Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), also known as Reproductive Tract Infections (RTIs), are infectious diseases that are primarily transmitted through unprotected sexual activity with an infected partner, without the use of a condom. These infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms that enter the urethra, vagina, mouth, or anus.
RTIs, on the other hand, encompass infections that occur in the reproductive tracts of both men and women. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or protozoa and include all infections of the reproductive tract, whether transmitted sexually or not. RTIs can occur due to factors such as unhygienic toilets, faulty genital hygiene, or an imbalance of normal bacteria in the reproductive tract.
STIs/RTIs can have severe and life-threatening consequences for reproductive health. They can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), infertility in both men and women, ectopic pregnancy, and adverse pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth, and congenital infection. These infections also increase the risk of HIV transmission.
While most STIs/RTIs can affect both men and women, the impact on women is generally more common and severe. In reality, STIs/RTIs and their consequences are among the most common diseases and mortalities among women in underdeveloped areas of the world.
Poor pregnancy outcomes are also associated with STIs/RTIs. Chorioamnionitis, an infection of the amniotic sac or placenta brought on by endogenous or sexually transmitted microbes, can result in late spontaneous miscarriage and stillbirth. Infections can also result in prelabour rupture of membranes and preterm delivery. Additionally, congenital infections transmitted from the mother to the newborn during pregnancy or childbirth can cause blindness, disability, and even death.
Several syndromes can result from infections that primarily affect the reproductive tract. Some of these syndromes are sexually transmitted, while others are not. Some can be cured with antibiotics or other treatments, while others are incurable. It's important to note that certain STIs, such as HIV and hepatitis B, are not clearly linked to one distinct syndrome.
Common STIs/RTIs include:
Syphilis (caused by Treponema pallidum)
Chancroid (caused by Haemophilus ducreyi)
Herpes (caused by Herpes simplex virus HSV-2)
Donovanosis or granuloma inguinale (induced by Klebsiella granulomatis)
Lymphogranuloma venereum (caused by Chlamydia trachomatis)
Bacterial vaginosis (caused by multiple bacteria)
Yeast infection (caused by Candida albicans)
Gonorrhea (caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae)
Chlamydia (caused by Chlamydia trachomatis)
Trichomoniasis (caused by Trichomonas vaginalis)
Genital warts (caused by Human papillomavirus HPV)
STI symptoms can vary depending on the gender. In men, symptoms may include discharge or pus from the penis, sores, blisters, rashes, or boils on the penis, lumps on or near the genital area, pain or burning during urination, and itching in and around the genital area. Women may experience pain in the lower abdomen, unusual and foul-smelling vaginal discharge, lumps on or near the genital area, pain or burning during sexual intercourse, itching in and around the genitals, and sores, blisters, rashes, or boils around the genitals. It's important to note that women are generally more susceptible to these infections.
STIs/RTIs are found worldwide, but their prevalence varies in different regions. The transmission and prevalence of these infections are influenced by social, economic, biological, and behavioral factors. Areas with disrupted communities, migrant labor, and active commercial sex networks have a higher spread of STIs such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid. Iatrogenic infections are more common where healthcare providers lack proper training and supplies for safe procedures. Environmental, hygienic, hormonal, and other factors might affect endogenous infections such yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Prevention of STIs/RTIs involves a comprehensive approach. It includes reducing exposure through condom use and limiting the number of sexual partners. Correct and consistent condom use is crucial in preventing the transmission of STIs. Adolescents should receive support in making decisions to delay sexual activity. Good infection control procedures can reduce the risk of iatrogenic infections.
Sexually transmitted and other reproductive tract infections Link
In conclusion, STIs/RTIs pose significant health risks, especially for reproductive health. They can lead to severe complications, infertility, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Prevention through safe sexual practices, condom use, and proper healthcare is essential in reducing the spread of these infections and protecting individuals' reproductive health.