in the United States every year.  Caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), genital warts are spread through sexual contact and will present as small bumps on the genitals.  There are vaccines available to protect against many genital-wart causing strains of HPV.  Although there is no cure for genital warts, treatment can help to reduce symptoms.  Treatment can include application of a prescription medication or surgical removing of the warts.  A dermatologist can help you with treating warts. Sometimes several months of treatment can be required

8. Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin disease caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) and will usually cause small lesions or bumps in the infected area.  Molluscum contagiosum was once a disease that primarily affected children, but it has evolved to become a sexually transmitted disease in adults.  Molluscum will usually resolve on its own although lesions can last up to 4 years (or as little as 2 weeks).

Diagnonis of a Sexually Transmitted Disease

Just like with other medical conditions, there are various tests performed for STD’s.  When you visit your care provider they will do a general intake and ask you about your concerns and health history.  If there is a concern of STD’s you will likely have a variety of testing performed (exam, swab, blood and urine test).  It is important to have routine STD screening. I recommend testing every 6 months if you are not in a monogamous relationship.

  • Urine Test:  Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
  • Blood Test:  HIV, Syphilis, Herpes, and Hepatitis B
  • Swab Test:  HPV, Herpes, Chlamydia, Bacterial Vaginosis, Gonorrhea, Genital Warts, Molluscum, Syphilis, and Trichomoniasis
  • Oral (Cheek) Swab:  HIV
  • Physical Exam:  Genital Warts, Molluscum, and Bacterial Vaginosis

Treatment of STDs by a dermatologist

 Dermatologists are well versed in STD care and have advanced knowledge of skin care and effects of STDS which can be very beneficial during treatment.  Treatment will usually include antibiotics or antiviral drugs.  A single dose of antibiotics is usually enough to treat many parasite or bacteria induced STDS.  Antiviral drugs cannot cure STDs but they can help to impact the course of the disease. 

There is no over the counter treatment option for STD’s.  If you suspect that you may have and STD, your best bet is to see your doctor as soon as possible for correct diagnosis and treatment.  By treating STDs early, you can avoid any permanent damage.

Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

It’s time for the ‘Sex Talk’.  To protect yourself from STD’s, ALWAYS use protection when having sex, and use it correctly.  Until you and your partner are both tested with a clean report, condoms are a MUST.  Also, don’t share needles or sex objects since many STD’s can be spread via contact.