Friday, August 29, 2014

OMG! STD? - Unraveling the Itches and Burns Pt.1

The last thing some folks, especially in the US, want to think about during the heat of the moment is a condom or other forms of protection. Unlike our European friends who promote the use of condoms even in their movies, our culture somehow finds talking about it and watching it to be taboo, same with the conditions that come about after we have unprotected sex and get an infection. And if you know me well enough by now, you know that I love talking taboo. :)

When one gets the flu, they feel gross and uncomfortable, but others understand it. When one gets an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection), they're stigmatized as a slut or man-whore, AND they feel uncomfortable, AND they have to tell others about it. Imagine that.

Here are the abbreviations explained so you don't get tripped up on the letters:

STI - Sexually Transmitted Infection      HIV - Human Immunodeficiency Virus
STD - Sexually Transmitted Disease      AIDS - Auto Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome

So let's hop into the Ms. Frizzle's bus and jump inside a human to learn about STIs, STDs, and HIV/AIDS. On second thought...

What is well-known:
Chlamydia: This is a type of infection that both men and women get. It's more common than gonorrhea and syphilis and the symptoms are barely noticeable, if there are any symptoms at all and the infection may start within 5-10 days. It is passed via sexual contact with the vagina and/or anus and is commonly found in both genders under the age of 25. It infects the genitals, anus, urethra, eyes, and throat.

Women who have chlamydia or symptoms of chlamydia might experience abdominal pain, abnormal discharge from the vagina, slight fever bleeding after sex, swelling around vagina or anus, need to pee more often than normal, smelly yellow discharge from the vagina.

Men who experience chlamydia symptoms may have swollen testicles, and milky or watery discharge from the penis.
Both genders may have pain during peeing, swelling around the anus, painful intercourse, itchy anus, red eyes/discharge from the eyes, sore throat.
Depending on how badly one has it, the symptoms will be mild and occur in the morning, Most people write it off as a common sickness. But it can turn into something very serious if it isn't checked out, so make sure to see your doctor or health center if you have concerns.
Chlamydia can cause
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
- Infertility (make a woman unable to produce babies).
- Epididymitis (swelling or pain of the epididymis, the coiled tube behind the testicles that collects sperm).
- Reactive arthritis

It's seriously important to get yourself tested after sex, especially if you're unsure of your sexual partner's history.

Thankfully, chlamydia can be treated and it's easy to do so! You'll need to take antibiotics and visit your health center or doctor to see what the next steps are. It could take a couple of weeks or months. Be sure to refrain from sexual activities until you're fully treated. The infection is still in your body, even after you take antibiotics the first few weeks, the symptoms just dissipate. Try talking to your sexual partner(s) about getting themselves treated as well to avoid spreading the infection on to others. Also be sure to clean your toys and other objects regularly (most can be boiled!) and don't share your meds with anyone. Remember to get tested again after a few months to make sure the infection isn't hanging around.

If you're worried about getting chlamydia, use protection as much as possible! Dental dams and condoms can save you a trip to the doctor and some embarrassing phone calls.

Aliases: the clap, the drip.
This disease can be spread via bodily fluids that carry it, so a mom can pass it to her baby during childbirth. Both genders are able to contract gonorrhea. It usually occurs within people who have had multiple sex partners.

The cause of gonorrhea is bacteria growth within warm, wet areas of the body (cervix, fallopian tubes, urethra, mouth, anus, etc). It's quite common for people to contract gonorrhea, especially among sexually active youth. Protect yourself, you horny-ass teenagers! ;)

If you think you have gonorrhea (symptoms typically occur within 10-14 days you've been exposed/had sex), please consult your care provider or health clinic. Most of the symptoms can develop and become noticeable within a month, and not everyone shows signs of these symptoms! However, you may find that things about your body have changed, such as:

Women -
Green/yellow/white discharge from the vagina
Burning while peeing
Bleeding without having your period/blood spots after sex
Throat burn/swollen glands (oral sex)
Swelling in vulva
Pain in your abdomen/pelvis
Red and itchy eyes

Men -
Green/white/yellow discharge from penis
Swollen testicles
Throat burn/swollen glands (oral sex)
Burning while peeing

In order to diagnose gonorrhea, your health provider will need a sample of the fluid (from the urethra in men, from the cervix in women. Sometimes they'll ask for urine, throat, or anus samples). After, they'll send it to the lab for it to be studied. You'll likely wait for approximately a week before your test comes back. They may ask you if you want to be tested for chlamydia as well, since both tend to occur together.

