Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise in Canada. And many of the conditions that were previously on the decline are seeing a new resurgence (syphilis, we’re looking at you), so let’s talk sexual health and what we can do to keep ourselves (and our partners) safe.
Everyone, of any sexual orientation, are vulnerable to contracting STIs — and almost half of all STIs occur in people younger than 25 years old. They also don’t always require penetration to occur.
The number one reason for the increase? Unsafe sex; specifically condomless sex as well as having multiple partners. However, STIs can also be transmitted even if there is no genital contact, and can spread orally, or by sharing needles — or even breastfeeding.
So here’s what you need to know to stay safe:
What are STIs and what happened to STDs?
So which STIs are causing most alarm to health practitioners across Canada?
Read on to find out.
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Symptoms: You may have no outward signs or symptoms for a long time, which is what makes this infection particularly dangerous. If there are signs or symptoms, they usually occur one to two weeks after exposure to the bacteria, and are so mild, people often overlook them.
- Painful urination
- Lower abdominal pain
- Vaginal discharge in women
- Discharge from the penis in men
- Painful sexual intercourse in women
- Bleeding between periods and after sex in women
- Testicular pain in men
Treatment available: Chlamydia is not difficult to treat with antibiotics once you know you have it (one more reason why regular visits to the doctor are important).
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Explainer: Genital warts or human papillomavirus (HPV)
Symptoms: Flat lesions and Cauliflower-like bumps
Treatment available: Vaccines can protect against some times of HPV including those most likely to cause genital warts and cervical cancer.
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Symptoms: Like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea may not cause any symptoms (some may not even know they have it). In women, the following may occur:
Increased vaginal discharge
Vaginal bleeding between periods, such as after vaginal intercourse
Abdominal or pelvic pain
Treatment available: Adults are treated with antibiotics, however, there is a rise in drug-resistant strains, and this is making some cases much more difficult to treat.
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Explainer: Hepatitis B (HBV)
Symptoms: The symptoms can range from mild to severe and can occur any time from one to four months following exposure. These symptoms include:
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
Weakness and fatigue
Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
Treatment available: Depending on the form and severity of the infection (and whether it’s chronic), a doctor may recommend antiviral medication, immunoglobulin (an antibody) injections or, in extreme cases, a liver transplant.
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Symptoms: The first symptoms usually develop about three weeks after exposure.
Treatment available: If caught in its early stages, syphilis can be cured. Sometimes a single injection of penicillin is enough. However, if left untreated, it can wreak havoc on your heart, brain and other organs, and can become life-threatening.
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Symptoms: Foul-smelling discoloured discharge (white, gray, yellow or green)
Redness and a burning or itching sensation of the genitals
Pain during urination
Pain during sex
Treatment available: Most often, doctors will prescribe the drugs metronidazole or tinidazole to treat the infection.
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Explainer: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS
Symptoms: Most infected people develop flu-like symptoms about one to two months following exposure to the virus. These include:
Muscle aches and joint pain
Sore throat and painful mouth sores
Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck
Treatment available: While scientists are working hard to develop a cure, there still appears to be no definitive such treatment. However, there are medications that can dramatically slow the progression of the disease.
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Explainer: Molluscum contagiosum
Symptoms: Round, flesh-coloured, firm, painless ‘wax-like’ bumps ranging in size from pin to pencil eraser
Bumps may be itchy
Treatment available: While the condition can resolve on its own in about six to 12 months, the infected person remains a risk to others, and can continue developing bumps for up to five years. Doctors may recommend that the bumps be removed through cryotherapy (freezing) or through administering a medicine that causes blisters. However, both of these methods can be painful.
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Explainer: Scabies and pubic lice
Symptoms: Intense itching or burning sensation (especially at night)
Thin, irregular burrow tracks made of tiny blisters or bumps often found where inside skin folds (between fingers, armpits, or groin)
Treatment available: The treatment includes eliminating the infestation and often requires a combination of topical creams or pills, as well as the removal and disinfection of exposed clothes, bedding and surfaces.
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