Social disease is an older term for what used to be known as venereal disease and now is known as sexually transmitted diseases. These infections are transmitted through sexual contact, either through vaginal, anal or oral intercourse. Sexually transmitted infections are wholly dependent on behavior factors. Not only is the number of sexual partners an important factor, but so is the type of sexual partner (prostitutes, for example). Three common social or sexually transmitted diseases are gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.
According to “Koneman’s Color Atlas of Diagnostic Microbiology,” gonorrhea was recognized at least as early as the second century, in the time of Galen, who named the disease after the Greek words gonor (“seed”) and rhoin (“flow”), suggesting that the disease was related to the flow of semen. Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The symptoms of this infection differ in males and females. In males, it typically is easy to recognize as a thick, milky discharge. In females, a vaginal discharge may be seen, but it often is asymptomatic. This sexually transmitted disease can infect the throat, the anus and the genitals of men and women. Untreated infections can spread to other areas of the body, such as the joints, causing a serious form of arthritis. Years ago, penicillin was the treatment of choice; however, due to antibiotic resistance today, it is ineffective. The current treatment of gonorrhea is the antibiotic ceftriaxone (Rocephin). Gonorrhea can diagnosed by microscopic examination of the male discharge, bacterial culture or newer molecular methods.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease. Chlamydia infection is seen frequently in conjunction with gonorrhea infections. In males, chlamydia infections are characterized by moderate or scant discharge and burning during urination. In females, a cervical discharge may be present. According to Dr. F. Ndowa of the World Health Organization (WHO), asymptomatic infections of chlamydia can be seen in up to 25 percent of men and 70 percent of women. Untreated chlamydial infections can have some complications like infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). The treatment for chlamydia is either doxycycline or azithromycin. Because chlamydia can be seen together with gonorrhea and each disease requires different treatment, people need to be tested for both infections.
This centuries-old social disease once called the “Great Pox” has seen a reemergence in the past decade according to the CDC. Syphilis is caused by the spirochete bacteria Treponema pallidum. Syphilis infection can go through a series of stages of disease if left untreated. In primary syphilis, the main symptom is the presence of a painless chancre at the site of the infection. Secondary syphilis, which can occur up to two months after the appearance of the chancre, frequently demonstrates a widespread rash that often involves the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The organism can go dormant and show no symptoms for years to decades. Tertiary syphilis is very serious and can involve the central nervous system, heart and other organs. Syphilis is easily treated, particularly in the early stages, with penicillin.
- "Koneman's Color Atlas and Textbook of Diagnostic Microbiology"; Elmer Koneman, M.D.; 2006
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: STD statistics 2008
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sexually Transmitted Diseases