No one really talks about them, but sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are more common than you think. In fact, some have increased quite significantly over the last decade. Here are the five most common STDs in Singapore and why it’s worth getting tested for infection, even if there are no symptoms.
Common STDs in Singapore
Also known as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), an STD refers to any infection that is passed from one person to another through sexual intercourse, including oral sex, says DR JULIAN NG of DTAP Clinic (Dr Tan and Partners).
On average, there were about 8,000 to 9,000 cases of STDs in Singapore in 2018. Based on the Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control (Singapore) in 2018, the most commonly seen STDs in Singapore are as follows:
Chlamydia is very often asymptomatic. However, some patients may notice clear discharge from their genitalia, itchiness or a burning sensation when passing urine. In cases of anal infection with chlamydia, someone may have the sensation of needing to pass motion shortly after they have already done so, or painful bowel movements, says Dr Ng.
# 2 Gonorrhoea
Common symptoms of gonorrhoea include yellow or green discharge or pain when passing urine. In cases where the infection is in the throat, the patient may experience a sore throat or notice a white substance in his or her throat, explains Dr Ng. In cases of anal infection, the patient may notice discharge, pain when passing motion or the sensation of needing to pass motion shortly after they have already done so.
Syphilis, which is an STD is caused by a bacterial infection, is unfortunately making a comeback globally, says Dr Ng. In fact, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported that syphilis cases have gone up by 70 percent from 2010 to 2017.
Symptoms of syphilis vary depending on the stage of the condition. The infection usually first presents with a single, often painless, ulcer that can be easily missed. However, if it’s not diagnosed and treated, the infection will move on to the secondary stage, even if the ulcer has healed. Skin rashes can develop on any part of the body, but most often appears on the palms and soles of the feet. The third stage, which can occur years after the infection was first acquired, can affect the brain and other vital organs. Luckily, Dr Ng says it’s rare these days for the condition to progress to the third stage.
Additionally, he says it’s important for women who are planning to get pregnant or are pregnant to get screened for syphilis, as it can be passed to an unborn foetus and can result in devastating consequences for the newborn.
#4 Genital warts
This STD is caused by certain types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and is highly contagious through skin-to-skin contact or sexual contact. Genital warts commonly present as small cauliflower-like bumps that can develop into one single lump or into a cluster of bumps.
There are HPV vaccinations available to protect you from certain strains of HPV. It’s definitely something worth speaking to your doctor about!
#5 Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
Herpes is a commonly used term to describe an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). In cases of herpes infection, the patient may notice multiple blisters either around the genital area or the mouth or lips. These blisters are usually painful. Additionally, some patients may notice a tingling sensation prior to noticing the blisters. The blisters may also occur in other parts of the body such as the buttocks.
Currently, there is no medication available to cure herpes once you have been infected. However, there are effective treatments that can help reduce the symptoms, says Dr Ng. In some cases, an individual’s immune system may be able to suppress the virus very effectively, getting rid of the virus permanently.
When to see a doctor
If you have any worrying symptoms, see a doctor immediately to get tested, advises Dr Ng. Many STDs can be cured with the correct antibiotics. Others can be managed with medication.
Since many people do not experience symptoms, they can easily transmit the infection to their partners unknowingly. Chlamydia, for example, is often asymptomatic, which means getting tested is the only way of knowing you’re infected.
Therefore, knowing your STD status is very important. It allows you to take steps to protect your partner while the infection is being treated, reduces the risk of transmission to others and also helps reduce your own risk of any health complications such as infertility or an infection of the testes, for example.
Dr Ng says it’s important for anyone who is sexually active to consider getting screened once every six months or once a year. Of course, if someone has multiple sexual partners or has unprotected sex with a person of unknown STD status, then he or she may want to consider doing STD screenings more often – perhaps every three to six months or so.
STD testing options
STD blood tests, urine tests and/or swab tests can be done to check for infection. Depending on one’s sexual activities, STD swab tests will be performed on the penis, vagina, rectal area, throat or another infected areas.
And, you don’t have to wait long for the results, thankfully. DTAP Clinic offers rapid STD testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and herpes, with next day results.
We know you’re wondering about whether you can be tested anonymously. While anonymous testing is possible for HIV (anonymous HIV Testing is only available in DTAP Robertson Walk), anonymous testing is not available for other STDs. . However, don’t let that stop you from getting tested, says Dr Ng. “Rest assured, all medical records are private and confidential. In terms of notifying the Ministry of Health for STDs, final statistics are anonymised and no patient details are published.”
If you’re concerned about STDs, speak to your healthcare professional to seek further advice, says Dr Ng.
Diagnosis and treatment for STD is available at all seven of DTAP Clinic’s locations in Singapore. To find out more, or to to schedule an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit dtapclinic.com/std.
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