Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV are probably what appear on top of people’s minds when it comes to STDs. However, as the years go by, more and more diseases are on the rise and are slowly being recognized as STIs. These infections can be caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses and are considered as STIs due to them being transmitted through certain types of sexual contact. In this article, we will discuss 5 less common STIs that might still sound unfamiliar: pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), Mycoplasma genitalium, Lymphogranuloma venereum, Shigella, and pubic lice.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease is actually a complication that is initially caused by suffering from gonorrhea, chlamydia or non-specific urethritis (NSU). PID attacks a woman’s reproductive organs. Usually, the bacteria will progress from the vagina to a woman’s uterus and upper genital tract. Due to its nature as a progression from existing STDs, PID is hazardous. It can damage and scar a woman’s fallopian tubes, leading to infertility and problems during pregnancy. PID can stem from unprotected vaginal sex with chlamydia and gonorrhea as the main reasons a person can develop this disease. However, not limited to experiencing unprotected vaginal sex, people can get PID after a bowel infection and surgical procedures such as abortions. In most cases, PID often presents no symptoms, but when symptoms are obvious, they usually revolve around unusual vaginal discharge, bleeding and spotting, fever, lower abdominal pain and pain while having sex or urinating. PID is treatable with antibiotics. It is important to remember that you have to finish the prescribed amount of antibiotics for the disease to completely clear up. It is best for people to halt sex until after PID really goes away.
Mycoplasma genitalium is one of the tiniest bacteria ever known to humans. Over the years, this bacteria has been recognized as an alarming STI. What is more worrisome is the fact that people can contract this bacteria even when they do not go all the way to vaginal sex as this bacteria can spread through touching or rubbing. Identified in the 1980s, M.genitalium is particularly common in young adults. This sexually transmitted bacteria is known to cause urethritis in men and several reproductive tract problems in women such as cervicitis, PID and infertility. Ongoing irritations that occur in the urethra and cervix may be the cause why M.genitalium is often mistaken for chlamydia or gonorrhea. This disease is mostly symptomless, but visible symptoms include unusual penile and vaginal discharge as well as pain during sex and urinating. Antibiotics used to treat this disease are not penicillin but azithromycin and doxycycline.
Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)
Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is closely related to chlamydia because this disease is caused by rare and unusual strains of chlamydia. Compared to regular chlamydia, LGV is far more awful and hazardous because it is more contagious. LGV can be transmitted through unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex and is even more contagious when there are traumas on the skin or mucous membranes. Not limited to sexual contact, sharing unsanitary sex toys is also one of the ways LGV can spread. LGV initially starts as a pimple around the genitals and this begins around 3 to 30 days after exposure. It can then start attacking the body’s lymphatic system and lead to rectal infections. When lymph glands are invaded, people may experience fever, sore muscles, weight loss and general unwellness. When present in the rectum, symptoms revolve around unusual discharge (blood or mucus) from the anus, stomach pain and urgency to defecate but unable to pass down stool. In severe cases, LGV may result in rectal and colon abnormalities (fistulas). Treating LGV can be done by consuming a certain amount of antibiotics (usually over the course of 3 weeks). Doxycycline is the type of antibiotics used to treat LGV.
If previously we discussed Giardiasis which is a diarrheal disease and STI caused by a parasite, Shigella is another similar infection due to bacteria. As with Giardiasis, Shigella also spreads from one person to the other through oral-anal sex. Direct or indirect contact with human feces can result in intense stomach cramps and severe mucus-filled diarrhea which worsens the bacteria transmission. Besides from sexual activities, people can contract Shigella from drinking from untreated water sources and working closely in childcare settings where workers do not wash their hands as often as they need to after making contact with children’s stool. Mild cases of Shigella typically clears up on its own after one week, but in severe cases, doctors and healthcare professionals may prescribe antibiotics. Symptoms of Shigella may appear one to two days after exposure and they may include fever, nausea or vomiting as well as diarrhea that has blood or mucus.
Pubic lice occurs due to small parasites invading the pubic hair. These parasites are often referred to as ‘crabs’ because when observed under the microscope, their appearance resembles crabs. Not only does it attack pubic hair, this condition can also be found in eyebrows, armpit hair and beards although rare. Pubic lice is normally spread through skin-to-skin contact through sexual activities or making contact with an infected person’s towel, bed sheets or underwear. Wearing condoms will not totally protect you from pubic lice. Obvious symptoms of this infection are itching around the pubic area, lice or eggs hanging to the body hair and in some cases, you can spot fine debris caused by the lice on the underwear. To examine pubic lice, healthcare professionals usually perform careful observation around the suspected area. Treatment of pubic lice usually includes applying insecticide lotions or shampoo around the infected area, abstaining from sex and washing towels and bed sheets thoroughly with detergent and hot water so infestation does not become worse.
Never put off tomorrow what you can do today, especially when it comes to getting updates on your sexual health. Shim Clinic is a STD clinic based in Singapore. We provide STD testing and STD treatment as well as STD prevention methods such as HIV PEP, HIV PrEP and HPV vaccinations (Gardasil-9).