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STIs, their Diagnosis & Treatment

 

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Kimberly Langdon (M.D) on 4 January 2022.

 

 

If you suspect that you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), then it is best to go to the doctor immediately.

 

He/she will determine your STD cure, by examining you for the signs and symptoms of an STI including warts, skin rashes, genital discharges, urine, or blood.

 

In this article, we will throw light on the STDs that can be cured, their treatment, diagnosis, testing, ways of coping, and much more!

 

Let's begin with the mantra for STIs, “prevention is better than cure.”

 

 

 

Testing

 

So you have decided to get tested with the help of your healthcare provider.

 

Well, he/she will get you tested in several ways depending upon your STI type.

 

Laboratory tests help detect your infection, which helps you to get treated on time.

 

Some of these testing procedures may include:

 

    • ● Blood tests: Blood tests can detect the presence of HIV¹ or the chronic stages of syphilis, and hepatitis.

 

    • ● Urine tests: Some STIs can be detected via a urine test.

 

    • ● Fluid sample testing method: In this method, fluid-like material is taken from your body to test for the presence of an STI. For instance, in open genital sores, fluid may be extracted for diagnosis

 

 

Who Should Get Screened?

 

Screening may be defined as a method of testing used for asymptomatic individuals. It is not a part of the usual healthcare checkup.

 

However, screening is especially recommended for:

 

  • ● All individuals: Saliva or blood test for HIV is recommended for people aged between 13-64 years. Experts suggest getting tested for HIV annually.

     

    Also, people who were born from 1945-1965 should be tested for hepatitis C. Since this disease may not be symptomatic until it progresses, thus getting tested is advised.

 

 

For pregnant women

 

If you are pregnant, then getting tested for STIs, including hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis, etc, is a part of the antenatal checkups.

 

Additionally, getting screened for gonorrhea and hepatitis C is suggested during your pregnancy for females (since you are at risk of the diseases in this period).

 

However, for women who are 21 years old or above, getting Pap tests is recommended for detecting any cellular changes in your cervix, including precancerous changes.

 

This is because cervical cancer can be caused by certain HPV variants.

 

Experts suggest that females from age 21 should have a Pap test within every 36 months. From age 30, experts ask you to go for a Pap test and a test for HPV after 5 years.

 

If you are under 25 and are sexually active, then you are advised to get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea, too.

 

The testing process usually involves a vaginal/cervical discharge sample or a urine sample.

 

Also, it is vital to get retested for chlamydia, even after you complete the treatment course.

 

This is because STIs can be resistant to antibiotics. A second test will confirm whether you are cured or not.

 

For gonorrhea, getting screened is recommended for all sexually active females below the age of 25.

 

If you suspect HIV, then you are at a higher risk of developing serious cervical cancer.

 

Thus, experts suggest you get a Pap test within the year you start having sex with your spouse. This is especially true if you are 21 or below.

 

Additionally, experts recommend you get a Pap test each year for 3 consecutive years.

 

If the results are negative all three times, it means that you are HPV-free and cancer-free.

 

After this, you should get a Pap test every 3 years minimum.

 

If you contracted an STI recently, then getting a negative result isn't novel.

 

A negative test could mean that the sample you provided for testing didn't have enough infection or bacterial growth in it to be detected.

 

 

 

Treatment

 

STIs come in 2 major types:

 

    • ● Viral STIs — caused by viruses. Examples include human papillomavirus (HPV), HIV/AIDS, herpes simplex virus (HSV)

 

    • ● Bacterial STIs — caused by bacteria. Examples include syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, etc.

 

Bacterial STIs are usually easier to treat. While viral STIs can be well-managed, they can't always be cured.

 

However, infections such as syphilis can not be cured at its tertiary stage, rather only in its earlier stages.

 

If you are pregnant, then getting the right treatment promptly may prevent the infection from passing to your baby-to-be.

 

Treatment for STDs may consist of the following depending upon the type of STI:

 

    • ● Antibiotics: Antibiotics are usually given as a single dose. They cure many STIs, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and trich. For instance, a penicillin injection is given to treat syphilis. Metronidazole is usually given to treat trich².

       

      Azithromycin is given to those who have gonorrhea orally or as an injection.

       

      Also, you may be simultaneously treated for gonorrhea and chlamydia, since these infections often occur at the same time.

       

      Once you start taking antibiotics, it is important to follow your doctor's prescription. If you think that you might not be able to complete the course, ask your doctor. He/she may recommend a simpler course, too.

       

      Additionally, it is best to refrain from any sexual activity for at least a week after you have completed your course of antibiotics.

       

      Also, if you're a woman, then it is recommended to get tested again after 3 months since females are at a higher risk of redeveloping STIs.

 

    • ● Antivirals: Antiviral drugs are prescribed to a person with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, or herpes³.

       

      If you're suffering from herpes, the infection may rarely recur if you take suppressive therapies on time, along with the prescribed medications.

       

      However, you are still at risk of developing herpes from your spouse if he/she is suffering from it.

       

      If you're suffering from HIV, don't worry!

