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STI's - All the Facts

Find out about Sexually Transmitted Infection's (STI's) - symptoms and treatment...

  • Thrush

    • What is it? 

      Thrush is caused by a harmless type of yeast, which lives on human skin, in the mouth, gut and vagina.

      Sometimes this type of yeast gets a little out of hand, and starts growing more than it should.

      How is it spread?

      Although you can get thrush without having unprotected sex this is one way it can be transmitted.

      What are the symptoms?

      Some people will not show any signs or symptoms but it can create discomfort for both men and women in the genital area.

      In women:

      - Vaginal discharge which is thick, resembles cottage cheese and smells yeasty

      - Itching, soreness and redness around the vagina, vulva or anus

      - Swollen vulva

      - Pain during sex or passing water

      In men:

      - Itching, burning and irritation under the foreskin or tip of the penis

      - Redness or red patches under the foreskin or tip of the penis

      - Problems with pulling back the foreskin

      - A thin or thick, cheesy discharge under the foreskin

      - Discomfort when passing urine

      How can I get rid of it?

      Treatment – thankfully - is fairly straightforward.

      Men will usually be given cream to rub onto the penis and infected areas. Women are also offered cream and pessaries (an almond shaped tablet which is inserted into the vagina), which is like inserting a tampon.

      To help relieve itching and soreness, wash the genital area with water only and avoid using soaps or having bubble baths, as they could irritate the infection. Treating both partners is important to stop re-infection.

      Thrush thrives in warm and moist environments. So, if you have had thrush recently, make sure that you:

      - Don't wear tights or underwear that are not cotton

      - Don't wear tight trousers, lycra leggings or jeans

      - Don't use perfumed soaps, genital sprays and deodorants

      - Avoid using antibiotics if possible - ask your doctor for advice if offered antibiotics

      To reduce the chances of getting it – use a condom!

  • Gonorrhoea

    • What is it?

      Gonorrhoea is caused by a type of bacteria which loves to live in warm, moist areas of the body like the vagina, cervix, urethra, rectum and the throat.

      How is it spread?

      It is spread by having unprotected sex.

      What are the symptoms?

      In women:

      - An unusual vaginal discharge which may be thin or watery, yellow or greenisish- Pain when urinating- Infection in the rectum or the eyes- Infection in the throat – you might not even know you have it!- Lower abdominal pain or tenderness- Bleeding between periods or heavier periods

      In men:

      - White, green or yellow discharge from the penis that may stain your underwear- Pain when urinating- Infection in the rectum or the eyes- Infection in the throat – you might not even know you have it!- Pain or tenderness in the testicles- Sometimes inflammation of the foreskin

      How can I get rid of it?

      The STI clinic will carry out a few painless tests and give treatment. Early gonorrhoea can be cured with a course of antibiotics. Your partner should also be treated to avoid re-infection.

      To reduce the chances of getting it – use a condom!

  • HIV

    • What is it? 

      HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system (the system inside our body that is designed to fight off most infections). Once HIV affects the immune system it's there for good.

      How is it spread?

      The virus does not survive very long outside the body and reacts badly to changes in temperature or light. 

      So the way it can be passed on is through exchanging bodily fluids such as:

      - Sperm or vaginal fluids through having unprotected sex. Or, sharing sex devices with someone who has HIV

      - Blood through sharing injecting equipment or receiving contaminated blood donations

      - Breast milk through infected mother to child. An infected mother can also pass it on to her child during pregnancy or birth

      - There is absolutely no evidence of the virus being transmitted through sharing loo seats, a glass or cup, swimming pools or French kissing

      What are the symptoms?

      Some people will not show any signs or symptoms but it can create discomfort for both men and women in the genital area.

      In women:

      - Vaginal discharge which is thick, resembles cottage cheese and smells yeasty

      - Itching, soreness and redness around the vagina, vulva or anus

      - Swollen vulva

      - Pain during sex or passing water

      In men:

      - Itching, burning and irritation under the foreskin or tip of the penis

      - Redness or red patches under the foreskin or tip of the penis

      - Problems with pulling back the foreskin

      - A thin or thick, cheesy discharge under the foreskin

      - Discomfort when passing urine

      How can I get rid of it?

      The only way you can tell if you are HIV positive (that you have the virus) is by having an HIV test - it usually takes up to three months or more for the virus to show up in your bloodstream from the time you become infected. So relying on regular tests should not be considered safer sex. Some people may have the virus for years and look and feel very healthy, but may still be able to pass it on. Others may be affected more quickly.

      The HIV virus attacks the body’s T cells in the blood. As somebody’s number of T cells gets lower and lower, the immune system becomes weaker. This is when they may develop AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

      To reduce the chances of getting it – use a condom!

  • Chlamydia

    • What is it? 

      Chlamydia can affect both men and women.

      Once transmitted to women though, Chlamydia may cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which could mean they can’t have children.

      How is it spread?

      It is spread by having unprotected sex with someone who has the infection. It may not be obvious that they have it as 70 - 80% people don’t have symptoms.

      What are the symptoms?

      - The need to frequently pass water and, when you do, you feel a burning sensation or discomfort.

      - For men, a slight, cloudy fluid, which oozes from the tip of the penis, mainly when waking up in the morning (this is a different fluid to semen) or painful, swollen testicles.

      - Abnormal discharge from the vagina, urethra or anus.

      - Many people never experience any symptoms but may still be infected.

      - For women, bleeding between periods or during or after sex or lower abdominal pain.

      How can I get rid of it?

      A course of antibiotics - which can be prescribed at sexual health clinics or GP surgeries

      To reduce the chances of getting it – use a condom!

  • Genital Warts

    • What is it? 

      HPV is a virus that causes different types of warts. One type is genital warts found on the vagina, cervix, vulva, penis, anus, rectum or urethra.

