Sexually Transmitted Infections – Part 3

Syphilis

Transmission “is thought to be by entry in the subcutaneous tissue through microscopic abrasions that can occur during sexual intercourse (Lowdermilk & Perry, 182)”. It also can be transmitted through kissing, biting, and oral-genital sex.

The rate of transmission declined from 1995-2004. Syphilis continues to be at a high rate in the southern states.

Primary syphilis appears 5-90 days after as a lesion or chancre, usually painless. Then it erodes into an ulcer appearing sore.

Secondary syphilis occurs 6 weeks to 6 months after transmission. Its appearance is a widespread, symmetric rash on the palms and soles of the feet; with affected lymph nodes. Some individuals also have a fever, headache, and generalized malaise (under-the-weather sensation).

In the vulva, perineum, or anal area Condylomata lata may develop. If left untreated the female may enter a latent phase. If still left untreated, tertiary syphilis will develop, in approximently 1/3 of these women. In this third stage, neurologic, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, or multi-organ system complications can develop.

Screening and Diagnosis

All women who are diagnosed with another STI or with HIV should have a screen form syphilis. All pregnant women should be screened at the first prenatal visit.

Diagnosis is dependent upon the microscopic exam of primary and/or secondary lesion tissues during the latent or late infection. Serologic tests of antibodies may not be reactive, in early tests.

There may be false-positives with VDRL or RPR screenings. This is not unusual for several reasons, such as: drug addiction or acute infection. To confirm the positive results the use of treponemal tests, fluorescent treponemal antibody absorbed (FTA-ABS) and microheagglutination assays of antibody to T. palidum (MHA-TP) are used to confirm positive results.

Testing should be repeated at 1 to 2 months when genital lesions exist. This is due to early exposure not showing results until 6 to 8 weeks after exposure.

Other STI tests should be done at this juncture, for chlamydia, gonorrhea, et al. HIV should be also offered as a test if indicated.

Management

Penicillin is the preferred drug for treatment. Doxycycline, tetracycline, and erythromycin are alternative treatments. Tetracycline and Doxycycline are contraindicated in pregnancy.

Some pregnant women may get what is known as “Jarisch Herxheimer ” reaction, that may be accompanied with headaches, myalgias, and arthalgias . If the treatment occurs at the second half of pregnancy, it may cause early labor and birth. Their doctor should be contacted if fetal movement stops or if contractions occur.

Women should abstain from sexual activity during treatment and all evidence of primary or secondary syphilis is gone. She should also tell all partners that have been exposed, and that this disease is to be reported.

Sexually Transmitted Infections – Part 2

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is exclusively transmitted sexually, genital-to-genital contact; but can also be transmitted oral-to-genital or anal-to-genital. In females the disease can spread from the genitals to the rectal area. It can be spread to the newborn in the form of ophthalmia neonatorum through vaginal birth.

AGE is the most important factor. Statistically, sexually active teens, young adults, and African Americans are at the highest risk. The majority of those who have contracted this disease are under the age of 20.

Girls who are prepubescent the two most common symptoms is vaginitis and vulvitis. There may be signs of infection, or vaginal discharge, dysuria and swollen, reddened labia.

The factor of concern, most adolescent females show no signs or symptoms. When they DO have symptoms they are less pronounced than those of men. In women there may be some cervical discharge, but usually it is minimal of lacking altogether. Irregularity of the menses may be the presenting symptom or complaints of pain within the pelvis.

In rectal gonorrhea, the symptoms may not be asymptomatic or the opposite with severe discharge, pain and blood in the stool. There may be rectal itching, fullness, pressure, and pain…as well as diarrhea.

Since Gonorrhea is a highly transmittable disease all recent partners (30-days prior) should be reported, cultured, and examined. Most treatment failures occur due to reinfection.

Screening and Diagnosis

All pregnant women should be screened at the first appointment. Those women with risky behaviors indicated, should be re-screened at 36 weeks. The screening is done through “cultures”.

Management

45% of those women who are found to have Gonorrhea also have Chlamydia. For both pregnant and non-pregnant women, the treatment should be cefixime in a single dose.

All women with co-existing syphilis infections should be treated as for syphilis. Penicillin is the preferred drug for treatment. The alternative (especially for those allergic to penicillin) is Doxycycline, Tetracycline, and erythromycin. Tetracycline and Doxycycline are contraindicated in pregnant.