Sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) are increasingly common, particularly amongst young adults and teenagers. Many STI’s have no symptoms until the infection has become advanced and more difficult to treat. It is recommended that under 25’s have an STI check annually, or when they change sexual partners.
Common Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections are passed from partner to partner through unprotected sex. In many cases they do not exhibit symptoms, so many people have infections without realising. There are many different STI’s, all resulting in slightly different symptoms and different outcomes.
One of the most common STI’s is chlamydia. It often results in no symptoms but can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in women. This can result in ectopic pregnancies – which can be life-threatening, and even infertility in women. Symptoms of chlamydia include lower abdominal pain, heavy periods, pain during sexual intercourse, and vaginal discharge in women, and discharge from the penis and swollen or painful testes in men.
Symptoms of syphilis often do not occur until the disease is advanced. Symptoms include sores or ulcers in the mouth, vagina or penis that may come and go, a red rash over the soles of the feet or palms of the hands, tiredness, joint pain, a fever and swollen glands. Left untreated, syphilis can spread to the brain causing serious long-term complications.
Symptoms of gonorrhoea include a thick discharge from the penis or vagina, pain during urination, and bleeding between periods in women. 1 in 10 people infected with gonorrhoea do not show symptoms. Left untreated, gonorrhoea can spread to other parts of the body and cause complications. These include pelvic inflammatory disease in women. This can lead to life-threatening ectopic pregnancies or infertility. It can also lead to miscarriage or premature labour in pregnant women. In men, it can lead to a painful infection of the testicles and prostate gland, that can lead to infertility.
Genital Herpes are small blisters that burst to leave open sores around the sexual organs. It can also cause pain upon urination and unusual vaginal discharge in women. There is no cure for genital herpes. Symptoms may clear up on their own but will come back throughout your life. Antiviral medicine can stop the blisters from getting worse or spreading, and a cream is available for the pain. However, these just manage the symptoms, they will not cure the disease.
Other common STI’s include genital warts, pubic lice, scabies and trichomoniasis.
How can I get Tested for Sexually Transmitted Diseases?
STI’s can be detected following a sexual health screen. This may involve taking swabs from the penis or vagina, or a urine check. Regular STI checks will identify diseases before they have chance to spread and cause complications. Most STI’s can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics, and if treated early, rarely cause long-term problems. Having regular sexual health checks will enable you to obtain early treatment for any STI you may have contracted.
To avoid contracting sexually transmitted infections, always practice safe sex and use a condom.