Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are conventionally divided into four main categories: Bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and viral.
Three of the most common bacterial STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Let’s look at these in turn:
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. It occurs most often in the genitals (of both men and women), but can also occur in the throat, rectum, or eyes.
Chlamydia is the most common curable STD, with an estimated 3-4 million new cases in the United States alone per year.
Far fewer than that number are reported however, because symptoms of chlamydia can be mild or nonexistent, and thus people don’t realize they have it. Approximately two thirds of women and one half of men with chlamydia are asymptomatic, and many of the remaining people with the infection misinterpret or don’t notice the symptoms because they are so mild.
For genital chlamydia, when there are symptoms at all, for men these can include pain during urination, discharge, or pain in the testicles. For women they can include discharge, lower abdominal pain with nausea, pain during urination, pain during sex, or bleeding after sex or between periods.
Chlamydia is easily cured with antibiotics, sometimes with a single dose, and sometimes with a series of doses over the course of one to two weeks.
Infecting an estimated 700,000 new people per year in the United States alone, gonorrhea is one of the most common STDs. It is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. It occurs most often in the genitals (of both men and women), but can also occur in the throat, rectum, eyes, blood, skin, or joints.
Approximately one tenth of men and one half of women with gonorrhea are asymptomatic. When symptoms are present, for men they can include discharge, pain during urination, or swelling and pain of the testicles. For women, they can include discharge, pain during urination, pelvic pain, or bleeding between periods.
Gonorrhea frequently occurs with chlamydia. When a patient is diagnosed with gonorrhea, they are often treated for chlamydia at the same time.
The treatment for gonorrhea is antibiotics, often one dose being enough if the infection is caught early.
However, doctors are more and more finding that they are dealing with strains of gonorrhea that have built up a resistance to certain antibiotics. Fluoroquinolones, for instance, which had been a common treatment for gonorrhea, are now ineffective against most gonorrheal infections. So on the one hand, gonorrhea is one of the simplest STDs to cure, while on the other hand things are developing in a way that could seriously alter this.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused by an organism called a spirochete. Syphilis cases are only a tiny fraction compared to chlamydia or gonorrhea cases, and had long been declining even further, though recent years have seen a marked increase in the United States.
Syphilis manifests itself in painless sores or open ulcers on the anus, penis, vagina, mouth, or occasionally other parts of the body. The bacteria is spread through direct contact, usually sexual, with these sores.
In addition to the sores, symptoms of syphilis can include flulike symptoms, hair loss in the affected area, or rash. If untreated, syphilis can lead to numbness, loss of muscle control, paralysis, blindness, insanity, and even death.
Syphilis is treated with antibiotics, often penicillin, either by injection or orally.
“Bacterial Diseases.” About.com.
“Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).” 4Parents.gov.
“Sexually Transmitted Diseases Guide.” STD-gov.org.