Sexually transmitted infections are diseases that are transmitted, as the name suggests, through unprotected sexual intercourse. Several sexually transmitted infections have been identified, but they all differ in severity and progression.
While several sexually transmitted infections are known to man, some are more common than others. The most common STI in the world is HPV, followed by chlamydia and gonorrhea. Syphilis, herpes, trichomoniasis, and HIV are also among the most common sexually transmitted infections around the globe. While these infections are extremely common in both the developing and the developed world, only a handful are life-threatening. The rest of the most common sexually transmitted infections can be dealt with easily if they are detected early and treated promptly.
Sexually transmitted infections are caused by multiple pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Here are a few details about the most common STIs in the world.
THE MOST COMMON SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS
As mentioned before, several sexually transmitted infections are currently known to man. However, each one of these infections differs from the other in its causative agents, symptoms, and severity.
These 5 sexually transmitted infections are some of the most common STIs that people across encounter daily. Reading up on these infections and knowing how they spread is a good way to protect yourself from these infections.
Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is responsible for the world's most common sexually transmitted infection. According to the CDC, about 80 million people in the United States are infected by HPV, including 14 million teenagers.
Typically, an HPV infection does not present with any specific symptoms. There may be no symptoms at all following the incubation period. People who do develop symptoms experience an outburst of warts in the genital area. These warts may also be present in the oral cavity.
These warts may cause itchiness, redness, or discomfort in the genital area. Moreover, high-risk strains of the Human Papilloma Virus can even cause cervical or oral cancer. HPV infections are one of the most common causes of cervical cancer!
The infection generally clears up on its own, and no specific treatment is required to eliminate the virus from the body. Regular checkups for HPV are only present in women through a pap-smear which is the visualization of the cervix. A healthcare provider collects a sample through a swab and tests it for HPV infection. This procedure helps to prevent cervical cancer in women. There is also an HPV vaccine available, which can be given to teens and even young adults. However, the HPV vaccine is virtually useless if administered beyond 26.
Chlamydia is also one of the world's most common sexually transmitted infections. Chlamydia is the most reported STI in the United States.
Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis. This infection may not always present with any symptoms as well, but symptomatic patients will often experience:
- Painful urination
- Painful coitus
- Pain in abdomen
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Discharge from genitals
Chlamydia is generally not a life-threatening infection. However, in some women, chlamydia can ascend from the genitals to the reproductive organs, such as the uterus and the fallopian tubes. Here, the pathogen can cause a widespread infection often referred to as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or PID.
This infection is easily treated with a round of antibiotics. You can also prevent having chlamydia in the first place by having safe, protected sexual intercourse.
Gonorrhea is the third most common STI in the world. It is also the second most commonly reported STI across the globe. Gonorrhea infections are usually found to co-exist with chlamydia infections. A bacteria, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, also causes gonorrhea.
Like chlamydia, gonorrhea does not always present with any symptoms. Some symptoms that people with gonorrhea may experience include painful urination, abdominal pain, painful coitus, abnormal discharge from the genitals, and swollen testicles.
Gonorrhea infections are mostly harmless. However, some infections can turn chronic and lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Gonorrhea can also increase the risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Pregnant women, who contract gonorrhea during pregnancy, can also transmit the virus to the fetus in the womb.
A simple course of antibiotics eliminates this infection from the body.
The next most common sexually transmitted infection in the world is syphilis. Syphilis is also caused by a bacteria called Treponema pallidum.
Syphilis usually presents with four distinct stages. The outbreak of sores marks the first stage. These sores usually look harmless, so many people with syphilis go undiagnosed for a long time. The second stage involves a generalized rash, followed by the third stage, which is marked by sores in the oral cavity and on the genitals. The last stage of the disease is marked by nerve and brain damage, but only about 15% of people with untreated syphilis will ever reach this stage.
A simple course of antibiotics is generally enough to eliminate syphilis.
Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. The herpes simplex virus has two distinct types: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both these strains can cause genital herpes, a condition characterized by painful blisters in or around the genitals. The main symptoms of herpes include painful urination, painful sexual intercourse, itchiness, and discomfort.
Since a virus causes herpes, it is impossible to eliminate this infection from the body completely. Once a person contracts herpes, they live with the infection for the rest of their lives. It is also very easy to transmit this virus to other people. Apart from unprotected sexual intercourse, herpes can also spread through direct skin-to-skin contact in areas not covered by condoms.
Episodic outbursts of painful blisters characterize herpes infections. These blister outbreaks can be triggered by various environmental factors, such as fever, stress, or even emotional distress.