What are sexually transmitted diseases?
Depending on the type of sex you’ve had sexually transmitted diseases may occur on the mucous membrane of the penis, vulva, rectum or mouth. You can protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases using a condom and oral dam. You cannot contract a sexually transmitted disease from a sauna bench or toilet seat.
Most common sexually transmitted diseases
The most common sexually transmitted diseases in Finland are chlamydia, HPV, condyloma and herpes. Symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease may include burning while urinating or an increased need to urinate, abnormal excretions from the urinary tract or vagina, itching, burning, spots, blisters or cuts in the genital area, lower abdominal pain and fever. Sexually transmitted diseases may also be asymptomatic.
Sexually transmitted diseases may also be asymptomatic.
Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted disease and is caused by bacteria. Chlamydia’s symptoms may include abnormal white discharge, a burning sensation while urinating and extra bloody discharge. Chlamydia does not cause any symptoms for most people. The only way to find out whether you have gotten chlamydia is to go get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics.
Untreated chlamydia can result in epididymitis for men and pelvic inflammatory disease for women. These can cause infertility. Even an asymptomatic disease may lead to childlessness or exposure to ectopic pregnancy.
HPV and condylomas
HPV, or the human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted virus. The papillomavirus is transmitted during intercourse without condom, during oral sex and via the hands. Transmission through hands requires that a hand touches a skin area where the virus is active and immediately after this touches the other person’s genitals.
There are dozens of forms of sexually transmitted HPV. Some of these virus types cause condyloma, or genital warts. Condylomas are caused by a virus and there is no drug treatment for them, but the symptoms caused by the virus can be treated and visible genital warts can be eliminated. Other types of papillomaviruses may cause cell changes on the mucous membranes of genitals. After an HPV infection, symptoms may occur within a few weeks, or only after a few years. HPV is almost always asymptomatic, so a person who does not know they carry the virus can also transmit it to others.
HPV heals in most cases in its own time. The papillomavirus will clear up on its own at most four to five years after the infection. The HVP vaccine provides good protection against the most severe forms of HPV.
Herpes is an infection accompanies by blister, which is caused by a virus. Genital herpes is especially infectious when it is symptomatic, but can also be caught from an asymptomatic sexual partner or one that does not know they are infected. It is estimated that one in five Finnish adults is a carrier of HSV-2, which causes genital herpes, but most of them are asymptomatic.
When the herpes virus first appears in the genitals, it causes tingling and pain in the skin and mucous membranes. After this, small, bright fluid-filled blisters appear, which, after a few days, burst, begin to secrete puss or form a scab. There is no way to test for herpes in advance, testing is only possible after the blisters have appeared. The infection can also be diagnosed on the basis of symptoms when blisters form.
There is no cure for herpes and a carrier is a carrier for the rest of their life. The symptoms can be alleviated and blisters can be prevented with medicines. You can find more information about Herpes for a woman here and for a man here.
The HSV2 virus that causes the genital herpes may also be transmitted to the mouth, and the HSV1 virus that causes the cold sores may also be transmitted to genitalia.
Other sexually transmitted diseases include:
Sexually transmitted diseases must always be treated
Sexually transmitted diseases must always be treated, as untreated sexually transmitted diseases can cause secondary diseases. It is your obligation to notify a sexual partner if you have contracted a sexually transmitted disease so that they can also seek treatment. It is important that a sexual partner or sexual partners also get the possible infection treated in order to break the infection chain.
A sexually transmitted disease may also be asymptomatic, so it is not possible to know whether you have been infected if you have no symptoms. Some sexually transmitted diseases are treated with antibiotics. Some sexually transmitted diseases cannot be completely cured; instead, they are treated with treatments that relieve symptoms. Read more about the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases here.
How to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases
You can go get tested for sexually transmitted diseases at earliest one week after having unprotected sex. If you get tested too early a sexually transmitted disease may go undiagnosed, even if you have contracted the disease. Testing for sexually transmitted diseases is performed according to the type of sex you’ve had, i.e. if there has been unprotected oral sex, the sample should be taken from the pharynx. If you or your partner have ever had sex without a condom, you should stop using a condom until you have both been tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
If you or your partner have ever had sex without a condom, you should stop using a condom until you have both been tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
Testing of sexually transmitted diseases is carried out at health stations, private medical centres and outpatient clinics for sexually transmitted diseases. Testing practices vary from municipality to municipality, so you can get the most up-to-date information about testing for sexually transmitted diseases in your municipality of residence by calling your health centre or checking the municipality’s website.