STIs, or sexually transmitted infections, are a group of illnesses which can be passed from person to person during unprotected sex, or if genitals come into contact. Most can be diagnosed using a urine or blood test. Chlamydia is the most common STI and can be reasonably harmless, as long as it is treated early. HIV, on the other hand, is incurable and will affect a sufferer for life.
Symptoms can vary depending on the STI contracted, and some infections actually do not display symptoms. Most people with chlamydia, for example, don’t experience any ill effects, and 50% of women suffering from gonorrhoea aren’t aware they are infected with it. The best way to prevent STIs is to always use a condom during sex, and to have regular check ups to ensure any infections are caught as soon as possible.
“There is a stigma surrounding STIs, however, you should not be embarrassed to visit your GP or sexual health nurse if you suspect you may be infected. We can test you for any type of STI and prescribe treatment straight away to clear the infection as soon as possible. Of course, lowering your risk of contracting an STI through safe sex is vital but if you do become infected treatment is necessary to avoid complications which can be life threatening.”
Sexually Transmitted Infections
What are STIs?
STIs or sexually transmitted infections are infections which are passed on from one person to another through having unprotected sex or sexual contact. They’re also commonly known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Anyone can contract an STI no matter their age, gender or sexuality, however, STIs are more common amongst young people and people who have multiple sexual partners.
STI is the collective name for a number of well known, common infections which are transmitted through vaginal, anal or oral sex. It is contact with infected body fluids such as blood, semen or vaginal fluids, or contact with infected skin which results in an STI. There are many types of STIs, some more serious than others and many can be easily cured or symptoms can be managed. STIs can be both bacterial and viral infections which will require different forms of treatment so it’s important to get a diagnosis from your GP or sexual health nurse to ensure that the right treatment is given for the STI, for instance, antibiotics do not work for viral infections.
Types of STI include:
- Genital warts
- Pubic lice
All of these STIs can be diagnosed easily at your sexual health clinic with a simple blood or urine test.
What are the symptoms of STIs?
Symptoms vary between the different types of STI but there are some general symptoms to look out for which may indicate that you have a sexually transmitted infection. These include:
- Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
- Lumps or skin growths on the genitals or anus
- Unusual bleeding from the vagina
- A rash
- Pain when urinating
- Blisters or sores on the genitals or anus
- Itchy genitals or anus
If you develop any of these symptoms it’s wise to get a sexual health check up to rule out any STIs. Sometimes the symptoms may be subtle or may not show at all so you may not be aware that you have an STI, however, routine testing can detect this. Symptoms can develop days, weeks, months and even years later depending on the type of STI. The most common type of STI, chlamydia, usually shows symptoms 1-3 weeks after sexual contact and these normally include discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when urinating, pain in the pelvis in women as well as bleeding in between periods or after sex, and men will experience pain in the testicles. The symptoms of genital herpes, however, may develop in as little as 4 to 7 days in the form of painful blisters around the genitals, itching around the genitals and pain when urinating.
HIV is an STI that has different symptoms to the other common types of STI and can be more subtle. The symptoms of HIV are similar to flu with a fever, sore throat, headache, achy muscles and red rash. These will usually last a couple of weeks just like flu but the virus will stay in your body forever and cannot be cured. HIV can easily be mistaken for another illness which again highlights the importance of regular testing.
What causes STIs?
STIs are caused by a contagious infection entering the body through contact with skin or bodily fluids which are infected. You can spread STIs through having sex without a condom and the risk is increased if you have multiple sexual partners or are having sex with someone who has multiple sexual partners. STIs can also be spread by sharing needles when injecting with intravenous drugs.
How to get tested for STIs
If you suspect you have an STI it’s important to get tested to clarify if it is an STI and what kind you have so you can be treated correctly. You can get tested at your nearest sexual health clinic or by your GP or nurse. Most STIs are tested with a blood or urine sample but sometimes testing may require a physical examination of the pelvic and genital area and/or a swab of fluid from the infected area.
Can STIs be treated?
Most STIs can be treated easily with medication and be cured, but there are some STIs such as HIV and genital herpes which cannot be cured but the symptoms can be managed. To cure common STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea a course of antibiotics are usually prescribed such as azithromycin which you can buy online at Doctor-4-U. With antibiotics symptoms will usually clear up in a few days but it’s important to finish the course even if you feel that the infection has gone. There are also tablets and creams available to treat the symptoms of genital herpes and warts and minimise outbreaks as these infections can return.
To buy STI medication online you will need to fill out a medical questionnaire which will be reviewed by one of our online doctors to determine your suitability which will depend on whether you have any other health conditions or are taking other medication.
Can STIs cause other health problems if left untreated?
Yes, if left untreated all STIs can lead to complications with your health, some may be life threatening. If HIV is unmanaged it can lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) which occurs when the HIV virus has damaged the immune system leaving the body exposed to a number of life threatening illnesses.
Even the common, easy to treat STIs can have complications if they’re not treated quickly enough. STIs can lead to infertility in both men and women, and if a woman has an STI during pregnancy there can be complications such as preterm delivery or miscarriage. A mother can also pass on an infection to the unborn baby which can be fatal and cause them serious health problems in the future.
If the infection is not cleared up it can spread to other parts of the body and cause organ damage. Untreated STIs may also lead to cancer, most commonly cervical cancer.
How to prevent STIs?
It’s important to prevent catching an STI in the first place, one way of preventing STIs is by protecting yourself every time you have sex by using condoms. This is one of the most effective ways of protecting yourself from STIs. If you know you have an STI you should stop having sex until it is cleared to prevent the spread of infection to other people. Be sure to inform any sexual partners so that they can also be treated.
Other ways to prevent STIs include:
- Getting vaccinated against certain STIs such as hepatitis B
- Getting tested regularly
- Avoid having sex under the influence of drugs and alcohol as your less likely to have protected sex
- Reduce your number of sexual partners
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to reducing your risk of contracting an STI, but if you do have an STI getting treated with the right medication as soon as possible is so important to avoid complications.