Sexually transmitted diseases (commonly abbreviated as STDs) refer to a group of infections that are transmitted via sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, and oral). Both men and women are affected by these infections. Examples of some of the common sexually transmitted diseases include genital herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, human papillomavirus infection, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (commonly abbreviated as AIDS). A variety of bacterial, viral and fungal species are responsible for the sexually transmitted diseases in humans.
The most common sexually transmitted diseases in men include gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, chlamydia infection, human papillomavirus infection, and infection caused by human immunodeficiency virus (commonly abbreviated as HIV). Infection with HIV can eventually lead to AIDS. Men who engage in unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with multiple sexual partners are at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases than men who have monogamous relationships. A previous history of sexually transmitted infection also increases the risk of recurrence.
Signs and Symptoms
Sexually transmitted diseases can present with a variety of signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms may either be restricted to the groin area and the sexual organs or encompass others areas of the body. In many cases, the signs and symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases may not be distinguishable from those of other medical conditions.
In these cases, clinical examinations by experienced medical personnel can point towards the existence of a sexually transmitted disease. However, further tests are needed to confirm the identity of the causative organism. Some of the common signs and symptoms observed in various sexually transmitted diseases in men but sometimes there may be rare signs and symptoms.
Pain in the urethra
Inflammation of the urethra (technically referred to as urethritis) is a common occurrence in sexually transmitted diseases. Pain is a typical feature of urethral inflammation. The pain may either be persistent or occur only during urination, erection or ejaculation. In some cases, pain in the urethra may also be accompanied by foul smelling urethral discharge or occurrence of blood in the semen (technically referred to as hematospermia).
The presence of blood in the semen may also be unrelated to the sexually transmitted infection and suggestive of a pathology in other areas (such as the epididymis). Chlamydia infection and gonorrhea are examples of sexually transmitted diseases that frequently display urethritis.
Pain in other areas
Apart from pain in the urethra, sexually transmitted diseases may also cause pain in other areas such as the groin, testicles, and prostate gland. Testicular pain is common in gonorrhea. Pain in the prostate caused by prostatitis is common in young men. Pain in these areas may also be accompanied by sores, rashes, ulcers and enlargement of lymph nodes. When pain in the groin region occurs without any other accompanying symptoms, genital herpes may be suspected. Syphilis can cause painless sores. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection can cause genital warts.
Urethral discharge is a common feature of many sexually transmitted diseases. Urethral discharge may either occur on its own or could be accompanied by other signs and symptoms (such as urethral pain). Urethral discharge is not the same as seminal fluid. The urethral discharge caused by infections is typically purulent, and have an offensive fishy odor. The color of the urethral discharge may be white, yellow, or green.
Gonorrhea and chlamydia infections are frequently associated with urethral discharge. However, not all cases of urethral discharge are due to sexually transmitted diseases. Prostatitis (cases unrelated to sexually transmitted diseases) and urinary tract infections are can also cause urethral discharge.
Itching and skin rash
Itching of the skin is common in genital herpes and gonorrhea. Syphilis and genital warts may also exhibit itching symptoms in some cases. Itching may or may not be accompanied by a visible skin rash. In genital herpes, the itching extends to the buttocks. In gonorrhea, itching may affect the rectum.
Skin rashes may appear initially as flat or slightly raised skin areas that are reddish in color (technically referred to as erythema). Over time, these reddish skin rashes develop into ulcers, sores or warts. However, a reddish skin rash in the groin or genital areas could also develop in conditions unrelated to sexually transmitted diseases.
For example, fungal skin infections (such as jock itch), psoriasis, eczema, chafing caused by tight underwear, and allergic reaction to lubricants and condoms, could all be associated with a reddish skin rash.
Sores, ulcers and warts
Sores, ulcers and warts are common skin lesions in sexually transmitted diseases such as genital herpes, syphilis, and HPV infection. The sores in syphilis appear as painless, tiny bumps on the skin of the genitals. These painless sores are referred to as chancre. Genital herpes is characterized by the appearance of small, water-filled, red bumps on the skin.
These bumps cause severe itching and pain. The skin bumps in syphilis and genital herpes may further develop into open sores or ulcers. Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is characterized by the appearance of skin-colored, genital warts. When lying together, these warts may appear as cauliflower-shaped eruptions.
Many sexually transmitted diseases are characterized by enlargement of lymph nodes in the groin area. Syphilis and HIV infection are two prominent examples. Apart from lymph nodes, there may also be swelling in the testis (technically referred to as orchitis) and the epididymis (technically referred to as epididymitis). A swollen testis may be taken as an indication of gonorrhea. Chlamydia infection may also cause swelling of the testis in some cases.
People do not normally associate gastrointestinal symptoms with sexually transmitted diseases. However, oral and rectal symptoms may occur in men who have sex with other men.
Inflammation of the rectum (technically referred to as proctitis) is a common symptom of sexually transmitted diseases in men. This is especially the case in gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and chlamydia infection. Proctitis may be characterized by pain in the rectum, constipation, tenesmus, fresh blood in stools (hematochezia), and an offensive smelling, white, yellow or green discharge from the anus. Severe proctitis can lead to lymphogranuloma venereum.
Bowel symptoms in sexually transmitted diseases could be linked to Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Shigella, and Entamoeba histolytica. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea may arise within 24-72 hours of sexual contact. Risky sexual behaviors are usually associated with sexually transmitted bowel infections.