Student Wellness Services

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STIs

Chlamydia

What is it?

It’s a common STI caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria which infects the cervix, rectum, or urethra. It can also cause serious eye infections if someone touches their eye after touching an infected area.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • Some people have NO signs or symptoms
  • Symptoms usually appear 2 days to 2 weeks after infection

FOR WOMEN:

  • Burning while urinating
  • Change in vaginal discharge (i.e., frequency & colour)
  • Bleeding between menstrual cycles or during/after intercourse
  • Increased pain during menstruation &/or intercourse
  • Abdominal & low back pain
  • Fever & chills

FOR MEN:

  • Burning or itching while urinating
  • Discharge from penis
  • Pain or swollen testicles

FOR BOTH (rectal):

  • Discharge
  • Redness
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Itchiness

How do I get it?

Having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

How do I get tested for it?

  • Urine test
  • Swab infected area (i.e., cervix, rectum, or urethra)

How is it treated?

It’s treated with one course of antibiotics.

CAUTION: Leaving Chlamydia untreated can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease which can cause infertility.

How do I prevent it?

  • Practice safe sex to protect against STIs
    • Abstaining from sexual activities
    • Using barrier methods                                                               
  • Get tested for STIs regularly and treat them early
Genital Herpes

What is it?

Genital herpes is an infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). There are two main types of HSV; Type 1 (HSV-1) typically causes cold sores around the mouth, but can also cause genital sores while Type 2 (HSV-2) is usually associated with genital sores

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • A rash around the mouth, genitals, groin, buttocks, and/or anus usually appears 20 days after contact with someone who is infected with HSV
  • Other first infection symptoms include:
    • Itching or tingling on the skin
    • Flu-like symptoms (i.e., fever, achy joins and muscles)
    • Pain with urination
    • Swollen glands in groin and/or neck area
  • Painful cold sores and blister-like sores in the genital area which usually heal within 1-2 weeks

NOTE: Once you have been infected with the virus is stays in your body for your lifetime. The virus usually remains inactive but can become active. Some people have only 1 outbreak in their lifetime while others have recurrent outbreaks. Recurrent outbreaks tend to be less severe and shorter in duration.

What are some recurrent outbreak triggers?

  • Stress
  • Poor nutrition
  • Sunlight
  • Injury of the affected area
  • Hormonal changes (i.e., menstruation, pregnancy)
  • Weakened immune system

RARE COMPLICATIONS

  • Herpes sores may become infected with bacteria.
  • Touching a herpes sore then touching your eye may cause blindness.
  • Women who have their primary outbreak during the first trimester of pregnancy can pass it to her child in her womb.

How do I get it?

  • Direct contact with someone who is infected HSV:
    • Having vaginal or anal sex
    • Kissing someone with a cold sore
    • Receiving oral sex from someone who has cold sore
    • Touching sores/blisters and then touching your eyes, mouth and/or genitals.

How do I get tested for it?

  • Taking a swab of the sore/blister, ideally within 48 hours, will confirm the diagnosis. 
  • Test results will identify whether you have HSV Type 1 or HSV Type 2. 

How do I treat it?

  • Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes
  • Anti-viral medications may help reduce the symptoms and speed up healing time. They can be taken as soon as you feel the sores coming back again.
  • To ease pain or discomfort during an outbreak:
    • Keep the affected area clean and dry
    • Wear loose fitting clothing
    • Avoid perfumed products
    • Applying cold compresses to the affected area
    • Pour warm water over genitals while urinating to ease burning
    • Wash your hands often to prevent the virus from spreading 

How do I prevent it?

  • Abstinence is the only 100% effective method of protection
  • Avoid direct contact with sores or blisters but REMEMBER - you can get the virus from someone infected even when they do NOT have sores
  • Use latex condoms or barriers (i.e., dentals dams) during sex
  • Do not have sex with someone until the sores are gone
  • Avoid having sex when you feel an outbreak coming on – people will often get a tingling sensation in the area just before an outbreak

How do I prevent recurrent outbreaks?

  • Get adequate sleep
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Practice good stress-management techniques
Genital Warts

What is it?

Genital warts, also known as condyloma, are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are many different types of HPV and some types are sexually transmitted which cause genital warts however other types can increase the risk of cervical cancer. 

