Alarmed by the thought of taking an STD test? Just be thankful you aren’t going to experience the mercury treatment! Learn more with this brief history of STD treatment.
For as long as human beings have existed, they’ve had to deal with Sexually Transmitted Diseases, or STDs. Nowadays, we are fortunate that many of the most common STDs are easily treatable, contraception is reliable, and that diagnosis has become very accurate. But back in the day, when there was no reliable STD test for most diseases and even less chance of getting an effective preventative or a cure, catching an STD could be a very serious business indeed…
Like many diseases, STDs were not well understood in the era before modern medicine, and were subject to a huge amount of superstition and misunderstanding. You could forget getting a definitive STD test from a doctor – with many diseases sharing similar symptoms, accurate diagnosis was almost impossible before blood tests were perfected. One disease was likely to be mistaken for another, and if you were carrying an STD but were not displaying any symptoms, you had absolutely no way of finding out.
Even worse than the lack of a reliable method of diagnosis were the dubious ‘cures’ that were on offer – most of the old remedies were truly eyewatering. Mercury was the common treatment for syphilis, though whether it did anything other than make the sufferer chronically ill is open to debate! Silver nitrate and arsenic have also been used in the past to treat various STDs, and if your infection resulted in sores, lesions, or blisters, then it got even worse – you were liable to have them cut or burnt away by the doctor who treated you.
Thankfully, things have come a long way since the old days of STD treatment. The arrival of antibiotics changed the face of medicine, and offered a simple and effective treatment for many of the most common STDs, such as syphilis, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia. Even the diseases that remain incurable, such as Hepatitis C and genital herpes, can be carefully managed so that those who are infected with them can continue to live normal lives.
Matching advances in treatment have been improvements in diagnosis. Anyone can now undergo an accurate STD test to determine whether or not they have been infected. A simple blood or urine sample can be tested for a wide range of STDs, and the tests are extremely accurate. Gone are the days when one STD would be mistaken for another, or when a symptomless STD would go undetected by a doctor. Nowadays, if you go for a test, you’ll get an accurate result.
Of course, modern times have led to vast improvements in treatment, but they have also brought with them a host of new challenges. The recent appearance of HIV and AIDS, and the rise of drug resistant strains of STDs are a great danger to sexual health around the world. In the developing world, where medical standards are not so high, STDs continue to pose a significant danger to the majority of the population. But whatever the problems modern healthcare workers face, when it comes to STDs, we’ve come a long way since mercury treatment!