Monday, April 22, 2013

What to Know About STDs

A major concern I currently see in my practice is the increase rate of STDs I see on a daily basis. Although the average American feels this is a teenage disease the fact is that all ages are affected by this including children and aging adults. With the more education we have on the subject it is assumed that most people know about safe sex. I have found after educating my patients however, that a lot of patients really do not know exactly how common STDs are or the outcome an untreated STD can cause.

HPV is something we hear in the news a lot these days due to cervical cancer and the Gardasil injections. These injections are recommended between the ages of 10-26 for both boys and girls. In some instances there are parents who question the need as the vaccine is still new and they truly do not understand the virus.  What most parents do not know is that 80% of the population in America has some form of HPV.

Certain strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer, esophageal cancer, rectal cancer, or genital warts. All of these strains are transmitted via sexual contact. By receiving the vaccine it can help protect against the 4 most common forms of cervical cancer and genital warts. HPV is a very contagious virus and can be spread easily from person to person including from a parent to child by simple skin to skin contact. It is highly recommended that all children get the vaccine due to the easy transmission and the possible deadly outcome.

Another concern is Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. This is a very common STD that many take in stride since it can be treated with an antibiotic. In recent years however, there has been a recent outbreak of Gonorrhea strains that are resistant to certain forms of antibiotics. This STD can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in females if untreated. Since the majority of females do not have symptoms the disease spreads into the uterus and fallopian tubes which cause inflammation and infection. This can lead to infertility. Due to the fact this can cause serious reproduction issues for the female and has very little symptoms it is tested on routine pelvic exams for females under 25 who have changed their partner since their last pelvic exam.

Herpes is another virus that can be obtained via sexual contact. This virus can be located almost anywhere on the body and is easily transferred with touch. The virus causes painful eruption of blisters to the affected area. Some of the areas include the genitals, oral sores including inside the mouth, and hands. There is no cure for this type of STD but medication can be used to suppress the symptoms. Pregnant women who have a history of genital herpes will need to make the OB aware as the virus could spread to their child during the birthing process.

Other STDs include HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and syphilis. The best way to prevent most STDs is condom use. If anyone questions if they have a STD they should make an appointment with their provider.

Cumberland Family Practice, a member of PinnacleHealth Medical Group


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