A Detailed Guide of the relationship between STDs and dry skin
Date: October 25th, 2021
Sexually transmitted diseases always have their categories of stigma, mainly because they don't affect genitals only; visible signs can also appear on the victim's skin.
Dry skin is a sign that can be caused by several health reasons and can occur to anybody on any part of the body. There are several possible causes of dry skin, ranging from treatable infections to sexually transmitted diseases.
However, in this post, we will provide you with a detailed guide of the relationship between STD and dry skin, STDs effect on skin, and, also outline the types of STDs that cause dry skin problems.
Sexually transmitted diseases, commonly known as STDs, are spread by engaging in sexual intercourse with an infected person. According to American Social Health Association, it is estimated that one in every four teens are infected with STD each year in the United States.
Sexually transmitted diseases are serious ailments that require immediate treatment. Some STDs are not curable and are deadly. You can get ways to protect yourself if you learn more about these common STDs.
- Genital herpes.
- HIV infections.
- Hepatitis B.
- HPV or genital warts.
Causes of STDs and risk factors
There are three causes of STDs:
Body fluids such as semen, saliva, vaginal secretions, and blood have bacteria or viruses contained in them. Mostly, a person gets an STD when they get into contact with fluids containing viruses and bacteria.
Other STDs like genital herpes can be passed through skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can transfer from the mouth to the genitals, especially during unprotected oral sex.
On the other hand, sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis can be transferred through contact with infected blood from sexual intercourse with a partner having open sores. It can also be contacted by sharing blood-stained needles and piercings.
Parasitic caused STIs like pubic lice can be contracted through close contact, getting from the pubic hair of one person to the other. They can also be transmitted through bedsheets and clothes.
Therefore, if you are a sexually active person, you can contract STD, and the chances may increase if you: engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners, use condoms poorly, misuse drugs and alcohol.
Risk factors and prevention
Anyone sexually active has some level of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. Below are some of the risk factors discussed in detail.
Engaging in unprotected sex. Anal or vaginal penetration by an infected person without wearing a condom greatly improves the chances of contracting an STD. Inconsistent or poor use of condoms also increases your chances of getting infected.
Though oral sex may seem less risky, infections can still be contacted if a condom or a dental dam is not used.
- Having multiple sexual partners. The more people you engage in sex with, the higher your risk of getting an infection. This is applicable in concurrent partners and single, consecutive relationships.
- Forced sexual activity. Rape or sexual encounter without consent can expose you to a significant risk of getting STDs. While dealing with a situation like rape might be complex, you should see a doctor immediately to get tested/screened, treated, and get professional counseling.
- Poor use of recreational drugs and alcohol. Too much use of alcohol and recreational drugs can corrupt your judgment and make you choose irrational decisions that can get you into risky sexual encounters.
- Having a history of STIs. Having a prior record of sexually transmitted disease make it easier for one to acquire another STD.
- Drug injections. Sharing needles can spread several many serious diseases like HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
- Young age. Nearly half of the common STIs occur in young adults aged between 15 to 24 years.
- Male requesting prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction. Men who are fond of getting prescription drugs such as tadalafil (Cialis, Adcirca), sildenafil (Viagra, Revatio), and vardenafil (Levitra) are highly exposed to STIs. Ensure you are up to date with safe sexual practices before requesting your doctor for such medications.
Preventions of sexually transmitted disease
There are many ways you can avoid or minimize the risks of getting sexually transmitted infections or sexually transmitted diseases.
Abstain. This is the surest way of avoiding the risks of STDs/STIs. Abstaining from sex for a defined period ultimately puts you away from any of the factors leading to sexually related ailments.
- Stick to one partner you know their status. One of the reliable methods of staying clear of STDs risk factors is to have a long-term mutually monogamous relationship. This is where people only engage in sexual activities with one partner, and both are not infected.
- Wait and get tested. Refrain from oral or anal intercourse with a new partner until both of you get STI tests. Oral sex does not pose many risks, but use a dental dam or latex condom to minimize direct contact between the genital area and oral.
- Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs excessively. When you are under the influence of any substance, you tend to make irrational decisions that can expose you to risky sexual engagements.
- Get vaccinated. Early vaccination before the sexual encounter is also a practical way of preventing specific STDs. Vaccines are available for avoiding HPV, hepatitis A, and B.
The center for disease control and prevention recommends that the HPV vaccine be given to boys and girls of 11 and 12 years, respectively. If the vaccine is not entirely administered during this age, they advise that both genders get the vaccine through the age of 26.
- Communicate. Before engaging in any sexual encounter, communicate with your partner about the benefits of safe sex practices. Ensure you both agree on the activities that should and should not take place. You can also share your past STD history to set clear boundaries so you can have a better prevention plan.
