Sexual health issues and problems have always been embarrassing to discuss but considering the general increase in the number of such cases here in our country, it’s time to shake off our reservations. Gynecologist Dr Chandra Shobha Amatya reveals that almost 50 % of her patients come to her because they are showing signs of some form of Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) or Infection. What’s more, their level of awareness on the matter seems to be frighteningly low.
“Some complain of rashes, some of heavy discharge and odor while others come to me because they are suffering from lower abdomen pains but they rarely suspect that the cause of all these health problems is an STD,” says Dr Amatya, adding that she has to mostly educate her patients about the infections from scratch.
In her experience, Dr Amatya shares that gonorrhea has been the most common sexually transmitted disease among her patients with chlamydia coming in second but she suspects some of it has to do with how difficult it is to detect it. Further, even though bacterium such as Ureaplasma isn’t a classic STD because of its low capability to cause a disease, Dr Amatya says it is still very common among her sexually active patients.
So, foremost, she suggests people to educate themselves on the matter and then, according Dr. Amatya, if you are sexually active, it is always smart to get yourself regularly tested. Your doctor may not test for STDs unless you specifically ask for the test. While it would seem like common sense for women to be tested for STDs when getting a pap smear or annual exam, this isn’t always done unless you specifically ask your doctor to run these tests. Women can visit their gynecologists and men can consult with their general physician about the tests.
She has apparently had patients of various age groups including teenagers and from different backgrounds and that’s why her advice is to not underestimate the risks. Intercourse isn’t the only way to catch an STD, they can also be spread through contact with infected skin or mucous membranes, such as sores in the mouth. Sharing needles or syringes for drug use, ear piercing, tattooing, etc. can also expose you to infected fluids.
What should I do if I have an STI?
You need to tell your partner who may have been exposed. Try to get him/her tested as well. If you feel that you can’t tell your partner, talk to your health care provider. He/she will help you to tell your partner or will help you find another way to let your partner know he/she has been exposed. This is very important. You cannot let embarrassment or awkwardness defer you from treatment.
You and your partner need to get treated at the same time to prevent passing the infection back and forth. Make sure you follow your health care provider’s directions on taking medication, and make sure you finish all medicine, even if you feel better. Schedule a follow-up exam with your health care provider after you have finished treatment. Don’t have sex again until your health care provider says you are cured. If you are concerned or upset about having an STI, share your concerns with your doctor. Your health care provider can help clear all your queries.
If I have had an STI, can I get it again?
Yes. You can get the same STI again if you have sex – especially if you have sex without protection. You can also have more than one STI at a time. Also, some STIs aren’t curable, so you can still have the STI even if you have received treatment.
Some lesser-known facts about STIs Some STDs can be cured, others can only be treated
Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are all bacterial infections and can be cured with the proper treatment. Other types of STDs can be treated and managed but are incurable – meaning you will live with the STD for the rest of your life
STDs can be passed to an unborn child
Mothers infected with STDs can pass the infection to their babies either during the pregnancy or during birth.
Untreated STDs can lead to health issues, complications and problems with later pregnancies
Without proper treatment, some STDs can cause infertility, lead to pelvic inflammatory disease or increase your risk of having an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. Untreated syphilis can lead to blindness, paralysis or brain damage. HPV can lead to cervical and other types of cancer. Women with STDs have a higher risk of having a baby with a low birth rate, infections and other health complications.
It doesn’t mean you’re promiscuous
Anyone can get an STI, even someone who has only had skin-to-skin contact with one partner. The risk is related more to how you protect yourself than your number of partners.
You can spread an STI without symptoms being present
Many STIs have no symptoms. The most common STI, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), is usually symptom-free, yet can still be spread. Even STIs with warts or sores can be spread when no signs are present.