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • Some people develop warts weeks after contact, others develop it after months, others after years, and some never develop them
  • Warts can be found in the genital or rectal area
    • FOR WOMEN – they can appear in the vagina, cervix, anus, and rectum
    • FOR MEN – they can appear on the tip of the penis and anus
  • Warts may look fleshy and cauliflower-like or flat and hard to see
  • Warts may cause itching, pain during intercourse, or vaginal/rectal bleeding
  • Warts may grow quickly if not treated, especially during pregnancy, and block vaginal and rectal openings

How do I get it?

  • Direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has HPV

How do I get tested for it?

  • Warts are diagnosed by visual recognition during examination
  • Health care providers may use a vinegar solution to identify warts
  • A PAP smear can diagnose warts that may appear on the cervix
  • A colonoscopy may be done to diagnose warts on the rectum

How do I treat it?

  • Unfortunately, there is no cure for HPV
  • Treating warts can sometimes take a long time – weekly treatments are often necessary
  • Common treatment methods include:
    • FOR EXTERNAL WARTS:
      • Cryotherapy – using liquid nitrogen to freeze off the wart
      • Tricholoracetic acid may also be applied to warts
    • FOR INTERNAL WARTS:
      • Laser treatment may be done if there are multiple warts in your vagina, cervix or rectum or if external warts are resistant to treatments
    • Surgery may be necessary if all other treatments are ineffective

Caution:  NEVER TREAT GENITAL WARTS WITH TREATMENTS DESIGNED FOR WARTS ON THE HANDS OR FEET!

How do I prevent it?

  • Abstinence is the only 100% effective method of protection
  • Use barrier methods (i.e., condoms and dental dams)
  • Avoid sex with someone until their warts have cleared
  • Do not smoke – people who do are more likely to get HPV
Gonorrhea

What is it?

Also known as “the clap”, gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria that grows and multiplies in warm, moist areas of the body including: the female reproductive tract (cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and urethra), anus, mouth, throat, and eyes. This bacteria causes inflammation which if left untreated can make you sterile (i.e, unable to conceive children).

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

FOR MEN (penis infections)

  • Usually have no symptoms when first infected
  • Can take up to 30 days for symptoms to appear
  • Common symptoms include:
    • Burning sensation during urination
    • Pale yellow discharge from penis
    • Painful or swollen testicles

FOR WOMEN (vaginal infections)

  • Early symptoms are often mild & mistaken for a UTI
  • Many have no symptoms at all
  • Common symptoms include:
    • Burning sensation during urination
    • Yellow or bloody vaginal discharge

FOR BOTH

  • Oral infection: often no symptoms, sore throat is possible.
  • Rectal infection: often no symptoms, painful bowel movements or rectal discharge of pus and/or blood.
  • Generalized infection: rash and joint pains if it spreads to the bloodstream.

How do I get it?

Gonorrhea is spread by having unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who is infected. It can also be spread from one part of your body to another. For example, rectal infections can occur in women when infected vaginal secretions come in contact with the anus. Gonorrhea can also be spread when people share sex toys and through manual stimulation. For example, if one person touches their own genitals and then touches their partners’. 

How do I get tested for it?

Testing for gonorrhea can be done with a urine test or swab sample. If the infection is in thecervix or urethra, a urine sample is taken. For men, a urine sample collected first morning urine is the most accurate.  Many clinics, including Queen’s Student Health, will give you a collection cup to take home to collect a sample when you first wake up. If the infection is in the anus orthroat a swab sample is taken.

CAUTION:  Gonorrhea usually exists with other infections such as Chlamydia so get tested for other STIs.

What happens if it’s not treated?

Gonorrhea can cause SERIOUS health consequences for women including:

  • Increased risk of getting or spreading HIV/AIDS
  • Developing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Spreading of inflammation to the blood, joints, and/or heart

How is it treated?

Gonorrhea can be treated with a single dose antibiotic. Oral and rectal gonorrhea may be more difficult to treat and may require additional medication for treatment. Follow all the treatment as instructed and abstain from sex until follow-up tests show negative results.

Follow-up tests:

FOR MEN

  • Done 1 week after treatment is finished

FOR WOMEN

  • If the original test was POSITIVE - 2 follow-up tests should be done:
    • The first one week after treatment
    • The second two weeks after treatment
    • Ideally, one of the tests should be done following a menstrual period. 

How do I prevent it?

  • ABSTINENCE – it is the ONLY 100% effective method of STI protection
    • Abstain from penis-vagina and penis-anus intercourse, oral sex, mutual masturbation, and sharing sex toys
  • Use barrier methods (i.e., condoms and dental dams) during all sexual activities

CAUTION:  Having gonorrhea once does NOT mean you are immune to getting it again! Get tested often if you are sexually active with multiple partners.