- Use condoms and dental dams correctly and consistently. For each sexual act, use a new latex condom and a dental dam, whether vaginal, anal, or oral. Do not use oil-based lubricants like petroleum jelly alongside a latex condom or a dental dam.
Understand that while condoms reduce your chances of acquiring STDs, they offer less protection from STIs having exposed genital sores such as HPV or herpes. Additionally, non-barrier contraceptive measures like birth control pills and IUDs do not prevent STDs.
- Consider male circumcision. There is proven evidence that male circumcision helps reduce a man's chances of contracting HIV from a woman by up to 60%. It can also prevent the transmission of genital herpes and genital HPV.
- Consider using preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of a combination of Truvada and Descovy drugs to minimize the risks of sexually transmitted HIV infections in persons at high risk. PrEP will only be prescribed to you if you do not have prior conditions.
You will be required to have an HIV test before getting started on PrEP, and then after another three months, you will be tested again.
A medical specialist will test your kidney first before putting you on Truvada treatment and continue testing it for the next six months. In case you have hepatitis B, then you should be examined by a liver or an infectious disease specialist before starting the therapy.
The drugs should be taken every day as prescribed by the doctor. If you take Truvada daily, you can significantly lower your risk of getting HIV infections by up to 90%.
What are the types of STDs that cause dry skin?
While most sexually transmitted diseases affect reproductive and urinary parts, some can also be responsible for dermatological problems such as eczema, rashes, and otherwise dry, itchy skin. Let's find out the various STDs' effects on skin and the STDs that cause dry skin below.
Not all sexually transmitted diseases cause skin problem, the common STDs that cause dry skin includes:
Most skin rashes do not usually itch, and victims might not even notice them. Let's find out more details about these diseases.
STDs that cause dry skin: HIV
You may be wondering how HIV infection causes dry skin. However, three significant reasons people are living with HIV experience dry skin: interactions between the immune systems and HIV, side effects of the drugs, and general infections.
Some of the HIV-related skin conditions or drug-related skin problems can pose very severe complications and require immediate medical attention.
Immune system and HIV
When people contract HIV for the first time, they may have flu-like symptoms due to a condition called a seroconversion illness. This ailment may include a non-itchy, red rash that lasts for 2 to 3 weeks.
As the infection continues, the immune system becomes compromised and may lead to red and itchy skin. Fortunately, this can be treated with antihistamines and steroid creams.
Dry skin may also appear when the immune system begins to recover due to the treatments. This may be a sign of boosting the immune system as it responds to anti-HIV treatments,
Dry skin caused by infections.
Generally, infections are divided into three main categories: bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Other people will experience skin diseases that are not related to their HIV status as they are common health complications.
Mostly the conditions discussed here are common to people with low CD4 cell counts, and getting HIV treatments will reduce the chances of occurring.
Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin characterized by red patches and flaky rashes. It can be a result of contact with an irritating substance or eczema. Seborrheic dermatitis, or the irritation of the skin's oil glands, usually occurs in hairy parts of the body. It can cause red, itchy, flaky, and inflamed skin.
In mild cases, it causes dandruff. This condition is common in symptomatic HIV and can be challenging to treat in persons living with HIV. Dermatitis is treatable with steroid ointments or tablets, anti-fungal creams, and tablets.
Photodermatitis is a skin problem where the skin reacts to extreme exposure to sunlight by turning darker. This condition is common in dark-skinned people, but anyone living with HIV can experience it.
Dry skins due to side effects of HIV drugs
People under HIV treatment often experience skin-related diseases like rashes or dry skin due to the side effects of drugs. For instance, a drug called NNRTI nevirapine causes skin rashes in about 15 to 20% of HIV-positive victims. The rash is always mild and will disappear as your body becomes used to the drug.
People with a higher immune system have higher chances of experiencing this, so it is not recommended for women having CD4 counts of 250 and above or men with CD4 counts of 400 and above.
To reduce the risks, your doctor may advise you to start on a lower dose and increase after two weeks. Dry skin is a common side-effect of other HIV drugs, but this usually disappears on its own. Inform your doctor if you develop rashes so that the cause can be investigated.
Due to its extreme reactions on the patients, Nevirapine use is no longer recommended in most countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada, etc.
STDs that cause dry skin: Herpes
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection caused by two types of herpes simplex viruses-HSV-1 and HSV-2. The viruses enter your body through the mucous membranes, which are thin layers of tissues found on the lining of the body openings like the mouth, genitals, or nose.
Once the viruses are within the body, they multiply and incorporate themselves in the cells, then adapt to their environment quickly, making them hard to clear completely from the body.
The immune system does not completely remove the infection, and once a person is infected, they can get repeated outbreaks. In some people, herpes would cause dry skin symptoms. When these symptoms reach the outbreak stage, small blisters or red bumps appear around or on the genitals.