Hep A: This virus infects the liver. It goes away on its own, with no long term liver problems. Sometimes it can be more serious and lead to more complications. 

Hepatitis A spreads through feces (poop) of  the person infected. This typically happens when the person doesn't wash their hands after using bathroom and continues to work around food/drinks. It spreads mostly in restaurants and day cares. I am not eating at a fast food restaurant any time soon...

Other ways to contract Hep A is via eating raw oysters and under-cooked clams, drinking unfiltered tap water, and having sex with someone who has the virus.

Symptoms of Hep A (or Jéfe, if you're my partner who likes to make jokes...):
- feeling very tired
- feeling sick
- loss of appetite
- losing weight without meaning to
- pain under rib cage
- fever, sore muscles
- dark urine/stool
- yellow skin (jaundice)

Blood tests are able to tell if you have Hep A, and there is a vaccine you can get if you have Hep A. Recommendations are to keep clean hands, wash fruits and veggies before eating them, and being aware of your surroundings if you work with children or in a kitchen.

Hep B: Most adults will have it for a short period of time, then it will go away. Much like Hep A, it damages your liver. Babies and children who were born infected with the virus are likely to have it permanently. Hep B is spread via blood and bodily fluids. You're likely to contract it if you have sex with an infected person without protection, share needles with infected person, get a tattoo/piercing/other body mods without sterilized equipment, and sharing razors or toothbrushes with infected person. Mothers can pass it along to their babies, and the babies can be treated for Hep B. You can't get Hep B from hugging, kissing, sharing food/drinks, sharing toilet seats, or sneezing/coughing on someone. Hepatitis B has symptoms that are similar to the flu. Some symptoms include:
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Stomach pain/feeling sick
  • Vomiting
  • Achy muscles
  • Yellow skin (jaundice)
  • Skin rash
A blood test can give your doctor/care physician the information needed to diagnose you, since most people with chronic Hep B have no symptoms. There is a vaccine for it, too!

Hep C: Probably on the more intense side of the viral hepatitis spectrum, this causes liver damage, liver cancer, and liver failure. Most don't know that they have it until the liver failure sets in. However, those who are able to live with it and manage it tend to live healthy and active lives. Most people who already have Hep C contract chronic Hep C over time. The virus is spread via contact with blood, so no worries about sharing toilets or giving hugs. However, you can get Hep C if you...
  • Share needles/get tattoos/piercings with unsanitary needles.
  • Have had a blood transfusion with someone who has Hep C, or have been given a shot with an unsterilized needle.
Most are unsure about contracting Hep C via sexual contact, but I would like to assume that you can. Sometimes there are tears and rips that occur within thin tissue, and that means all kinds of viruses can get in your body.
Much like the others, symptoms include feeling tired, having stomach and joint pains, feeling itchy and sore, having dark urine and yellow skin (jaundice). Some people don't find out that they have it until they've been living with it for 10 or more years! 

What is lesser-known:
Bacterial vaginosis (BV): Technically, BV is an STI because it's a vaginal infection. The infection is caused when there's too much of one type of bacteria in the vagina, upsetting the balance of good and bad bacteria. Good bacteria keeps the bad bacteria under control. It isn't a huge problem and can go away in a couple of days with the right treatment. But if it doesn't, you should consult your gynecologist or primary care doctor because it can turn into something more serious.

Who gets BV? - Any woman can get BV, though it's typically found in women ages 15-44, especially those who are sexually active. However, experts believe that you can't get it via another person (or sharing toilet seats). Women who are pregnant and have BV may increase a risk of a miscarriage, low birth weight, an early delivery, or a uterine infection after you give birth. Depending on the way you deliver your baby, there may be a larger risk of a pelvic infection. However, antibiotics can help to fix these problems.

While the cause of BV is unknown, we do know how it spreads. Having multiple sex partners and douching often can mess up the balance of the bacteria and put the woman at risk for getting BV.

Your chances of getting BV are heightened if you smoke, douche, have more than one sexual partner. You can lower your risk if you don't douche or smoke.
Symptoms include a "fishy" smell, which may increase after sex, and a gray-ish or yellow-colored discharge. Because there are many STI's and STDs that cause discharge, I'd suggest going to the doctor or gynecologist to check and get the right treatment for your infection. This means that your doctor will want to take a sample and do a pelvic exam.