I believe that adolescents should have a basic understanding of
sexually transmitted diseases. They are really very simple to
understand and very simple to detect. You should go to the
doctor with any symptoms that suggest a possibility of a
sexually transmitted disease.
HPV, the human papillomavirus (or warts) is probably the most
common STD. Estimates vary, but between ten and forty
percent of sexually active young adults are infected with warts.
The virus tends to be “self limited” -- that is to say it tends to go
away with time, but it is associated with risk for cervical cancer
In men, HPV does not seem to have any long-term
consequences; however, men can be infectious even when they
do not see a virus present. Any pain with urination after a sexual
encounter can be a sign of a sexually transmitted disease.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and urethritis are all bacterial
infections of the genital tract. Sometimes associated with
discharge or bad pain in the pelvis or bad pain in the testes.
These, in fact, if untreated can have complications. For
example, many people don’t realize there is an infectious
arthritis associated with gonorrhea.
In women, these infections can get into the higher reaches of
the genital tract, and into the tubes and can cause something
called pelvic inflammatory disease. This can cause abscesses
and even death, and is often associated with fertility problems.
With men, the infection can get into the prostate -- called
prostatitis-- and even into the testes, commonly called
Syphilis is still around. It will present as a painless ulcer at the
region of contact. The ulcer will go away within a week or so,
then a rash often appears, and that too may go away. The
serious complication of syphilis is that following the rash, the
infection may get into the brain and cause an Alzheimer-like
dementia. But, an ulcer at a region of contact (your genitals)
that is painful should be considered herpes until proven
Herpes often cause a flu-like syndrome before the rash and
swelling of the lymph nodes in the region of the groin where the
infection has occurred. Herpes can itself have complications.
Herpes can infect other parts of the skin -- although it is more
difficult to contract there -- or it can cause a very serious
infection of the eye.
Awareness of HIV is very high these days and people
understand that it can be transmitted through fluid contact.
Sometimes people forget that Hepatitis C is a potentially
sexually transmitted disease that is becoming increasingly more
common. The majority of cases develop chronic liver disease,
cirrhosis and even liver cancer. Young people should be aware
there are some infections of the vagina called vaginitis that are
thought to be relatively benign. The most common infection is a
yeast infection. Thrichimotis is also a vaginitis.
--Dr. Drew Pinsky
© 2001 drDrew.com, Inc. All rights reserved.
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