There are many different types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which can be broken down into three basic types: bacterial, viral, and parasitic. All three types of infections can occur whether you are having heterosexual (opposite gender) or homosexual (same gender) sex.
- Bacterial and parasitic infections can be cured.
- Viral infections can be treated but not completely cured.
- Bacterial Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Viral Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Parasitic Sexually Transmitted Infections
Bacterial Sexually Transmitted Infections
There are two basic types of genital infections that are not "true" sexually transmitted infections – fungal or yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Sometimes partners can re-infect each other with these infections through sex, but they are not technically considered sexually transmitted infections.
Vaginal Yeast Infection
Vaginal Yeast Infection, or "Candidal Vulvovaginitis," is caused by the fungus "candida." A yeast infection is not an STI; many women who are not sexually active have this infection. However, it is included here because a vaginal yeast infection is more common in sexually active women.
It can be treated by creams, many of which are available without a prescription. It can also be treated by the oral medication Diflucan, which does require a prescription.
Bacterial Vaginosis is caused by several different types of bacteria that live in the vagina and the bowel. Treatment includes antibiotics taken by mouth or antibiotic gels that go into the vagina. Here are some common infections related to bacterial vaginosis:
- Chlamydia is caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis. This is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in teens and young adults and is on the rise. It can lead to infertility if left untreated. Chlamydia is usually treated with antibiotics, some of which can be taken for one day, others for 7 to 10 days.
- Gonorrhea is caused by the bacteria neisseria gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is treated with either a single injection or antibiotics for 7 to 10 days.
- Syphilis is caused by an organism called "spirochete," which is considered a bacteria but also has characteristics of a parasite. Syphilis is easily treated with a penicillin injection.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is found only in females and is caused by multiple types of bacteria in the genital tract and bowel. PID is a severe infection of the uterus, and sometimes ovaries, in which the bacteria invade deep into the tissue. It can cause abscesses in the ovaries. Treatment often includes draining any abscesses and a lengthy course of antibiotics (at least two weeks). Severe PID can cause scarring of the uterus and fallopian tubes and can lead to infertility.
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Viral Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus. It can be treated with antiviral medications at the time of outbreaks, and daily antiviral medications to prevent frequent outbreaks. There is currently no vaccine or cure for herpes.
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), also known as the "genital wart virus," can be treated with lotions and liquid nitrogen to freeze the warts. Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for HPV. It is thought that perhaps 80 to 90 percent of the general population carries the virus in their skin, even if they don't have symptoms. This virus is especially important to be aware of because certain sub-types can significantly increase a woman's risk for cervical cancer. Condoms cannot prevent spread of the virus to sex partners.
- Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. Although this infection is difficult to treat, certain oral medications or injections are generally used. People who have chronic Hepatitis B may need prolonged or even lifelong treatment with injectable medications, which are sometime quite toxic. Hepatitis B can also lead to liver failure and increases the risk for liver cancer. There is an effective vaccine for Hepatitis B, but no cure.
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be treated and the progression slowed by using a combination of antiviral medications – usually a minimum of three to four medications. There is currently no vaccine or cure for HIV.
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Parasitic Sexually Transmitted Infections
Trichomonas is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomonas is very common and is easily treated with anti-parasitic and antibiotic medications.
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