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Many new infections: More and more people suffer from dangerous venereal diseases

Syphilis, gonorrhea and Co. on the rise again
The spread of many sexually transmitted diseases has declined steadily over a decade, but in view of the increasing carelessness, an increase in the number of infections can currently be observed. "The risk of infection is often underestimated," according to the latest report from the Freiburg University Hospital. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the number of syphilis infections in Germany alone rose by almost a fifth in 2015. New infections with other sexually transmitted diseases have also increased.

Overall, there is a worrying turnaround in venereal disease. The number of new infections has increased drastically in some diseases. For example, 6,834 new syphilis infections were identified, which corresponds to an increase of 19 percent over the previous year (5,726 cases), reports the Freiburg University Hospital. "The number of new infections with the HI virus (five percent increase over the previous year) and other sexually transmitted diseases is still very high," the clinic said.

Condoms offer effective protection
The senior physician at the Department of Dermatology and Venereology at the University Medical Center Freiburg, Prof. Dr. Maja Mockenhaupt explains that very few people today are aware of the risk of infection from these diseases and the need for early diagnosis and therapy. Actually, sexually transmitted infectious diseases can be effectively prevented by “protecting them with condoms during intercourse and thus minimizing the risk of infection.” Anyone who has been infected should seek treatment as quickly as possible - also in the interests of their sexual partners.

STDs often go unnoticed
The symptoms of various STDs span a wide range of complaints. Sometimes they run rather inconspicuously over a longer period of time. For example, not all syphilis infections are noticed immediately. "Only a third is recognized in the primary stage - usually by a painless ulcer with a hard rim at the pathogen's entry port - for example, on the male or female genital organs or in the mouth," reports the University Hospital Freiburg. However, there are often other symptoms that are quite unspecific for syphilis, such as swollen lymph nodes, wounds or rash, which can make diagnosis early difficult.

Impending organ damage in syphilis
In the further course of the disease of syphilis, which mainly occurs in men in Germany, there is usually a recurring repetition of the symptoms. Red spots on the palms and soles of the feet are another possible indication of the disease, reports the Freiburg University Hospital. Sometimes the disease heals itself if left untreated, but it can also last for years - sometimes without causing symptoms. "The danger here is that serious organ damage can still occur after decades," warns the Freiburg University Hospital. Dreaded neurosyphilis, which attacks the brain and spinal cord, is also at risk.

Treat existing syphilis infections urgently
Given the long-term risk of complications, existing syphilis infection should be treated urgently by a doctor. If diagnosed early, the infection can usually be treated well with antibiotics, according to the University Hospital Freiburg. Here, penicillin intramuscularly is the drug of choice. After an infection has been overcome, there is no immunity to the syphilis pathogen, so that one can repeatedly reinfect and then have to be treated again, the experts emphasize.

Increased new infections with chlamydia
"The number of new infections with chlamydia bacteria is also cause for concern," says Prof. Mockenhaupt. Since there are often no noticeable symptoms such as purulent discharge or burning during urination during the infection, many men and women are carriers without knowing it. In the worst case, chlamydia infection can lead to infertility in women.

Resistant gonorrhea is a growing problem
The spread of the venereal disease gonorrhea (gonorrhea), which is triggered by bacteria and is transmitted when there is contact with mucous membranes, has been reported in detail in recent months. Above all, because the gonorrhea pathogens are becoming increasingly resistant to all antibiotics used to date. Here, too, the infection often initially runs without symptoms of illness. Affected people show little or no symptoms such as discharge and burning when urinating and therefore unknowingly infect their sexual partners, reports the Freiburg University Hospital. If left untreated, the infection could lead to “serious consequences such as inflammation of the uterus or fallopian tubes in women and inflammation of the prostate in men”. "The treatment of sexual partners is also important, as otherwise there can be a recurring mutual infection, the so-called ping-pong effect," emphasizes Prof. Mockenhaupt.

With genital herpes there is an increased risk of relapse
Furthermore, the risk of genital herpes infection should not be underestimated. This venereal disease caused by viruses can cause symptoms such as itching, burning in the genital area, increased discharge or blistering and corresponding skin damage. "In addition, general complaints such as fever, headache and body aches can occur," said the Freiburg University Hospital. However, many affected people remain here without any symptoms. Virus-inhibiting medications (virustatic agents) are used for the treatment, which act effectively against the symptoms if used in good time. However, the virus remains latent in the body, which is associated with the risk of relapse. "In patients with frequent relapses, long-term therapy can reduce the frequency of relapses," says Professor Mockenhaupt.

No shame before going to the doctor
The most important prerequisite for successful treatment of venereal diseases and the avoidance of further infections is a visit to the doctor or a corresponding diagnosis. But "many people are ashamed to go to the doctor with complaints in the genital area," said Prof. The shame is completely out of place here, because the diseases should be treated absolutely - also out of respect for the partner, emphasizes the expert. In the event of itching, burning or unusual discharge, a visit to the doctor is therefore always advisable. (fp)

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