Sexually Transmitted Diseases are fairly common around the world. 1 In 5 people in the United States alone suffer from at least one STD, the CDC estimates. The symptoms of STDs range from mild discomfort to severe life-threatening complications. However, thanks to newer drugs, most STDs are curable with appropriate medical treatment.
Antibiotics are used to treat a variety of STDs caused by bacterial agents. Most commonly used antibiotics include Erythromycin, Azithromycin, Doxycycline, Ciprofloxacin, Ceftriaxone, Cefixime, and Metronidazole. The use of antibiotics depends on the STD as well as every person affected by the disease.
Sexually transmitted diseases can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. It is important to know that antibiotics can only treat sexually transmitted infections that are caused by bacteria. The class of antibiotics used, and the combination of treatment given depends on the type of infection, its severity, and the immune status of the affected person.
ANTIBIOTIC TREATMENT FOR BACTERIAL STDs
STDs can be caused by multiple pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. STDs caused by bacteria are usually curable. These infections include Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea. Antibiotics are only useful against STDs caused by bacteria. Timely diagnosis and prompt treatment with the right antibiotics help provide an excellent prognosis for the patient.
The use of antibiotics to treat STDs depends on the disease itself. The most commonly used classes of antibiotics include Penicillin, Cephalosporin, Macrolides, Tetracycline, and Fluoroquinolones. These antibiotics may be used alone or in combination with each other to treat a variety of infections that might be resistant to some of the first-line drugs. Listed below are some of the most frequently used antibiotics to treat bacterial STDs:
Penicillin – Penicillin G is widely used to treat Syphilis. Penicillin acts by inhibiting the cell wall synthesis in bacteria, causing the pathogen to lose its structural strength and integrity. Although it is the first-line drug in the treatment of Syphilis, many patients in the United States are allergic to this class of antibiotics. Alternatives to Penicillin in case of a penicillin-allergy include Doxycycline, Tetracycline, and Ceftriaxone.
Cephalosporin – Cephalosporin also works by disrupting the cell wall synthesis in bacteria. These drugs are most commonly used to treat Gonorrhea. The most common Cephalosporin used to treat STDs is Ceftriaxone. Ceftriaxone is available in the United States under the trade name Rocephin.
Tetracycline – The most common tetracycline used to treat STDs, especially Chlamydia, is Doxycycline. Doxycycline works by inhibiting the synthesis of bacterial proteins that are necessary for the function and survival of the pathogen. It is worth noting that Gonorrhea and Chlamydia often occur in tandem and are, therefore, treated with a combination of either Ceftriaxone plus Doxycycline or Ceftriaxone plus Azithromycin.
Antibiotics other than the ones listed above may also be used to treat bacterial STDs. Your physician will run some tests to diagnose your STD before you are prescribed any antibiotics. These tests are done to ensure that you have a disease that is treatable with antibiotics. Moreover, your doctor will advise you to strictly adhere to the antibiotic regime. This strict adherence is important because antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in the United States, as well as around the world. Each year, at least 2.8 million people acquire an antibiotic-resistant infection in the US alone, according to the CDC.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T GET TREATMENT FOR STDs?
The most obvious answer to this question is that untreated STDs can cause serious complications. Chlamydia, Syphilis, and Gonorrhea are dangerous STDs, but they are all treatable. Unlike viral STDs, with the right diagnosis and treatment, these diseases can be completely cured and eliminated from a person's body. However, they can be just as threatening as their viral counterparts if they are not dealt with properly.
Some of the complications of untreated STDs include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease & infertility
- Urinary bladder lesions
- Hepatic lesions
- Genital/reproductive tract malignancies
- CNS lesions causing motor and sensory deprivation
- Multi-organ damage
Although these complications are not fatal, they can debilitate the patient and reduce their quality of life drastically. However, there are other problems associated with untreated STDs as well.
