Sexually transmitted infections are infections which are transmitted through sexual intercourse between two or more individuals, one of whom carries the offending pathogen which is then transmitted or spread to others involved.Each time, more than one organism or pathogen can be transmitted, for example, a person may be harbouring treponema pallidum which causes syphilis as well as herpes simplex virus which causes genital herpes. Through unprotected intercourse, these 2 pathogens can be transmitted simultaneously to the unsuspecting partner. Incubation period may vary from weeks to months depending on the type of pathogen. In some cases, there may not be any symptoms after infection or symptoms may be ignored or not recognised by the victim. In this case, it is strongly adivisable to go for STD screening tests if one has any doubts after an exposure. The screening tests usually screen for the commonest STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, Hepers simplex virus. Others are candida infection, trichomonas, non-gonoccocal urethritis, streptoccocus, staphyloccocus aureus, human papilloma virus, HIV etc. The list is by no means exhaustive. Hepatitis viruses such as Hep B and Hep C can also be transmitted sexually, so can others like molluscum contagiosum, bacterial vaginosis, bacteriodes fragilis, and even scabies.
Some of the presenting symptoms and signs may be very specific for STDs, such as dysuria (painful urination), increased urinary frequency, penile or vaginal discharge, foul smelling discharge, enlarged groin lymph nodes, herpetic vesicles, or ulcers, or rashes.
Some of the symptoms may be non-specific: lethargy, prodrome symptoms such as fever, generalised rash, myalgia, arthralgia, loss of weight and appetite, could also be the initial presenting complaints. In these instances, it is better to err on the side of caution and get yourself screened for STDs if you suspect that you may be exposed before.
Incubation period is the time between initial infection and the presentation of symptoms or signs. Incubation periods vary and may be short (2 days to 4 weeks): for example Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, Non-Gonococcal Urethritis, Genital Herpes ; or long incubation period (a few weeks to a few months) : Syphillis, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Genital Warts.
Some patients with STDs may be asymptomatic or may choose to ignore or endure the symptoms without seeking diagnosis or treatment. These individuals may pass on the disease to their partners if they are in the infective phase through unprotected sexual intercourse.
It is therfore imperative that screening be performed for suspected individuals and the appropriate treatment and management undertaken by trained medical professionals.