Sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) happen when micro-organisms are passed on from one person to another through unprotected sex or genital contact. Here are the three most common STIs and what you need to know about them
What is it: One of the most common STIs in Singapore, this is a silent disease that doesn't show any symptoms in almost 75% of women infected with it. It's caused when bacteria is transmitted during unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person. Any sexually-active person can get it and an infected mother can pass it on to her baby during a vaginal delivery.
Symptoms: These usually start one to three weeks after being exposed to the bacteria and include burning sensation or pain while urinating, pain during sex, abnormal vaginal discharge and lower abdominal or back pain.
Treatment: Chlamydia is easily treated with a course of antibiotics. However, if left untreated, it could lead to serious damage to reproductive organs and even cause infertility.
2. Genital Herpes
What is it: Caused by the same virus that causes cold sores – the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It's transmitted by having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person. It can also be passed on from the genitals to the mouth – and vice versa – through oral sex. A person with the infection who doesn't have any symptoms could still pass it on to a sexual partner.
Symptoms: You'll get symptoms a few days after you get infected, when small, painful blisters or sores usually develop. The sores will also ooze liquid or blood. They also cause itching and tingling and you'll feel pain during urination. Other possible symptoms are fever and swollen lymph nodes.
Treatment: Just like other viruses, there is no cure for herpes. You could take oral anti-viral medications to treat the infection but it's a chronic condition – the virus remains in the body and could occur again.
What is it: It's caused by a bacteria that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract – the cervix, uterus, urethra and fallopian tubes. It's passed on from one person to another through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex.
Symptoms: Most women don't have any symptoms but when they do occur, they include pain or burning sensation while urinating, increased vaginal discharge, irritation of the outer area of the vagina, or vaginal bleeding between periods.
Treatment: Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, it could lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can damage your fallopian tubes. Do note that, even if you have been treated for gonorrhoea, you can get the disease again if you have unprotected sex with an infected person.
If you think you have an STI, book an appointment for a sexual health screening at DSC (Department of STI Control) Clinic, www.dsc-clinic.sg. Some private clinics and hospitals also test for STIs.
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