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Sexually Transmitted Viruses

Friday 16 October 2020
Infections

Table of Contents


I. Viral STDs

II. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection

III. Genital Herpes

IV. HIV

V. Hepatitis 


Viral STDs

Many people associate viruses with conditions like the flu, but there are several different varieties. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a type of virus passed from one person to another through sexual contact. The majority of these disorders affect both genders, and some medications can help keep viral infections under control. Medication for STDs depends on your diagnosis, but your doctor may prescribe  Zovirax (Acyclovir)  or Valtrex (Valacyclovir). On the more severe side of viral infections, there are also medications like Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) and Isentress (raltegravir) to treat sexually transmitted viruses like HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

Practicing safe sex is the best way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. If you transmit a viral STD, it is essential to seek the proper treatment because infections with certain viruses can increase your risk of transmitting more severe viruses like HIV and AIDS. STDs may cause long-term health problems and lead to unpleasant accompanying disorders like pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, cervical cancer, and infertility. Learn more about common sexually transmitted viruses below. [1]

different forms of birth control on a blue background

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection

HPV is a viral infection with over 100 different varieties. The Centers for Disease Control reports that almost every sexually-active person will develop HPV at some point in their life if they don’t have the HPV vaccine. This means that around 79 million Americans currently have HPV, and there are 14 million new infections every year. [2]  Most commonly, HPV is transmitted through genital to genital contact, resulting in genital warts. HPV can also enter the body through small cuts or tears in the skin, passed on through skin-to-skin contact.

Many people with HPV have no symptoms, and women may only find out when they receive a pap smear. The severity of your HPV condition depends on the strain you contract. This virus's risk factors include damaged skin, a weakened immune system, being a young adult or adolescent, and your number of sexual partners. If your HPV becomes symptomatic, you may experience:

Genital warts: Genital warts are flat or small cauliflower-like bumps occurring on the vulva in women and penis or scrotum in men. These warts are typically itchy and tender.

Common warts: These warts are rough, raised bumps that appear on the hands and fingers. They can be painful and susceptible to bleeding.

Flat warts: As their name suggests, these warts have a flat top that may appear anywhere on the body. They usually occur on the face or legs.

In many cases, HPV goes away on its own and doesn't cause any issue. You are at risk for several serious health conditions like genital warts and cancer if the virus does not go away. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. [3]

warts on the bottom of a person's foot

Genital Herpes

This common, sexually transmitted virus is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Sexual contact is the most common way that HSV is spread from person to person. HSV can be tough to diagnose because it can lie dormant in the body for months at a time and flare up several times a year. This may lead you to infect people if you are not presenting any symptoms unknowingly. Condoms work well to prevent the spread of genital herpes, but there is no cure for the virus.

There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-2 is mostly associated with genital herpes, while HSV-1 results in cold sores around the mouth, it can develop into genital herpes as well. Medications like Zovirax (Acyclovir) or Valtrex (Valacyclovir) are common drugs used to help with herpes simplex symptoms. [4]

Typically, the first signs of genital herpes will start to show up two to 12 days after infection. Common genital herpes symptoms can include:

  • Pain or itching in the genital area
  • Small red bumps or tiny white blisters
  • Ulcers that may rupture, ooze, or blood
  • Scabs that crust over and form when ulcers heal

Interestingly, men and women develop genital herpes in different areas of the body. In men, sores may develop on the mouth, urethra, buttocks, thighs, and anus. In women, sores may develop on the external genitals, vaginal area, and the cervix. [4]

HIV

HIV, also known as human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the body’s immune system. This virus makes it more difficult for the immune system to battle infections and pathogens, increasing your risk of opportunistic infections. HIV is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person. There is no cure for HIV, but it can be managed with the proper antiretroviral medications like Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) and Isentress (raltegravir).

a person holding a thermometer in their hand

The symptoms may mimic the flu, and an HIV test is needed to determine your diagnosis fully. Initial symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Rash
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat

There are usually three stages of HIV, but modern-day HIV medicine has slowed or, in some cases, prevented the progression of this disease. The three stages include:

Stage 1 - Acute HIV infection: People in this stage have a large amount of the virus in the blood and are at high risk of passing it on to others. Flu-like symptoms may be present, and an antigen/antibody test is needed for diagnosis.

Stage 2 - Chronic HIV infection: This stage may last a decade or longer with the proper treatment plan. People may not experience symptoms during stage 2, and the virus produces at low levels at this time.

Stage 3 - Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS): The most severe HIV phase involves a badly damaged immune system. People in stage 3 are susceptible to infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Those who do not have the proper treatment typically survive for three years in this phase. [5]

Hepatitis

There are several types of viral hepatitis conditions. Hepatitis A, B, C are contagious viruses that target the liver. These disorders can lead to chronic liver inflammation, which can lead to severe side effects. Hepatitis B and C are the types most commonly transmitted through sexual contact.

a yellowed eye

Many people never develop signs or symptoms of viral hepatitis, but symptoms usually occur a few weeks after exposure. Symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Yellowing of the skin and white of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Joint pain
  • Dark urine
  • Loss of appetite

Viral hepatitis is usually a short-term disease, but complications can occur if untreated. You may experience scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver cancer, liver failure, kidney disease, or inflammation of blood vessels. [6]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.