      How is it spread?

      It is easily spread during sex, as well as through touching infected genital areas.

      Women who are affected by HPV should speak to a sexual health specialist, as the virus may encourage pre-cancerous cells in the cervix. Other types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer.

      Having regular smear tests will help detect this and may prevent cervical cancer developing.

      What are the symptoms?

      Most people do not develop visible warts and the virus will go away on its own.

      Those who do, develop small fleshy growths on the skin, anywhere on the body. Sometimes there may be an itching or a burning sensation in the genital area.

      How can I get rid of it?

      Although genital warts can be treated, they may take a long time to get rid of.

      There are a variety of treatments available such as:

      - Laser treatment

      - Freezing

      - Surgery

      - Prescriptive drugs – creams or liquids

       Both partners should always be treated.

      To reduce the chances of getting it – use a condom!

      *HPV will not pass through a condom, but condoms do not cover all the genital area, so it is possible to infect skin in the surrounding area, even whilst wearing a condom.
  • Syphilis

    • What is it? 

      Syphilis is an organism that infects blood and other bodily fluids. If it’s not treated in the early stages, it can be very serious.

      How is it spread?

      By unprotected sex or sharing devices with a person who has the infection, by direct skin contact with someone who has syphilis sores or a syphilis rash.

      What are the symptoms?

      There can be three stages of infection:

      First Stage - One or more sores usually found near or on the vagina or penis or sometimes the mouth and anus. These sores will appear two or three weeks after coming into contact with syphilis. These last for two to six weeks and are very infectious.

      Second Stage - A rash on the body may appear within two to six months of the original infection.

      Flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and sore throat may be experienced.

      Flat, warty looking growths on the vulva in women and around the anus in men and women.  Both these stages may not be noticeable.

      If not treated:

      Third Stage - Permanent damage to the heart, brain and other organs - which could be fatal.

      This final stage is quite rare and can arise many years after the first infection, when treatment has not been given.

      How can I get rid of it?

      Antibiotics will be given to clear the infection. It is important that both partners are treated to avoid re-infection. Follow up appointments may be necessary.

      To reduce the chances of getting it – use a condom!

  • Hepatitis

    • What is it? 

      Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and comes in many shapes and forms. The type of hepatitis depends on the length of the illness and the strength of the virus.

      How is it spread?

      Hepatitis can be contracted through having unprotected sex with someone who has the infection, or coming into contact with infected blood, sexual fluids or through the faecal-oral route.

      What are the symptoms?

      Some people have no symptoms but still carry the virus, so they can infect others.

      Hepatitis B can take between six and 23 weeks to take effect once you have been infected.

      The main symptoms connected with hepatitis are:

      - Jaundice - where the skin looks yellow

      - Abdominal discomfort, vomiting, nausea and high fever

      - Flu-like symptoms, sore throat or cough

      - When you go to the toilet your urine becomes dark and the stools are pale

      How can I get rid of it?

      Treatment is available for some forms of hepatitis and will vary depending on which type it is.

      A liver and digestive diseases specialist will prescribe relevant medication. The treatment may be spread over several months, depending on how serious the infection is. Because hepatitis is very easy to pass on, more so than HIV and other STIs, it is important that safer sex is practiced.

      There are vaccinations available for some forms of hepatitis

      There are a variety of treatments available such as:

      - Laser treatment

      - Freezing

      - Surgery

      - Prescriptive drugs – creams or liquids

      Both partners should always be treated.

      To reduce the chances of getting it – use a condom!

  • Trichomoniasis

    • What is it? 

      Trichomoniasis or TV is an infection that is caused by a parasite which can be found in the vagina in women and the urethra in men.

      How is it spread?

      By unprotected sex with a person who has the infection.

      What are the symptoms?

      This infection seems to affect more women than men but women can pass it on through sexual contact or through sharing devices and not washing them between uses or not covering them with a condom.

      Up to half of men and women will not have any signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms usually show up within about a month of coming into contact with the disease.

      The main symptoms are:

      -Vaginal discharge which is thin, yellow or green, frothy and/or with a fishy smell

      - Itchy or sore vagina

      - Pain when passing urine

      - Men may experience unusual discharge or a sore penis

      How can I get rid of it?

      A course of antibiotics will be given to get rid of the parasite and the infection. Sexual contact should be avoided until you have finished the treatment.

      To reduce the chances of getting it – use a condom!

  • Herpes

    • What is it? 

      Herpes is a viral infection that attacks the nervous system. It's from the same family of infection as chicken pox, shingles and glandular fever.

      Genital herpes is part of the herpes simplex virus…there are two types. Type I more commonly causes cold sores around the mouth and nose and type II more commonly causes sores in the genital and anal area, which can also transfer to the mouth.

      Herpes lurks in the central nervous system - waiting to break out when you are feeling unwell or stressed.

      How is it spread?

      - Genital herpes (or herpes simplex) can pass between the genital area and mouth through:

      - Sex with an infected partner when they are having an outbreak of herpes

      - Touching a partner's infected mouth/penis/vagina/anus then touching your mouth/genitals. It can also be spread by sharing sex devices.

      What are the symptoms?

      Many people will not have any signs or symptoms

      Both men and women can be infected and may have one or more of the following symptoms:

      - Stinging, itching or tingling in the genital or anal area

      - Pains down the thighs, legs or in the groin, flu-like symptoms

      - Small blisters which have a clear liquid inside them which if they burst, leave painful red ulcers - these blisters may be hidden in the vagina, cervix or rectum

      - Pain when passing urine

      How can I get rid of it?

      You can’t! Once you have the virus there is no cure.

      However a doctor or sexual health specialist can offer medication to control the outbreaks of blisters.

      To reduce the chances of getting it – use a condom!