You feel ok, everything looks ok, so you can’t possibly have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), right? Not necessarily. There are STIs you might have without even knowing. If you don’t get yourself tested, you’ve no way of knowing if you’re infected.
More than 420,000 people were diagnosed with an STI last year though the number of people infected could be much higher. So-called ‘silent infections’ can seriously damage your and your partner’s health, but there are STI tests and STI treatments available.
Do you know how to spot the signs? Do you know the risks of not being diagnosed? Did you know there’s at-home testing available for the STIs you might have?
Chlamydia is one of the most common infections with more than 200,000 diagnoses made last year. It’s particularly prevalent in young people aged 15-24. Left untreated it can cause Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is a major cause of infertility and ectopic pregnancy (where an egg implants itself outside the womb), risking the lives of both mother and baby.
Chlamydia symptoms in women
- Pain or bleeding while having sex, or afterwards
- Bleeding outside periods – or heavier bleeding than usual during periods
- Soreness when you urinate
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Pain in tummy or pelvic area
Chlamydia symptoms in men
- Pain in the testicles or when urinating
- Discharge from the penis which is usually white, cloudy or clear
- An itchy or burning feeling in the urethra (the tube in the penis that carries urine)
Chlamydia diagnosis and treatment
- Getting tested is easy and uses a urine or swab test which you can get at your local sexual health clinic or you can order an online home testing kit
- Treatment is with antibiotics.
At LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, if you test positive using one of our kits and don’t have symptoms, our clinicians can provide you with free medical treatment.
If you are sexually active and under 25 years old, the NHS recommends getting a chlamydia test very year – or every time you get a new partner.
It’s estimated that about one in 10 men and women who have gonorrhoea don’t experience any symptoms. Some women experience mild symptoms that can be mistaken for something less serious, such as a bladder infection. It is passed on through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex as well as sharing unclean sex toys.
Left untreated it can damage fertility, lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infections of the brain, blood or heart, cause miscarriages and cause babies to get blood infections or be born blind.
Gonorrhoea symptoms in women
- Heavy bleeding during periods, bleeding outside periods, bleeding after sex
- A vaginal discharge, usually watery and thin or greeny-yellowy coloured
- Pain around the tummy or pain when urinating
Gonorrhoea symptoms in men
- A greeny-yellow discharge from the penis
- A burning feeling when urinating.
- A swollen foreskin.
- Pain or tenderness of the testicles
Gonorrhoea diagnosis and treatment
- Testing is done via a swab or urine test at your local sexual health clinic or you can order a home testing kit online.
- Treatment is with an antibiotic injection and tablet at your local Sexual Health Clinic.
3. HPV (human papillomavirus)
This is the name for a group of highly contagious viruses that affect the skin or the moist membranes that line your body – such as the cervix, the anus and the mouth and throat. HPV can be carried by both men and women.
Certain strains of HPV can be caught via sexual intercourse or oral sex. Skin contact during sex can also cause it to spread, meaning using a condom does not always stop it.
It can cause genital warts or abnormal growths in the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. There’s no treatment for HPV and the chances are that an infection will end without having any noticeable physical effect.
Women aged 25 to 64 in England are offered cervical screening to look out for signs of cancer. And it’s recommended that they have one every three to five years.
The HPV vaccines were first licensed in 2006. The vaccine is offered to boys and girls aged 12-13 as part of the National Immunisation Programme. It is also offered on the NHS females who didn’t receive the vaccination at school and are under 25, as well as men under 45 who have sex with men.
Men and women of any age can be vaccinated against several strains of the virus using the LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor HPV vaccination service.
4. Genital herpes
This highly contagious STI affects both men and women and can be caught during sex even if a condom is used, via infected skin. It can also be caught when a cold sore or an infected finger touches your genitals.
Genital symptoms in men / women
- Vaginal discharge
- Painful blisters on or around the genitals
- Soreness when urinating
- Burning, tingling or itching around the genitals
Genital diagnosis and treatment
- There is no cure but antiviral medicines can be taken to relieve the symptoms.
- Cream can also be applied to help with pain and ‘flare ups’
- Medication can be taken daily to help prevent flare-ups. This is usually advised if there are six or more flare-ups a year
If you do suffer from six or more flare-ups of herpes each year, you might consider the LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor herpes treatment service. Take a short, free online consultation today to see if you’re suitable.
What should I do if I think I’m at risk of having an STI?
While STIs are out there you can protect yourself by using condoms, getting tested regularly, and asking your partner if they have been recently tested.
LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor offers test kits for a range of STIs you might have, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. Plus, there are treatments available for chlamydia, herpes and genital warts.