5.5.4 OTHER DISEASES THAT CAN BE SPREAD BY SEXUAL INTERCOURSE
In addition to the "classic" venereal diseases, there are numerous other diseases that can be spread by sexual contact. Some of them are very serious, such as salmoneliosis, typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, and hepatitis. Infectious hepatitis, for example, can be transmitted through fecal contamination during oral-anal intercourse (anilingus). Some viruses causing hepatitis appear in semen and saliva and thus can also be transmitted sexually. Needless to say, in all of these cases immediate medical attention is essential. Fortunately, these serious infections are relatively rare. The following paragraphs deal only with more common, less serious diseases.
Women may sometimes experience an upset in the ecological balance of the many organisms living in the vagina. Such an upset can result from vaginal douching, taking antibiotics or birth control pills, or from a variety of other causes. As a consequence, there may be an overgrowth of a yeast called monilia. The symptoms are itching, burning, a whitish discharge with a characteristic odor, and often a dryness of the vagina. It is also possible to transmit the condition to a man through sexual intercourse, causing an inflammation at the tip of the penis. The man, in turn, can reinfect the woman. Monilial vaginitis is quite common and does not have the same serious consequences as gonorrhea and syphilis. It is treated with locally applied medication.
The trichomonas vaginalis, a single-cell organism, is present in the urethra and bladder of many men and women. While it usually does not produce any symptoms in males, it may, under certain conditions, cause problems in women who may develop a burning sensation when urinating and a vaginal discharge which is whitish, foamy, and has a characteristic odor. There may also be some reddening and swelling of the vaginal opening. The condition is treated with oral medication and has to involve both sexual partners. This is necessary because a man who harbors the trichomonas organisms, while usually developing no symptoms of his own, may very well retransmit the condition to a woman. Trichomonas infestations are common. They do not result in the same complications as gonorrhea and syphilis.
Venereal warts are the result of a viral infection. Since this infection usually occurs during sexual intercourse, the warts appear on or near the sex organs or anus of both men and women. Treatment is relatively easy and effective.
Cold sores or herpes are due to a viral infection which appears at the various openings of the body, particularly around the mouth and nose. An infection of these areas can, of course, occur without sexual contact. However, herpes of the sex organs are caused by a different virus and are transmitted from one person to another by sexual intercourse. The symptoms are painful ulcers on or around the male of female sex organs or the anus. The ulcers may hurt for several weeks, then gradually heal themselves and disappear. Unfortunately, there may also be recurrent attacks. There is no cure, although recently a new medication (acyclovir) has become available in cream form for the relief of symptoms. In any case, men and women who discover these ulcers on their sex organs or anus should see a doctor in order to rule out other diseases.
Nonspecific urethritis is the name given to some infections which may result in an inflammation sometimes producing symptoms similar to those of gonorrhea: a discharge and discomfort when urinating. However, the condition is less serious than gonorrhea and can often also be successfully treated within a few days.