STIs are among the most common diseases in the world, and according to the University of Maryland Medical Centre there are more than 20 types of sexually transmitted diseases.
It’s impossible to determine how many people worldwide have STIs, but it is estimated that more than 13 million Americans are affected every year.
Most of us are familiar with HIV/Aids and diseases like syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia, but these are only the tip of the iceberg, and there are many others we’ve never even heard of.
Here are eight lesser-known sexually transmitted diseases:
1. Infectious mononucleosis
This disease, also known as “mono”, is commonly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. In children mono mostly causes no symptoms, but in young adults it can cause sore throat, fever, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, and extreme fatigue. The condition lasts up to four weeks, but tiredness may continue for months.
Infectious mononucleosis is mainly spread by saliva, hence the name “kissing disease”. There is no vaccine for the disease and it generally gets better on its own.
2. Lymphogranuloma venereum
The bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis usually cause chlamydia, but they can also cause a completely separate STD called lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV). LGV is most common in tropical regions and is basically an infection of lymph nodes and lymphatics around the genital and anal area.
Patients may have tender lymph nodes in the groin, preceded by a genital ulcer. Patients with HIV may have rectal or anal inflammation with pain around the area.
Diagnosis is made by means of a blood test. GV is normally treated with a three-week course of antibiotics (doxycycline).
Cytomegalovirus is related to the herpes virus and once you’re infected, you cannot get rid of it. If you’re physically healthy, the virus tends to remain dormant in your body and you’ll be symptom free. However, when it becomes active it can be passed on to others.
The virus is transmitted by body fluids like blood, semen and vaginal fluids.
People who have the virus and are immunocompromised present with symptoms similar to infectious mononucleosis (fatigue, fever and muscle aches). CMV may also target individual organs and symptoms and can include: diarrhoea, hepatitis, seizures, coma, visual impairment, pneumonia and ulcers in the digestive tract.
Chancroid is a bacterial STI involving sores on the genitalia. It starts off as small bumps that can quickly grow into large ulcers. It is caused by the streptobacillus Haemophilus ducreyi which enters the skin through microabrasions caused during sexual intercourse.
The main chancroid symptoms are painful sex or bleeding during intercourse and swollen lymph nodes in the groin area and below the navel.
Chancroid is treated by a week-long course of antibiotics.
5. Molluscum contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection presenting as benign bumps or lesion anywhere on the body. These raised lesions are painless and disappear of their own accord without any scarring. It can take anything from a few months to four for the bumps to disappear. Treatment is therefore usually not necessary.
The condition is spread by contact with a lesion on another person or by touching a contaminated object like clothing or a towel.
“Trich” is the most common curable sexually transmitted disease in young women and is caused by a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. However, most people who are infected do not show any symptoms.
Symptoms of trich can include vaginal or penile discharge, itching or swelling in the vaginal area, pain when urinating and an increased urge to urinate.
Trichomoniasis is spread by vaginal or anal intercourse other activities that involve passing secretions from one partner to another.
In both men and women a laboratory test will diagnose the infection and it can usually be cured with a single dose of antibiotics.
Untreated trichomoniasis can lead to the birth of premature and underweight babies. It can make one more susceptible to HIV infection and is linked to an increased risk of infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.
7. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
PID is an infection of the female reproductive organs and occurs when bacteria from the vagina or cervix spreads to the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries. More than a million US women get PID each year. Untreated pelvic inflammatory disease can cause pelvic pain, trouble getting pregnant and pregnancy issues.
PID is mostly caused by the same bacteria that cause gonorrhoea and chlamydia which are transferred during unprotected sex.
A few common symptoms of PID are: pain during sex, smelly vaginal discharge, pain when urinating, irregular menstrual bleeding and painful cramps.
A combination of antibiotics will usually clear up PID.
8. Parasitic infections
Intestinal parasites that are usually transmitted by water or food can also be transmitted sexually if there is contact with the anus.
Infections caused by internal parasites include giardiasis, amebiasis, and cryptosporidiosis. Symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain or bloating, nausea, and vomiting.
To avoid these kinds of infections it is best to use dental dams or latex gloves or not to engage in sexual activity that involves the anal area.