Last Updated June 13th, 2021
STDs – Stay aware, stay safe
STDs are sexually transmitted diseases; diseases where the infectious pathogens are transmitted via oral, vaginal, or anal sex. The bodily fluids present in these body parts are the ones infested by bacteria, virus, and parasites that pass on from an infected person to a healthy person via sexual contact. In addition to saliva, semen, and vaginal fluid, blood could also be an infectious carrier of STDs. While sexual contact is the primary channel through which STD pathogens spread, these infections can also spread via infected blood transfusions and placental connections.
In simple words, there are three main channels that are involved in the vigorous spread of STDs – unprotected sexual contacts, infected blood transfusion, and from infected mother to the fetus. Sexually transmitted diseases are one of the most common forms of infection prevalent globally. The ones exceeding STDs in terms of the number of cases are lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, and malaria.
There are more than 498 million human beings on this planet (within the age-group of 15 to 49 years) who are affected by STDs every year! In the USA alone, more than 20 million cases of STDs are reported annually. There are more than 25 different types of STDs known – such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, AIDS and many more. Out of these, the cure for HIV/AIDS still eludes the medical community making it a highly contagious and deadly infection.
STDs: Some shocking facts
STDs are also called venereal diseases; the name venereal having been derived from “Venus” – the Roman goddess of love. These infectious and largely debilitating conditions can manifest a wide spectrum of symptoms. Ranging from simple discomfort felt in the groin area such as itching and swelling to extremely disabling (and probably fatal symptoms) such as tumors and pneumonia, STD pathogens can rapidly hijack your body’s immune system and cause widespread mayhem.
With rapid strides in the world on antibiotics, better knowledge on how STDs spread, and enough awareness on safe sexual practices, one would assume that the incidence of STDs would have come down drastically. However, recent studies prove otherwise. Let us take a quick look at how vast and deep-rooted these conditions have become in the past few years.
- Among all the 1st world countries, the USA seems to be witnessing an unprecedented surge in the number of STD cases. Between 2000 and 2016, there has been a whopping 98% rise in the rates of chlamydia. Since 2009, gonorrhea has increased by almost 67%. The number of syphilis cases has almost doubled.
- MSM (or men who have sex with men) contribute to 70% of all cases of syphilis. 45% of all cases of chlamydia were observed in young women (15-24 years).
- Women are more vulnerable to STDs because a shorter urethra allows easy passage of bacteria and parasites into the body. In fact the risk of STD among women is 10 times more than that in men.
- There are more than 1.5 million new cases of HIV/AIDS reported every year. 70% of all cases of AIDS are concentrated in the sub-Saharan region of Africa.
Common STDs & associated health conditions: What do they look like?
One of the oldest recorded STDs, syphilis is caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. This chronic infection can severely debilitate the central nervous system too. In the initial stages, it resembles a benign rash or a lesion that can occur anywhere in the body, including the eye. This quickly progresses to reddish-brown colored sores that start appearing in the mouth, vagina, and the anus. The patient feels fatigued, numbness in the body, severe eye irritation, and loss of muscle coordination.
Genital herpes is a viral infection caused by the HSV (herpes simplex virus). It is mainly characterized by blisters present in the genitals which gradually spread to the buttocks, inner thighs, and even the eyes. The sores can cause permanent damage to the eyes leading to blindness. The patient experiences excruciating pain upon urination and bleeding where the blisters are present.
Chlamydia is one of the most dangerous STDs to occur among females. This can lead to serious damage to the female reproductive system causing pregnancy complications, miscarriage, and even infertility. The most notable symptom of this infection is an inflammation in the groin area followed by abnormal discharge (both penile and vaginal) and painful urination. Women may observe bleeding during/after sexual intercourse. Conjunctivitis may concur with chlamydia since the bacterial infection can easily spread to the eye.
Another viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus, cold sores or “herpes labialis” is characterized by pus-filled blisters appearing near the lips and nose. It is a highly contagious infection and as per WHO, 2/3rd of the entire global population (<50 years) carries this virus. The blisters are reddish in color and cause extreme pain and discomfort. When they dry up, they leave behind scabs and scars. If these spread to the oral cavity, they can cause swelling and bleeding of gums.
