Most people who experience chlamydia, the most common bacterial STI, don’t have obvious symptoms. Yet, if left untreated, chlamydia can impact fertility or be passed to baby during birth. Symptoms for women: painful urination, abdominal pain, inter-menstrual bleeding or bleeding with intercourse. Symptoms in men: discharge, painful urination and testicular swelling. Because it is often asymptomatic, sexually active individuals along with their partners must be screened. Testing is by urine sample or swab of the infected area. After treatment, retesting is imperative to ensure complete elimination.Gonorrhea symptoms: painful urination and discharge; transfer through oral sex can cause a sore throat. Untreated, gonorrhea can lead to pelvic infection, abscesses and abdominal pain. Transmission to baby at childbirth is possible. Fallopian tube scarring can increase the risk of infertility.
Gonorrhea is tested by swabbing the infected area. Although less publicized, infections with the syphilis bacteria are increasing. Transmit-ted through genital, oral or anal sex; it can be passed to an unborn child. Depending on the disease stage, syphilis has an array of symptoms: painful sores, hair loss, rashes, fever, swollen glands, muscle and joint pain. Diagnosis is done through a blood test. Bacterial STIs are treated with antibiotics.
Caused by the herpes simplex virus, genital herpes is transmitted through contact with an infected individual, and is incurable. It presents with painful blister-like lesions around the genital area; transfer during oral sex can lead to lesions around the mouth. Additional symptoms: itching and painful urination; fever, headache and muscle pain are usually limited to the first outbreak. Once infected, the virus goes into a dormant phase. Recurrences are likely shorter and less severe. Oral anti-viral medications can reduce the return and duration of an outbreak. Avoid sexual contact including oral sex if your partner has visible lesions or cold sores. Importantly, this virus can be spread before open sores appear.
Safe sex is key to avoiding any STI – always use a condom. Dental dams help prevent transmission during oral sex. Speak to your doctor if you suspect you have an STI; they can have significant life-long consequences.
Dr. Marla Shapiro, Assoc. Prof., University of Toronto, Dept. of Family & Community Medi-cine; CTV’s Medical Consultant on CanadaAM; Globe and Mail health columnist.