Hepatitis A

What Is It?

Hepatitis A is a virus that infects your liver & spreads either through direct contact with fecal-contaminated food and water or person to person contact.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eye)

How do I get it?

  • Not washing your hands carefully after going to the washroom
  • Anal-oral sex, anal sex, handling a used condom after anal sex, sharing sex toys or fingering your partner’s anus and then putting your finger in your mouth

How do I get tested for it?

  • A simple blood test 

How do I treat it?

There is no cure for Hepatitis A. Your body’s immune system can eliminate the infection in most cases.

How can I prevent it?

  • WASH YOUR HANDS with soap & water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing and/or eating food
  • Get vaccinated
    • Hepatitis A Only (AVAXIM or HAVRIX)
      • 2 injections given 6 months to 1 year apart
    • Hepatitis A & B (TWINRIX)
      • 3 injections given on set schedule
  • Clean your genital and anal areas before having sex
  • Use a condom or dental dam during vaginal, anal, and oral sex
Hepatitis B

What is it?

It’s a common viral infection spread through bodily fluids (i.e., semen and blood) NOT through water, food, or casual contact (i.e., hugging).

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • Some people have NO signs or symptoms of infection
  • Acute Stage (up to 6 months):
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Appetite loss
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle & joint pain
    • Nausea & vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
    • Jaundice (i.e., yellowish eyes & skin)

How do I get it?

Having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex and/or sharing a needle, toothbrush, or razor with someone who is infected.

How do I get tested for it?

  • A simple blood test

How is it treated?

There are no treatments available for acute infections but 90% of people will develop antibodies to fight off the infection & recover on their own. Chronic infections are sometimes treated with medications but are only effective for 40% of cases.

CAUTION: People with chronic hepatitis become carriers & may develop cirrhosis (i.e., scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.

How do I prevent it?

  • Get vaccinated – receive 3 injections over a 6-12 month period
  • Practice safe sex to protect against STIs
    • Abstaining from sexual activities
    • Using barrier methods
  • Get tested for STIs regularly and treat them early
  • Use sterile equipment for piercing & tattoos
  • Do not share needles, razors, or toothbrushes
Hepatitis C

What Is It?

Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (a.k.a., HCV) that’s most commonly spread through direct blood to blood contact. 

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • At first, there are no symptoms
  • Jaundice (yellow eyes or skin)
  • Fatigue      
  • Dark brown urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea & loss of appetite

How do I get it?

  • Hepatitis C is spread through blood contact which can occur through:
    • Unprotected sex
    • Sharing used needles or drug related instruments (i.e., straws, pipes, spoons)
    • Getting a tattoo or body piercing with unsterile equipment
    • Sharing personal household items such as razor or toothbrush
  • Mothers can also spread Hepatitis C to their unborn child

How do I get tested for it?

A simple blood test from your healthcare provider can detect hepatitis C antibodies. NOTE: it can take 2 week to 6 months for antibodies to appear.

What happens if it’s not treated?

If left untreated, Hepatitis C can cause loss of liver function resulting in not be able to digest food and store vitamins and minerals. When the body can no longer filter chemicals and substances (including toxins, air, food, drinks), a liver transplant may be needed.

How is it treated?

For many, no treatment is needed.  If someone has abnormal liver test results, treatment may be necessary. If someone is suffering from liver failure, a liver transplant can be an option.

How do I prevent it?

  • DO NOT share needles or drug related equipment
  • DO NOT share razors or toothbrushes
  • Wearing latex gloves
  • Use condoms during sex
  • Use only sterile equipment when getting a tattoo or piercing
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

What is it?

A virus found in bodily fluids (i.e., blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk) that breaks down the immune system.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

Often there are no obvious symptoms & people who are infected remain healthy for years.  Some signs & symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

What is it?

The later stages of an HIV infection in which your body is unable to fight off other infections.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • Fatigue – persistent & unexplained
  • Night sweats
  • Chills or fever over 100°F for several weeks
  • Swelling of lymph nodes (more than 3 months)
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Persistent headache

How do I prevent it?

  • Practice safe sex
    • Use condoms & dental dams during anal, oral, and vaginal intercourse
  • DO NOT share needles
  • DO NOT breastfeed if you have HIV

How do I get tested for it?

  • A simple blood test

How do I treat it?

