How to test for non-genital STIs
- How do you get STIs?
- Can you get non-genital STIs?
- How to get an STI test for non-genital STIs
- Can you have an STI in more than one area?
- Does genital STI treatment work on other areas?
- What happens if an STI is left untreated?
- What STIs can be cured?
- What to do if you have STI symptoms
- How to prevent STIs
- How to get an STI test
Reviewed by Dr Neel Patel
Many STIs don’t have symptoms, so it’s not always clear whether you have one or not. Getting regularly tested can help keep you and your sexual partners safe and healthy. Commonly passed between people during unprotected sex, STIs don’t just affect your genitals, they can appear in other parts of the body like the mouth or rectum.
In this article we’ll look at how you can get non-genital STIs, how they’re treated and what you can do to prevent them.
How do you get STIs?
You can get an STI (sexually transmitted infection) through bodily fluids shared during:
- Vaginal sex
- Anal sex
- Oral sex
- Sharing sex toys
- Skin to skin contact
Using a barrier method such as a male or female condom or dental dam can decrease your risk of getting an STI.
Can you get non-genital STIs?
Lead clinician sexual health, Emma Ostridge explains that:
“Some STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia can infect extra-genital sites that have mucous membranes.
For example, the throat, rectum and eyes. Also syphilis can be transmitted by contact with an infectious lesion, this can be genital or extra-genital such as oral and anal. Herpes simplex virus is transmitted by skin to skin contact - this can be genital but also oral and lips (cold sores) to genital.”
How to get an STI test for non-genital STIs
Testing for non-genital STIs is simple, easy and nothing to be embarrassed about. You can get tested by visiting your GP or your local sexual health clinic. If you’d prefer to test yourself at home, you can with reliable STI tests via Online Doctor.
Many STIs are asymptotic meaning you may not have any symptoms. Which is why it’s important to get tested regularly, even if you’re using condoms. If you’ve had unprotected sex it’s a good idea to get tested for STIs.
Each STI has a different incubation period, if you get a test too early it may show a negative result when in fact you do have an STI. Discover the testing windows in our article and read our buyer’s guide for everything you need to know about home testing. If you don’t have symptoms you can order a test today.
Can you have an STI in more than one area?
You can get an STI in more than one area of your body at the same time. For example if you have oral and vaginal sex with someone who has chlamydia, the STI could then be found in your throat and genitals. This STI affects areas of the body that have mucus membranes, so you could potentially have it in two places.
Does genital STI treatment work on other areas?
STI treatment works to get rid of the sexually transmitted infection whether this is genital or non-genital. During your online or in-person consultation for an STI test you should mention the types of sex you had, for example if you had oral and anal. This will allow the clinician to choose the right treatment for you and decipher if the STI could be in other areas of your body.
What happens if an STI is left untreated?
If you think you may have an STI or been exposed to one you should get tested. There are different “window periods” to consider for different STIs which influences how often you should get tested.
However, receiving STI treatment early can reduce your risk of complications such as pain or infertility from an untreated STI. The complications caused by leaving an STI untreated depend on the STI:
- Chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in people with vulvas which could cause infertility. It also causes inflammation in the testicles and potential fertility problems for people with penises.
- Gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to long-term pelvic pain and infertility for people with vulva. For penis owners, this STI can cause painful infection in the testicles and prostate.
- HIV attacks the body’s immune system leaving it vulnerable to other infections and diseases. If left untreated HIV will develop into AIDS.
- Syphilis can cause life-threatening damage to the body, affecting the eyes, brain and heart.
- Herpes causes painful blisters around the genitals, if untreated outbreaks are common and can be passed to sexual partners.
- HPV (human papillomavirus) can affect the mouth, throat and genital areas. There are many different types, some can cause genital warts and others can lead to cervical cancer.
What STIs can be cured?
Whether your STI can be cured depends on if it has been caused by bacteria or a virus.
Bacterial STIs include:
These can generally be cured with antibiotics.
STIs caused by a virus include:
These can be treated and managed with medication but they cannot be cured. Which is why STI testing is so important and should be done frequently - every 6 months if you’re sexually active.
What to do if you have STI symptoms
If you have symptoms of an STI you should get checked out at your nearest sexual health clinic. You can also use the Online Doctor Photo Assessment Service - simply upload two good quality photos of your symptoms on your genitals and one of the clinicians will let you know if you have an STI and what to do next.
If you’ve had unprotected sex or think you may be at risk of an STI, it’s best that you get tested.
How to prevent STIs
Using a male or female condom can stop you from getting an STI. You can also:
- Use a dental dam during oral sex
- Wear latex gloves during fingering or fisting
- Talk to your sexual partners about their sexual history, contraception use and STIs
- Get tested for STIs with your sexual partner before you have sex
- Try not to have sex when you’ve been drinking or taken drugs
- Get a HPV vaccine and/or Hep B vaccine
How to get an STI test
As well as having safe sex, it’s important to get regularly tested for STIs. Many genital and non-genital STIs don’t have symptoms so you may not know you’ve got one, the only way to know is to get tested. You can get a free STI test at a sexual health and GUM clinics.