Sexually transmitted diseases - Further information
The most common sexually transmitted diseases
As the name already suggests, STD diseases are ones which are mainly transmitted through sexual activity. This is not restricted solely to sexual intercourse in the strict sense because it also includes both oral and anal sex and kissing, where infection is also possible. Also, with some STDs, infection is also possible via contact with infected blood.
Among the most common sexually transmitted diseases are trichomonad infections and chlamydia. For example, infected persons become aware of these through itching in the genital area and discharges.
Both bacteria and viruses can set off an infection. The pathogens triggering genital warts are called human papillomavirus (abbreviated to HPV). Just like viral infections, fungal infections of the genitals also come under sexually transmitted diseases. Other sexually transmitted diseases are HIV and hepatitis B.
The classic venereal diseases
Unlike the STDs, infection with the classic infectious diseases takes place exclusively through sexual contact. Also, it is the sexual organs that are mainly affected. Among the classic venereal diseases are the following:
- The 'clap' (gonorrhea)
- Lymphogranuloma inguinale
The dividing line between STDs and venereal diseases is not always quite clear. Both terms are often used as synonyms.
Specialists in venereal diseases - training and qualifications
If various particular symptoms lead you to suspect that you have a venereal disease, you should consult a specialist. Various specialist groups are responsible for diagnosis and treatment.
Gynecologists are primarily concerned with the female genitalia. If the symptoms affect the female genital area, a gynecologist may be the professional to contact.
Male patients with symptoms affecting the male genitalia can consult an urologist.
The specialist for venereal diseases of both genders is also known as a venereologist. However, venereology is not actually a separate specialist field but rather a sub-field of dermatology. Dermatology is the study of diseases of the skin.
Venereology is assigned to dermatology because the sexually transmitted diseases manifest themselves in the skin in many cases. This means that the venereologist is a skin doctor who has specialized in the field of venereal diseases.
Diagnosis of venereal diseases
If the specialist suspects that the patient has a venereal disease, the first step is to discuss the matter with the patient. For example, he will ask if the patient has had unprotected sexual intercourse and will obtain a precise description of the symptoms. If the symptoms are in the genital area, the specialist will generally carry out an inspection where he looks for any skin abnormalities.
In order to rule out or confirm an infection a smear test will be conducted. Vaginal secretion, any infectious secretion such as a discharge from the urethra or skin material will be examined. By means of microbiological processing, the laboratory doctor can isolate a pathogen strain. In this way, the doctor can obtain a reliable diagnosis. In some STDs, such as HIV or hepatitis B for example, the pathogens can also be identified in blood.
The treatment of sexually transmitted diseases
The treatment naturally always depends on the type of infection. In a bacterial infection, depending on how it manifests, the doctor prescribes antibiotics in the form of an ointment or tablets.
In a viral infection, antibiotics are of no help. For example, HIV is treated with retroviral therapy whereas with an HPV infection of the vagina surgery may be necessary to remove proliferations of growth.
It is important that the current and any past sexual partners are treated at the same time. If only one partner is treated for the venereal disease, there is always the risk of reinfection. This is also known as the 'ping pong effect'.
The specialist will also, ideally, give some counseling on the subject of safer sex. Although unwanted pregnancies can be prevented by the pill and other hormonal contraceptives, the only effective protection against venereal diseases is the condom.
If you suspect that you have contracted a venereal disease, you should definitely not allow embarrassment to hold you back from seeing the doctor. Specialists in venereal diseases such as gynecologists, urologists and venereologists can reach a diagnosis quickly and reliably and so can quickly start the necessary treatment.