Tag Archives: symptoms

STI Awareness: Hepatitis B Virus and the HBV Vaccine

Hepatitis B virions are pictured in this transmission electron micrograph. Image taken from the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. This month’s installment of our STI Awareness series will shine the spotlight on the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which can be transmitted sexually as well as nonsexually.

Hepatitis viruses infect the liver. Hepatitis A, B, and C can be transmitted sexually, and hepatitis B is the most likely to be spread this way. HBV is present in vaginal fluids, semen, and blood. It is highly contagious and can be transmitted by most sexual activities, such as vaginal or anal intercourse, as well as oral sex. HBV can also be spread by exposure to infected blood, and an HBV-infected mother can pass the virus onto her infant during birth.

To protect yourself from HBV, make sure to use latex barriers, such as condoms and dental dams, if you are sexually active. Also, don’t use unsterilized needles; don’t share hygiene items that could have infected blood on them, such as razors and toothbrushes; and consider being vaccinated against hepatitis B. Continue reading

STI Awareness: Chlamydia

The bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis

Did you know that chlamydia (pronounced “kluh-MID-ee-uh”) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States? However, many people with chlamydia may not even know they have it: 25% of men and 30% of women will have no symptoms. Sexually active individuals and individuals with multiple sex partners are at the most risk.

Like other STIs, many people with chlamydia are asymptomatic, some symptoms in men include:

  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Discharge from penis or rectum
  • Testicular tenderness
  • Rectal discharge or pain

The symptoms in women include:

  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Rectal pain or discharge
  • Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, salpingitis, liver inflammation, similar to hepatitis

Continue reading

What to Expect From Your First Pelvic Exam

You may be apprehensive about making your first gynecological appointment.

When should I go?  What will happen?  Why do I need to have a pelvic exam? How do I find a gynecologist?  But having a pelvic exam is a normal and responsible part of taking care of your body and keeping yourself sexually healthy.

Most women, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology  should have their first pelvic exam by the age of 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active, whichever comes first. Whatever your sexual orientation, pelvic exams are part of a healthy woman’s checkup.

So when should you schedule a pelvic exam? It can be part of your regular health check-up.  But you should also make an appointment if you have any of the following problems:

  • If you have abdominal or vaginal pain.
  • If you have a vaginal discharge that itches, burns, or smells.
  • If you have vaginal bleeding lasting longer than 10 days
  • If you have missed periods or have severe menstrual cramps
  • If you have not had a menstrual period by age 15 or 16

You also need a pelvic exam to be fitted for a diaphragm or have an IUD inserted.

How to get ready for your exam

You do not need to do anything special to prepare for your exam. It is usually best to schedule your appointment when you will not be having your period. Also you should not have sex, douche or use vaginal creams 24 hours before your visit.  Let your doctor or nurse practitioner know that this is your first pelvic exam.

PlannedParenthood.org provides ample information on well-woman and pelvic exams, including tips for finding doctors and making appointments.

You may be asked questions before your exam about your menstrual periods or your sexual activities.  It is always best to answer honestly so that the doctor is able to provide the best care for you and your lifestyle.

Your well-woman examination may also include other screenings such as a  breast exam, weight and blood pressure check – the pelvic exam itself lasts only a few minutes.

What happens during the actual examination;

You will be asked to undress and given a gown to wear.  You will be asked to lie down on an examination table and place your feet up in holders called stirrups which are connected to the end of the table.  You will need to slide to the end of the table and hold your knees open for the doctor to perform the exam. It is best to try to stay calm  and breathe steadily to relax your muscles and make yourself more comfortable. It is normal to be nervous.

The exam consists of three parts. First the doctor examines the outside genitals visually, looking for signs of infection or other problems.  Then a speculum, usually warmed, is inserted gently and keeps the walls of the vagina open so the doctor can examine the cervix and vagina. This may cause a feeling of pressure or some discomfort, but relaxing can help. While the speculum is in place, the doctor may swab some cells from your cervix for a Pap smear.  These cells are put on a microscope slide and sent to a lab to check for signs of precancerous or cancerous cells.

The speculum is removed and the doctor will use a lubricated gloved hand to put one or two fingers inside your vagina while pressing gently on your abdomen with the other hand.  This allows him or her  to feel your internal organs and  check for any abnormalities.  Sometimes the doctor will also insert one finger into the rectum to check for abnormalities or better feel the internal organs. Sometimes you might feel like you need to have a bowel movement but this sensation passes quickly.  You may have a tiny bit of spotting or bleeding after the exam.

All of this is over in just a few minutes and then you can get dressed  and meet with your doctor to discuss your exam results.  This is a good time to ask the doctor any questions you may have about your sexual health.  You may receive tests for STIs or prescriptions for contraceptives at this time.

Congrats! You’ve survived and made your sexual health an important part of your overall well-being!