Anti-retroviral and anti-HIV drugs can help slow down damage to the immune system, relieve symptoms, and prolong life BUT there is no cure for HIV or AIDS

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

What is it?

It's a serious complication that can happen when some sexually transmitted diseases (i.e, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia) go untreated. When the bacteria travels into the reproductive organs (i.e., uterusfallopian tubes, and ovaries), they become inflamed which can scar the fallopian tubes. This in turn can lead to ectopic pregnancies and/or infertility.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • May or may not have symptoms – range from none to severe
  • Possible symptoms include:
    • Abdominal pain
    • Fever
    • Backache
    • Irregular periods
    • Pain during sex
    • Unusual vaginal discharge

How do I get tested for it?

  • Difficult to diagnose because symptoms are often subtle
  • If lower abdominal pain is present, health care providers often perform a physical exam to determine the nature and location of the pain
  • A pelvic ultrasound can diagnose PID
  • Laparoscopic surgery may sometimes be necessary to confirm a diagnosis

How is it treated?

PID can be treated with antibiotics but they do not reverse the damaged caused to the reproductive organs. It is critical to seek care immediately if symptoms arise.

How do I prevent it?

  • Practice safe sex to protect against STIs
    • Abstaining from sexual activities
    • Using barrier methods
  • Get tested for STIs regularly and treat them early
Syphilis

What is it?

It’s a less common but serious infection caused by the Treponema Pallidum bacteria.

  • SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
  • Called the “great imitator” because it has a wide range of signs & symptoms
  • Vary according to stage of infection:
    • PRIMARY STAGE (10 days to 3 months)
      • Open sore on genitals, anus, or throat that usually heals within 3-8 weeks
    • SECONDARY STAGE (3 months to 1 year)
      • Flu-like symptoms (i.e., muscle & joint pain, fever, swollen glands)
      • Hair loss – including eyebrows & eyelashes
      • Rashes – especially on palms & soles of feet
    • LATENT STAGE (1 year to 30 years)
      • Bacteria continue to multiply & infect body with NO APPARENT SYMPTOMS!!!!
    • TERTIARY STAGE
      • Occurs in 40% of people who go untreated
      • Long-term damage includes:
        • Major internal and/or external sores
        • Cardiovascular & mental health problems
        • Damage to eyes & ears

How do I get it?

Having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is infected.

How do I get tested for it?

  • A simple blood test
  • Swab of an infected sore

How is it treated?

Syphilis can be cured by antibiotics which usually involves getting penicillin injections.

CAUTION:  If left untreated, syphilis can lead to life-threatening complications including permanent damage to your brain, heart, bones, and blood vessels. People are also at greater risk for HIV.

How do I prevent it?

  • Practice safe sex to protect against STIs
    • Abstaining from sexual activities
    • Using barrier methods
  • Get tested for STIs regularly and treat them early
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

What is it?

Also known as bladder infections or cystitis, urinary tract infections are bacterial infections in the bladder (the sac that holds urine) or the urethra (the tube that carries urine out from the bladder).

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • Frequent urge to urinate, but only peeing a small amount at a time
  • Burning during urination
  • Cloudy or foul smelling urine
  • Low back pain
  • Lower abdominal pain

How do I get it?

  • Bacteria from the bowel is spread to the urethra
    • Can happen during vaginal or oral sex, or wiping from back to front
  • More common in women because the length of the urethra is short and the opening of the urethra is very close to the vaginal and anal openings
  • Less common in men so if you have any of the symptoms listed above, it is more likely that you have a sexually transmitted infection

If you THINK you have an UTI…

  • Drink plenty of water and cranberry juice
  • Bathe often (twice a day) if possible to keep your genital area clean and prevent bacteria from spreading to the vagina
  • Put heating pad on your abdomen and back to ease discomfort

How do I get tested for it?

If symptoms persist for more than 2 days, see a doctor.  A simple urine test can confirm whether or not you have an infection.

How do I treat it?

UTIs are treated with antibiotics.  Remember to finish all the pills that were prescribed to you even if the symptoms are gone!

How do I prevent it?

  • Drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol
  • Urinate often, especially before and after sexual activities
  • Empty your bladder completely each time your pass urine
  • Wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom
  • Wear material that allows for good air circulation (i.e. cotton underwear)
  • Wear loose fitting pants
  • Bathe frequently BUT do not douche
  • Avoid bubble baths, oils, and perfumed soaps if prone to infections
  • Drink unsweetened cranberry juice