A polyp is an abnormal fleshy growth. Cervical polyps are abnormal growths on the cervix (the passage between the vagina and the uterus). The main cause of such growths is chronic inflammation in the cervical region which is often a result of an untreated STD. The patient will experience unusually heavy periods and abnormal vaginal discharge. The polyps may obstruct the cervical region leading to infertility. Around 1% of cases can show precancerous signs if it gets infected by HPV (human papillomavirus), a highly contagious sexually transmitted virus.
Vaginitis is the name given to the range of infections and vaginal conditions arising due to vaginal inflammation. The swelling, itching, and pain are not associated only with the vagina but also with the vulva and the cervix. STDs such as chlamydia and herpes alter the normal pH of the vagina leading to sticky vaginal discharge and foul smell. There is pus in the urine and abnormal vaginal bleeding as well.
A cyst is somewhat similar to a polyp except for the fact that unlike polyp (which is a fleshy mass), a cyst often encloses a liquid (or semi-liquid) substance. Cervical cysts and cervical inflammation (cervicitis) are often associated with STDs such as gonorrhea and Trichomonas. The HPV can cause mutations in the cells of the cervix (including the cysts and polyps) and may give rise to cervical cancer.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Any kind of vaginal bleeding that deviates from the normal menstrual cycle is medically termed as abnormal vaginal bleeding. Bleeding between periods, spotting, unusually heavy periods – all of these qualify as abnormal bleeding patterns. There is a long list of factors that can cause this but the most common ones are physical trauma, psychological stress, and STDs. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is the most obvious symptom of an STD or a miscarriage.
Prolonged labor, hormonal changes, and abnormal growths (such as polyps, cysts, and tumors) are the primary reasons why a uterus can weaken and prolapse. Owing to this anatomical defect, there are abnormal (and often painful) vaginal bleeding and extreme pain in the pelvic region. Frequent infections of the bladder, vagina, and uterus can also weaken the pelvic floor muscles leading to organ prolapse.
Fibroadenoma is the most benign form of breast cancer in women. It is usually removed via surgery if it grows in size and /or calcifies. Though this is strictly not associated with STDs, it is usually a result of hormonal changes that could be triggered by an infection. Fluctuations in the hormone estrogen are believed to be responsible for the formation of such lumps. Both estrogen and progesterone are linked to healthy vaginal flora. Thus, any disruption in the level could make you more vulnerable to STDs.
This interestingly named infection is actually a fictional STD that is purported to cause the vagina to turn blue in color. It is also believed that a blue waffle infected female develops are a strong stench in the vaginal region. The supposedly main causes for the spread of blue waffle disease are multiple sexual partners and lack of hygiene. There is absolutely no medical evidence that supports its existence.
Blue balls or epididymal hypertension is a rather painful condition of the testicles where the male genitals retain enough blood owing to arousal which is not released via an orgasm. However, testicular pain is not limited to this particular reason only. There are several venereal diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea that can lead to similar pain and discomfort. Other reasons include – hernia, hydrocele, and even kidney stones. The best way to obtain relief from this pain is to attain a release through ejaculation. If the cause of testicular pain is an STD, as mentioned above, it would be wise to take the help of antibiotics and natural supplements as discussed later.
The best, easy, and most effective remedies for STDs
The best way to prevent the rapid spread of STDs is, undoubtedly, practicing safe sex. This includes using protection every time you indulge in oral, anal, and vaginal sex. One should keep their genital area clean both before and after intercourse. Always be aware of your partner’s sexual history and avoid indulging in intimate sexual activities with multiple partners. However, none of these methods guarantee 100% protection from STDs.
In case, you or your partner is experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is best to refer to a doctor at the earliest. The main course of treatment in most cases is antibiotic dosage or anti-viral medication. In addition to the prescribed medicines, there is a wide range of immunity-boosting foods and supplements that you can choose from to speed up the recovery process.
- Garlic: Did you know one of the most common kitchen ingredients, garlic, can be your weapon in fighting off numerous STDs? Well-known for its strong anti-microbial properties, this pungent pod packs in the power of antibiotics. It can effectively flush out infection-causing parasites and build your immunity against bacterial infections. Garlic is also used as a vaginal suppository for treating trichomoniasis in women.
- Tea Tree Oil: This popular extract has gained wide popularity in the cosmetic industry. This essential oil has numerous health benefits; it can easily combat fungal and bacterial infections without inducing any side-effects. You can apply this oil topically on the infected skin areas to witness relief from the painful symptoms of syphilis. You can also add tea tree to your bathing water to treat trichomoniasis. It is especially effective in treating infections caused by HSV (herpes simplex virus).