These blisters are filled with fluids that can break open and ooze out. The blister can be itchy and looks similar to a rash bunched together. Mostly, herpes goes away after approximately a week.
It is important to look at the symptoms on your face if you have contracted the herpes virus because the bumps and dry skin rash caused by HSV will appear around the mouth or the genitals.
Additionally, you stand higher chances of contracting Eczema Herpeticum-an an immoral skin disease that is so severe and can lead to death. It can also cause major organs failure if left untreated for long.
Eczema Herpeticum attacks through the areas infected by herpes; therefore, be aware and get treated for herpes immediately to avoid contracting this deadly skin disease. Though it is said to be a rare disease, people affected by HSV are highly susceptible.
STDs that cause dry skin: syphilis.
Syphilis is an STI that is caused by a cock screw-shaped organism known as spirochete Treponema palladium. If not treated, syphilis can lead to serious health problems. Syphilis is divided into three stages (primary, secondary, tertiary, and latent)
Generally, dry skin or rashes from syphilis occurs later in the advanced stages of infections, with only a numb sore called chancre happening in the early stages.
Symptoms of syphilis in each stage.
Usually, symptoms of syphilis vary in stages. Let's learn more about them.
In this first stage of syphilis, you may see single or multiple sores. The sore locations are the syphilis entrance point. Though not always, sores are firm, round, and painless, and they can easily go unnoticed or ignored.
These sores mostly disappear after 3 to 6 weeks, whether treated or not. However, even after the sores have disappeared, it is vital to get treatment to stop the condition from escalating to the secondary stage.
In the secondary stage, you may start experiencing dry skin rashes and mucous membrane lesions appearing on your mouth, genitals, and anus. The rashes may begin showing up after the chancre, or the primary sore begins to heal, or several days after it had healed.
These rashes can appear like rough, red, or brown spots on your palms or the bottom of your feet. Most of the time, the rashes don't itch, and sometimes they are so numb you won't notice them.
Other notable symptoms in this stage include sore throat, swollen lymph glands, patchy hair loss, weight loss, headache, muscle pains, and fatigue. Again, the symptoms in this stage will go away on their own after some time, whether treated or not.
Without immediate treatment, despite the symptoms disappearing on their own, the infection will escalate to latent and probably to tertiary stages.
This is a stage of syphilis where there are no symptoms at all. Suppose you have not been receiving treatments at the previous steps until this period. In that case, you can leave with syphilis in your body for years without knowing.
Though most patients with untreated syphilis or latent stage syphilis do not always develop into the tertiary level, when it happens, it is often severe and can lead to damage of body organs. These organs include the brain and nervous systems and the heart and blood system.
Tertiary syphilis is a severe condition and can occur 10-30 years later after the first diagnosis. It damages your internal organs and results in death.
Ocular syphilis and neurosyphilis.
Without proper treatment, syphilis can spread to the brain and nervous systems or the eye (ocular syphilis and neurosyphilis). This can occur at any stage discussed.
Symptoms of neurosyphilis include;
- Difficulty coordinating muscle movements.
- Severe headache.
- Mental disorder or dementia.
- Paralysis( inability to move some parts of the body)
Treatment of syphilis.
The best method of treatment of sexually transmitted diseases depends on the type of a particular STD. Proper treatment may reduce the symptoms, prevent them from recurring or cure them completely.
Some common STD treatments include,
- Antiviral treatment. This is used to treat infections such as HIV and herpes by preventing outbreaks, while others can suppress HIV for a lifetime. However, it is still possible to infect other people during treatment. So, taking precautions is the best way to go.
- Antibiotics. These are used in treating bacterial STIs like gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and Trichomoniasis. Persons with these STIs are advised to complete their doses and avoid sexual activities until they complete the treatment.
- Creams and lotions. These can be used to relieve sores and treat pubic lice
Sexually transmitted diseases or STDs are infections caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites and are transmitted from one person to another through sexual activities. According to CDC, the United States records the highest rates of STD at around 20 million cases annually.
Despite STDs being known to affect the reproductive systems, some of them can cause skin-related problems. The common STDs that cause dry skin are syphilis, HIV, and herpes.
And since these diseases appear on the skin, dermatologists are also involved in diagnosing and treating them the same way gynecologists and special infectious disease specialists are involved.
Most of these dry skin and rashes symptoms go away on their own even without treatment. However, it would help if you got treated to prevent the conditions from escalating to more dangerous stages that can even lead to mental illness and even death.
Finally, if you suspect that you have contracted an STI, consult your doctor immediately so that a practical course of treatment can be discussed. You will also get enough information about STD's effect on the skin to help you handle the situation effectively.