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Untreated STDs May Have Fatal Effects

Contributing Writer

Published: Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 00:11

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates more than half of the United States population will become infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) in their lifetime.

These diseases, if left untreated, can have extremely devastating effects. While STDs pose serious health risks, those risks are exacerbated when the diseases go untreated.

The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) reported, "Undetected, untreated and/or inadequately treated STDs can lead to serious health problems that may ultimately result in permanent tissue damage, threaten one's life and/or result in loss of life."

Dr. Lynette Mundey, a doctor at the Howard University Student Clinic, stresses that STDs, if treatable, should be treated as soon as possible.

STDs that can actually be treated are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Crabs and Trichominosis. STDs that cannot be treated, however, are Herpes, HPV and HIV/AIDS.

Untreated STDs can cause serious problems in both men and women.

"STDs left untreated can cause damage to a female's reproductive organs," Mundey said.

"This can result in difficulty becoming pregnant, or may result in a pregnancy occurring in the wrong place."

One difficulty that may occur is ectopic pregnancy, in which the egg is implanted outside of the uterus.

This can prevent a woman from becoming pregnant again, as well as cause other complications in her reproductive system such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

Men are also susceptible to the dangers of untreated STDs.

"If Chlamydia goes untreated in men, it can lead to a condition called epididymitis, which is an infection of the tubes where sperm mature in the testicles," said Mundey. "With epididymitis, men may experience atrophy, or shrinking, of the infected testicle. They may also get abscesses, or pus-filled lesions, in their scrotum."

According to the WDH, untreated STDs can also lead to some other very serious health problems, such as permanent tissue damage. With a disease like syphilis, a person can lose their sight, as well as their hearing. They are also susceptible to heart disease, meningitis, dementia and personality changes.

"Sexually active persons should be screened at minimum annually and more frequently if a protective barrier is not being used with every sex act," Mundey said.

Sophomore Kendra Handy, a print journalism major, makes an effort to get tested once a year.

"It's important that people get tested so they can be aware of what's going on," said Handy.

"If they haven't already been protecting themselves, it lets them know where they stand so they can start protecting themselves."

Mundey recommends using a protective barrier with every sex act, such as a dental dam, or a female or male condom, to reduce risks of developing an STD.

She also said people should limit their sex partners and know their partner's statuses as well. She stressed that untreated STDs can make a person more susceptible to other STDs like HIV/AIDS.

"I would be comfortable talking about STDs with my partner," said Devon Miller, a senior public relations major. "It's an important issue that needs to be openly and honestly talked about."

Treatment for diseases vary, depending on how long a person has been infected.

For Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis, generally, a single dose of antibiotics is needed. If a person has been infected for over a year, however, a series of treatments may be necessary.

Mundey said a treatment is just that –– treatment.

"Just because you are treated for a disease, does not mean you cannot be infected again with the same disease," she said.

Treatment for STDs at the Howard University Student Health Clinic are free of charge. The same goes for many free clinics in the area.

However, if treated by a family physician, treatment costs may vary. Doctors may be hesitant to quote prices since every patient's case is different.

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