- Yogurt: Infections, be it sexually transmitted or otherwise, usually occur because our body’s natural immunity remains incapable of fighting off pathogens in the first place. There are a variety of reasons why this happens, but a faulty diet is one of them. A diet rich in sugar, processed foods, junk, trans fat etc tends to kill the healthy gut bacteria. To compensate for this, one must fill his/her diet with immunity-boosting foods such as yogurt. It contains lactobacillus strains of bacteria that can easily keep your urogenital region pathogen-free. In many experiments, it has been found that topical application of yogurt in case of yeast infections helps bring down the symptoms almost instantly.
- Aloe Vera: Well-known for its instant cooling effects, aloe vera is yet another natural marvel that you can use to sooth the pain and itching associated with STDs. Aloe vera extract and gel can be safely applied to sores, blisters, and rashes which are very common in case of sexually transmitted infections. It can also be consumed orally to enhance immunity from within. Additionally, topical applications of Aloe Vera gel on syphilis scars and wounds can help get rid of them effectively. Not to mention, numerous studies have indicated the high efficacy of using aloe vera extract in treating genital HSV infections.
- Ashwagandha: This wonder herb has been long associated with Ayurveda. The powdered form of the ashwagandha root is widely used to treat conditions of erectile dysfunction and menstrual irregularities. This plant’s extract is both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial in nature. Thus, taking ashwagandha supplements for STDs can help you obtain relief from inflammation and also reduce bacterial growth. Today, it is widely employed in treating the symptoms of chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- Oil of Oregano: Sexually transmitted infections often cause inflammation. To combat this symptom, one needs to take the help of anti-inflammatory extracts. Oil of oregano is one such natural substance that contains strong bactericidal properties. Its main constituent, thymol is a strong antiseptic, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal agent. The oil can be either directly applied to the sores and lesions or consumed by diluting a few drops of oil in one cup of water. It is a well-known natural antibiotic and is widely used to treat STDs and other infections, such as pneumonia, too.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are regarded as one of the oldest means of combating infections and boosting immunity. It refers to a unique group of foods that are enriched with healthy gut bacteria. Foods that are prepared by fermentation such as kefir and Greek yogurt are naturally endowed with probiotic powers. You can opt to eat foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and sourdough bread or take probiotic supplements to help speed up the treatment of STDs. Once the healthy bacteria enter your system, it can effectively get rid of the pathogen population from your body.
- Berberine: Numerous studies suggest that adding high-quality Berberine supplement in addition to antibiotics can largely speed up the treatment process, especially for gonorrhea. Berberine is a bright yellow-colored substance derived from turmeric and barberry tree. This particular extract works by destroying the bacterial biofilm (a thin film that protects bacteria) and by increasing the efficacy of the current antibiotic course. Most doctors prescribe 500 mg supplements 3 times a day to fight the STD symptoms.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple juice and just like any other fermented food it is a storehouse of immunity-boosting compounds. Since ancient times, ACV has been credited with treating and curing a number of infections, including the sexually transmitted ones. Today, it is considered to be a popular home remedy for treating gonorrhea. There are multiple ways in which you can include ACV in your daily routine to obtain the best results. One is to apply ACV directly on the affected skin with the help of cotton. Second is to add ACV to your bathwater and soak in that water for at least 20 minutes. Thirds is to soak an organic tampon in ACV and using it to kill a bacterial infection. Additionally, consumption of ACV can help boost your immunity from within and deter the microbial growth.
- Raw honey: Honey is one of the oldest known natural sweeteners and is endowed with a large number of healing properties. It is natural humectants (helps in retaining moisture) and kills disease-causing pathogens. A component of raw honey, Bee Propolis, is observed to possess high antiseptic and healing properties that are especially suited for treating STDs. Honey and its extracts are being successfully used to treat a wide range of STDs such as syphilis, canker sores, herpes etc. The main component of honey not only soothes the inflamed skin (due to rashes, lesions, and boils) but also suppresses bacterial growth from spreading.
- Baking Soda: Most STDs and infections cause severe irritation and itching of the skin. Topical application of baking soda can help treat the itching associated with these infections. Baking soda is naturally antimicrobial in nature and can help obtain relief from the itchy symptoms. One must always dilute it with few drops of water and use it as a paste as opposed to using it directly on the skin.
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