For instance, one of the biggest problems in the United States with untreated STDs is the incredible rate of transmission from person to person. People who never get treated for their mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic STDs transmit it to other people through sexual contact. Untreated STDs can also be a major problem if you’re planning to start a family and get pregnant. Untreated STDs can be passed on to the fetus in the womb of a mother through vertical transmission.
People with STDs are far more likely to acquire an HIV infection throughout their life. These individuals may contract HIV and not know about it because of the lack of active surveillance and treatment. Thus, people with untreated STDs are more likely to spread different kinds of STDs to other people, including HIV.
HOW TO PREVENT INFECTIONS WITH STDS?
STDs can have detrimental effects on your life. However, it is important to know that most STDs are fairly easy to avoid. By practicing a few safe-sex methods as well as taking other safety precautions you can greatly reduce your chances of contracting an STD.
The most obvious way to protect yourself from getting an STD is to make sure that you minimize your risk behavior. People who are at a high risk of acquiring STDs exhibit a collection of behaviors collectively known as high-risk behaviors. Some of the high-risk behaviors for acquiring STDs include:
- Having sex with multiple partners
- Having unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Exchanging needles for drug injections
- Sharing personal hygiene products with others
- Getting tattoos and piercings from unhygienic, unauthorized places
- Engaging in transactional sex
Make sure that you protect yourself from acquiring any sexually transmitted disease by staying clear of the above-listed behaviors. Wearing a new condom every time you engage in sexual contact is extremely important, and so is asking your partner to wear one. It is important to know that you can still acquire HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and herpes infections by skin-to-skin contact with your partner while wearing a condom, however, protection is always better than no protection.
Vaccination is also important and extremely useful in protecting yourself from STDs. HPV vaccines are highly effective and administered to all young adults in the United States. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information on STD vaccination.
One of the best methods of protecting yourself against STDs is to get tested regularly. Regular testing is highly important because it helps you keep a conscious eye on your risk behaviors. Screening tests can catch STDs in their early phase which helps in the early and accurate treatment of your disease.
Finally, talking to your partner about STDs is an extremely useful tool to protect yourself. Talk to your partner about the probabilities, the risks involved, the protective measures, and the possibility of getting treatment beforehand to establish positive expectations.
WHO SHOULD BE SCREENED FOR STDs?
Screening for STDs is an important part of STD prevention at a national level. STD testing isn't normally a part of regular medical checkups in the United States. However, there are a few scenarios where STD testing is highly recommended.
HIV screening – Every sexually and reproductively active person in the United States is supposed to be screened for HIV. The CDC recommends that people in the age groups of 13 to 64, who are at a higher risk of acquiring STDs, be tested at least once a year.
Pregnant women – Pregnant women are screened for multiple STDs as part of their prenatal checkup at a doctor’s clinic.
Pap smear – Sexually active women above the age of 21 are recommended to get a Pap smear test done for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) at least once every three years.
Chlamydia screening – Medical experts in the United States recommend every sexually active woman under the age of 25 get tested for chlamydia infection. Gonorrhea testing is also advised concurrently.
Male homosexual individuals – Men who engage in sexual conduct with other men are at a higher risk of acquiring STDs and thus should get tested for STDs at least once a year.
Q) Where Can I Get Tested For An STD?
You can get tested for STDs at your doctor's office. You can also visit independent labs and clinics to get tested for STDs. Get tested for free at IMG Health Clinic 1-800-773-7066.
Q) How Long Do I Have To Go Without Sex After STD Treatment?
The waiting period before you can have sex again after getting treatment for STD varies from disease to disease. However, a week is an average duration for abstaining from sexual activities after getting treatment for several STDs.
Q) Can All STDs Be Cured?
No, not all STDs can be cured. STDs caused by viruses are incurable, meaning that they persist for the rest of your life. They can still be managed effectively with antiviral medications, but they are not curable. STDs caused by bacteria are curable with antibacterial drugs if diagnosed and treated properly.