Symptoms that affect the reproductive tract are the most common ones when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Some infections, however, can affect organs and systems that have very little to do with sexual health.
Did you know that some STDs can affect the eyes and cause ocular or vision-related symptoms?
STDs and Eye Conditions: An Overview
Thinking about it, there is a simple and logical reason why STDs can impact the eyes.
Most sexually transmitted infections can spread to parts of the body that have a mucosal surface. The eye is one such body part. Mucous surfaces have a similar structure, no matter where they are located. The most important thing you need to know is that mucous membranes are porous. As such, they allow for microorganisms and pathogens to enter the body.
In developed economies, it’s fairly uncommon for STDs to affect the eyes or cause serious vision problems. In other parts of the world, however, such infections tend to be observed on a somewhat regular basis. In fact, some severe cases have led to permanent eye injury and even vision loss.
STDs that affect the eyes are most common in infants and newborns. Most of these conditions can be treated via the administration of antibiotic drops. Treatment that is postponed, however, can lead to complications.
Which STDs Cause Eye Problems
Unfortunately, the most widespread STDs can also lead to eye problems.
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can both cause conjunctivitis. It’s very easy for the pathogens to get into the eyes. That can happen when the eye has contact with an infected bodily fluid (directly). It’s also possible for a person to get pathogens in their eyes by rubbing them with unclean hands.
When the cause of an infection is chlamydia, the condition will be called trachoma. The bacterium that causes chlamydia, Chlamydia trachomatis, is one of the leading infectious causes of blindness. This problem is predominantly observed in developing countries. Even if the infection doesn’t lead to complete blindness, it can still contribute to permanent damage and some vision problems.
The earlier the treatment starts, the better the outcome. Ongoing and long-lasting inflammation can cause conjunctival scarring that is irreversible.
Gonorrhoea infections of the eyes are most common among newborn children. This condition can also cause vision loss or blindness. Luckily, the infection is fairly easy to treat with a round of antibiotics.
Over the past few years, countries like the US have seen an increase in the rate of ocular syphilis infections. These are most common among men who have sex with men, especially among individuals who are also HIV-positive.
The treatment of ocular syphilis involves intravenous antibiotic administration. If left untreated, ocular syphilis can cause redness, blurry vision and blindness.
There are a few more STDs that can cause eye problems.
Hepatitis B is characterised by jaundice or yellowing of the eyes. Eventually, chronic hepatitis B can cause retinal blood vessel inflammation. The condition may also affect the optic nerve, which is why an experienced physician will have to carry out a thorough examination to discover the root cause of the problem.
The herpes simplex virus is another STD-related cause of eye problems. The virus can cause eye issues and the appearance of face lesions. Such complications are most likely to occur whenever a person is experiencing a flare-up. And since genital herpes is a viral condition, there is no cure for it or the eye problems it may lead to. In the long-run, eye-related herpes symptoms can lead to a notable reduction in a person’s quality of life.
How to Protect Yourself from Possible Eye Complications
Being sexually responsible is the first and most important thing you have to do in order to reduce the risk of STDs.
Always use barrier contraception like condoms. This is a good suggestion even for people in a committed monogamous relationship who aren’t trying to get pregnant at the time being.
All sexually active individuals should get periodically tested for some of the most widespread STDs. Luckily, combined screening panels are readily available in Singapore. You can get such tests in registered facilities like Shim Clinic. The testing is quick, reliable and confidential.
There are a few more common sense things you can do to reduce the risk of experiencing eye problems.
Washing your hands with soap and water frequently is a must-do. You also need to get in the habit of mindfully not touching your face or rubbing your eyes. While such habits can be difficult to establish, they can prevent lots of complications (and not just ones related to STDs).
Don’t share towels and wash clothes with others. If you have an active eye infection, throw away makeup and cosmetics you’ve used on and around your eyes. Wash linens and towels often. Changing pillowcases frequently (even more often than the rest of your bedding) will make a lot of sense.
If you want to learn a bit more about STDs, their symptoms and effective protection, contact Shim Clinic right now or visit us during working hours every day of the week.