       

      Antiretrovirals can help to keep your HIV infection in control for decades. However, you can still spread the virus to others if the drug doesn’t work to reduce viral loads to undetectable levels.

       

      The sooner you start getting treated, the faster you will get healed. If you follow the instructions of your doctor exactly, then the amount of virus in your blood (viral load) will reduce significantly.

 

So, if you have an STI, it is important to ask your doctor about the time taken to complete a particular course and when to get tested again.

 

Getting tested again will ensure whether your medications have worked and that you haven't been infected by infection again.

 

 

 

When To Inform Your Spouse & Preventive Measures

 

Each state has a different requirement on how to deal with STI cases.

 

If you are suffering from an STI, your healthcare professional will report it to your local public health department.

 

These departments have trained workers that can help you to get treated, and instruct you on ways to prevent the spread of STIs.

 

They will also help you in notifying your spouse officially. All the process remains confidential.

 

This is because your spouse may also have caught STI and may be asymptomatic. Thus, your chances of getting reinfected are possible.

 

To avoid that, it is especially important to inform your spouse, too.

 

 

How to Cope Up & Support

 

It can be stressful to know that you are suffering from STD or STI.

 

You might be angry at yourself in case your spouse infected you.

 

At worst, without decent healthcare services, your STI could advance to serious illnesses and even death.

 

We strongly suggest that:

 

    • ● You're not the one to blame for infecting your husband/wife. It happened due to ignorance.

 

    • ● Just have an honest discourse with your healthcare providers.

 

    • ● Keep in contact with your healthcare department.

 

    • ● Make up your mind to share any details of your sex life with your physician. We understand that you may not be comfortable, but everything you share is worth healing your infection.

 

    • ● Go for more comfortable testing methods like using at-home testing kits, in case you don't feel comfortable with your doctor.

 

 

 

What You Should Do

 

    • ● Call your doctor's clinic to know if there are any pre-appointment necessities you need to fill in advance.

 

    • ● It is best to write down your signs and symptoms or any discomfort you are feeling.

 

    • ● Make a list of the infections or diseases that you may be suffering from at present or if you had any in the past.

 

    • ● Write down the names of all the medications, or supplements that you take

 

    • ● Mention if you are going through any mental health issues or have tried injecting yourself with drugs before.

 

 

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

 

You don't need to put any pressure on yourself, even if you come positive. STIs are common.

 

Fortunately, many of them are treatable, too!

 

Make a list of some basic questions to ask your doctor, like:

 

    • ● What is the medical term for the disease I am suffering from?

 

    • ● How is my STI transmitted?

 

    • ● Will the infection prevent me from becoming a father/mother?

 

    • ● If I am pregnant or am expecting to, will I be able to deliver my baby?

 

    • ● Is it possible to catch the STI again?

 

    • ● Can I have multiple STIs?

 

    • ● Which STDs can be cured?

 

    • ● Which STDs have no cure?

 

    • ● How can we cure STDs that are asymptomatic?

 

    • ● How long is the infection going to stay inside me?

 

    • ● Is my infection chronic or acute?

 

    • ● Will my infection advance into cancer or any other serious condition?

 

    • ● I have (write the name of an underlying disease you may be suffering from). How will my body respond to both of these infections?

 

    • ● How can I have safe sex with my spouse?

 

    • ● What should I eat during this time?

 

    • ● When can I resume sexual activities?

 

    • ● Can kissing spread my type of STI?

 

    • ● My spouse has an STI already, will I still catch it despite having one already?

 

In the meantime, it is best to avoid any sexual activity, especially if you suspect any symptoms of an STI.

 

If you should have sex, the next best option is to practice safe sex, i.e, by using condoms and dental dams.

 

 

 

Takeaway

 

STIs, whether bacterial or viral, are all dangerous. However, both of these are treated with different antibiotics.

 

That's why, it is important for you to know what kind of STDs are viral and what are bacterial, to know at least the basic idea about how these can be treated, prevented, and ways to heal faster.

 

Fortunately, with modern testing procedures and medicines, STIs can be well-managed. This is especially true if your STI is detected at its early stage.

 

Whether STIs can be treated at their chronic stages depends upon the type and severity of the infection.

 

It is vital to confirm whether you have a single STI or multiple STIs, that's by getting tested — at your doctor's office or by using an at-home testing kit.

 

Also, if you are sexually active with your better half who is carrying many STIs at the same time, then you should have to get him/her also treated on time.

 

This will prevent you from getting reinfected. This is true even if you or your spouse is suffering from an STD already.

 

Also, all pregnant women should get tested for STIs during their antenatal checkups. Getting STDs can pose a risk to you or your baby-to-be.

 

And these infections are easy to treat with antibiotics.

 

You can also help in preventing the spread of these diseases by practicing safe sex and refraining from any sexual activity during this time.

 

What do you think is the best way to prevent viral STDs from advancing into chronic illnesses? We think it is getting regularly tested for STIs, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not!

 

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Kimberly Langdon (M.D) on 4 January 2022.

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