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Guide to STI’s

We’ve all heard about them but do you know the facts? If not then you need to wise up. Sexually Transmitted Infections are spreading fast and they’re available at a bar near you!


Make sure you know the signs, symptoms and prevention methods so you can keep yourself protected and clear from any nasty, uncomfortable and sometimes very dangerous infections.

Not only can having an STI be embarrassing and painful, it can also lead to serious long term health and fertility problems. The best way to protect your self from catching an STI is by using condoms. There are so many different types of condom out there now to suit and satisfy every need. Ribbed, dotted, delay, warming, cooling, large, thin, flavoured, the list goes on. Check out our essentials section on the site to keep yourself safe and infection free.

Testing and some forms of treatment are free through the NHS but if you go through your GP you may have to pay for your prescription.

Listed below are the top 5 most common STI’s. Here we’ll explain symptoms, treatment, where you can go to get help/ advice, and what being tested involves.

Herpes:

There are 2 common types of Herpes. Herpes Simplex type 1 and Herpes Simplex type 2. Not everyone has visible signs or symptoms so you may not know you have it. Type 1 Herpes can be passed by kissing and oral sex while the blisters and sores are apparent. Type 2 Herpes can be passed on by having vaginal, anal and oral sex or by sharing sex toys.

Symptoms of type 1 Herpes can be a cold sore on your lip or in your nose. Symptoms of type 2 Herpes are blister type sores on your genitals that can be itchy and painful. You could also experience flu like symptoms. They usually show 1-2 weeks after catching the infection and can disappear after 2-4 weeks. This does not mean the infection has vanished though. Once you have contracted Herpes it stays in your body forever but will only be active at certain times. This means you can only pass it on while the virus is contagious (active). Stress, sunlight and anxiety can bring on an episode.

Testing: You will usually have an examination to see if any blisters are present. Swabs will be taken and sent off for testing.

Treatment: You can treat Herpes while it is active with antibiotics (type 2) or cold sore treatments (type 1) that can be bought over the counter at chemists or supermarkets.

Fact: One in six people carry the Herpes infection.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria found in the semen or vaginal fluids of a man or woman and can be passed through vaginal, oral, anal sex and sharing sex toys. It is very easy to treat and cure but if it goes untreated it can cause serious health complications and affect fertility. The reason that Chlamydia is such a widely spread STI is because a high percentage of men and women do not have any obvious symptoms or symptoms can be mild. Signs and symptoms can show up 1-3 weeks after coming into contact with Chlamydia, many months later or not until the infection spreads to other parts of your body.

Symptoms: can include pain when urinating, an unusual discharge, pain or bleeding after sex, pain in the testicles (for men), lower abdominal pain and/ or bleeding between periods (for women)

There are rarely any symptoms if the infection is in the rectum but it may cause discomfort and discharge. Infection in the eyes can cause pain, swelling, irritation and discharge (conjunctivitis) Infection in the throat is uncommon and usually has no symptoms.

Testing is quick and easy. Men are usually asked to give an urine sample or sometimes asked to have a swab taken from the entrance of their urethra (pee hole) For women a swab is taken from your vagina, urethra, anus and throat.

Treatment is either a single dose or a course of antibiotics depending on the stage of the infection.

Fact: Chlamydia affects approximately one in ten people.

Gonorrhoea:

Gonorrhoea is caused by bacteria and can be passed on by having vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by sharing sex toys. You can also transfer Gonorrhoea to your eyes from the genitals by your fingers. A small percentage of people have very little or no symptoms at all so it can be hard to detect.

Symptoms can be an unusual watery discharge (that can be white, yellow or green).

Pain when passing urine, pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen in women or testicles in men.

Testing is quick and easy. A small swab is taken from either, the vagina, urethra anus or mouth. You may also be asked to give a urine sample.

Treatment in the early stages of detection can be a single dose of antibiotics. If the infection has been present for a longer period of time then a course of antibiotics may be prescribed.

Fact: Gonorrhoea can lead to PID (pelvic Inflammatory disease) and can be very painful.

Syphilis:

Syphilis is caused by bacteria. Symptoms can be mild and you may not recognise them, heightening the chance of contracting it and passing it on. Syphilis can be passed through sex and by direct skin contact with someone who has syphilis sores or a syphilis rash. It can be passed on before symptoms are noticeable or after they have disappeared. The infection can spread if you have anal or oral sex or have shared sex toys. Syphilis can also be passed through blood. Syphilis can be cured but the longer it goes untreated the more it can damage your health.

Symptoms of Syphilis are the same in both men and women. Again symptoms can be mild and hard to recognise. Syphilis can develop in three stages.

First stage Syphilis:

One or more sores (usually painless) will appear when the bacteria enters the body. These sores can appear anywhere on the body but are most commonly found on and around the genitals. The sores of the first stage syphilis are very infectious and may take 2-6 weeks to heal.

Second Stage Syphilis:

If the infection remains untreated the second stage usually occurs some weeks after the sores have appeared and healed. Syphilis is still infectious at this stage and can still be passed on. During this stage you can get a painless rash that is not normally itchy. It can spread all over the body or appear in patches but it is often seen on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. Flat warty looking growths on the genitals that can be mistaken for warts can also appear. You may suffer from flu like illness, tiredness and loss of appetite with swollen glands. White patches on the tongue or roof of the mouth may be visible and you may experience patchy hair loss.

Third Stage Syphilis:

If Syphilis goes un treated for a number of years it can cause serious damage to the heart, brain, eyes, nervous system aswell as bones and other internal organs.

Treatment for the first and second stage is either a single antibiotic injection or a course of antibiotics capsules or injections. Penicillin is the most common treatment but many others can be used so let your doctor know if you have any allergies. There are treatments for third stage Syphilis but any damage already done to your body will be permanent.

Fact: Syphilis in some cases can take up to 50 years before you see any visible symptoms.

HIV/ AIDS

HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and affects hundreds of thousands of people. It is one of the scariest STI’s as it is incurable and leads to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. A healthy immune system provides a natural defence against disease and infection. The longer HIV is in the body the more healthy cells it breaks down leaving your body prone to serious infection and helpless to fight against them.

AIDS is the term used to describe the later stages of HIV, when the immune system has stopped working.

Symptoms are not always apparent and can be mistaken for another less serious condition such as colds or glandular fever. Symptoms in the early stages of HIV can include fever, sore throat, tiredness, joint muscle pain and swollen glands.

Testing: you will be asked to give a blood sample to be sent off for testing.

Treatment: There is no cure or vaccine for HIV and researchers believe it will be many years, if not decades, before either is found. However, special medicines that are used in what is known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has proved remarkably successful in slowing the progression of the condition and prolonging life.

Fact: At the end of 2005 an estimated 63,000 adults aged over 15 were living with HIV in the UK. Of those 20,100 (32%) did not know they were infected.

So people, I hope you now know a little more about STI’s and what they can do to your body and health. Never risk it, no matter how tempting. It only takes one ‘occasion’ and you could spend the rest of your life living with an unwanted STI. Stay safe and protected and always use condoms.

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