Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Sexual Problems

Sex and Reproduction

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are passed primarily from person to person during sexual activity. Many people delay seeking medical help for STIs because of embarrassment, but early diagnosis often prevents complications. Most STIs can be treated successfully with drugs.

The diseases covered in this section are grouped according to the type of organism that causes them. The first few articles discuss bacterial infections such as gonorrhoea. The protozoal infection trichomoniasis is then described, and the following articles deal with viral infections, such as genital warts. The final article looks at parasitic infestation with pubic lice.

Early treatment of STIs is essential because some, such as chlamydial infection, may cause infertility. Sexually active people who change their partners should have tests because some STIs may not cause symptoms, and many people are unaware that they have an STI. Syphilis, a progressive and once fatal disease, can now usually be fully cured if it is treated in its early stages. STIs such as genital herpes and genital warts can often recur. Some types of genital wart virus increase the risk of cancer of the cervix. Pregnant women with an STI must carefully follow their recommended treatment because STIs can pass to the baby during pregnancy or in the birth canal during childbirth.

HIV infection and AIDS and certain forms of hepatitis are viral infections that can also be transmitted by sexual contact.

The risk of contracting STIs can be reduced by using the safe sex practices, covered here and in detail elsewhere (see Sex and health).

Gonorrhoea

Nongonococcal Urethritis

Chlamydial Pelvic Infection

Syphilis

Trichomoniasis

Genital Herpes

Genital Warts

Pubic Lice

Most men and women experience a sexual problem at some time in their lives. Some problems, such as decreased sex drive and pain during intercourse, may be experienced by either partner, while others, such as erectile dysfunction and vaginismus, are specific to men or women. Sexual problems have many causes, including physical and psychological disorders and certain drug treatments.

The most common sexual problem that affects both sexes is decreased sex drive. This is often a natural response to changing hormone levels, although there are many other causes. Other common problems include failure of orgasm in women, and, in men, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, which affect most men at some time. A sexual problem may begin with an underlying physical cause, but anxiety about sexual performance can often develop and compound the original problem. Sometimes, a sexual problem experienced by one partner may be caused by the response or behaviour of the other partner. For these reasons, doctors and sex therapists often prefer to involve both partners in discussions and therapy sessions to promote mutual understanding and appreciation. This is particularly important when the recommended treatment involves exercises to be practised at home by both partners.

A variety of treatments is currently available, and there are many doctors and therapists who specialize in treating sexual problems. Sources of specialized help include urologists, gynaecologists, sex therapists, and counsellors. For some problems, assistance from a psychiatrist or psychologist may be helpful. Treatments for sexual problems have a high success rate.

Decreased Sex Drive

Failure of Orgasm

Erectile Dysfunction

Premature Ejaculation

Painful Intercourse in Men

Painful Intercourse in Women

Vaginismus

Infertility affects 1 in 10 couples who want children. Fertility declines in both sexes after the ages of 25–30, and because more and more couples are delaying starting a family until their 30s, infertility is becoming more common in the developed world. If conception has not occurred after a year of unprotected, regular sex, one or both partners may have a fertility problem.

For every 10 couples who try to have a child, 8 conceive within a year and 9 conceive within 2 years. The remainder may have fertility problems. Some problems may be temporary or can be treated medically, but certain problems can prevent a couple from ever having children. Infertility can also affect people who have children already.

It is important that both partners visit the doctor together if they are worried about an inability to conceive. In about half of all couples who have difficulty conceiving, the problem lies with the female partner, and in about a third of couples it lies with the male partner. However, in some couples, no cause can be found.

In this section, the first article covers the advice that a doctor might give to a couple who are having difficulties in conceiving. The following two articles describe specific infertility problems in women and in men. Each article describes the tests that a doctor may carry out to identify fertility disorders and discusses how specific problems may be treated. Other conditions that can lead to infertility are covered elsewhere in the guide. Such conditions include polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis in women, and varicocele and hypogonadism in men.

In many couples, the cause of infertility can be identified and treated. If a specific cause cannot be found or is untreatable, assisted conception may be advised. This section discusses the techniques in current use, including recent sophisticated developments.

Problems Conceiving

Female Infertility

Male Infertility

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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