Chronicity of Sexually Transmitted Infections

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There is no specific curative treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) caused by viruses, consequently in some cases they can remain inside the body (HIV) or at the infected area (herpes virus, papillomavirus) despite the administration of treatments intended to manage them.

There are also non-viral infections that can become chronic, for example syphilis. When syphilis goes undetected and subsequently untreated, some patients may be left with a latent form that can eventually, after a long period, spread to other organs. In case of clinical suspicion, blood tests can confirm or rule out the presence of syphilis.

Viral infections, with the exception of HIV, are not considered chronic illnesses because even though they cannot be eradicated, the treatment of acute episodes stops them from progressing further, albeit without preventing recurrences. 

Hepatitis B and C viruses can develop into chronic illnesses with long-term consequences or even increase the likelihood of developing liver cancer.

Long-term effects of Sexually Transmitted InfectionIs

When most types of sexually transmitted infection (STI) are detected and treated early on they do not have any permanent consequences.

Female reproductive tract and human papilloma virus

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is, however, particularly relevant as some strains (high risk HPV) Remitir a VPH can induce cervical cancer plus cancer of the vulva, anus or vagina in women, and cancer of the anus or penis in men. In women, routine screening by gynaecologists is enough to detect cytological changes that could indicate the presence of cancer. Although many types of virus are not carcinogenic, immunosuppressed male patients with lesions should go for a medical check-up.

Symptoms of gonorrhoea in a man

Some bacterial infections derived from Chlamydia trachomatis or Neisseria gonorrhoeae and which cause urethritis or cervicitis can go undetected, especially in women, and develop into upper genital tract infections (affecting the uterus, fallopian tubes and/or ovaries). These infections can lead to serious problems for women such as pelvic inflammatory disease or ectopic pregnancies. Infection in fallopian tubes is a significant cause of female infertility in developed countries. In men, untreated infections can produce inflammation in the testicles (epididymitis) or prostate gland (acute or chronic prostatitis) and in some cases may even provoke narrowing of the urethra. 

Pubic irritation in a woman

Syphilis does not present serious long-term consequences if diagnosed and treated early. However, when it goes undetected, some patients may be left with a latent form that can eventually, after a long time, spread to nervous and vascular tissues. In case of clinical suspicion, blood tests will confirm or rule out the presence of infection.

Pain in the anus and rectum

Lymphogranuloma venereum Chlamydia infection, which is relatively common among men who have sex with men, may produce medical problems over time if it is not treated. It normally manifests with lower digestive tract discomfort, plus rectal discharge of pus, blood or mucus, although these symptoms may be very mild in some patients. If lymphogranuloma venereum remains undiagnosed, the infection spreads throughout the rectal mucous membrane causing inflammation, ulceration and even fistula formation. Another common symptom is swollen lymph glands in the groin, which tends to be very painful and can develop into a pus-discharging fistula. 

Substantiated information by:

Irene Fuertes De Vega
José Luis Blanco Arévalo
Mercè Alsina Gibert
Núria Borrell Iragari

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018

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