We thought that we would answer the most commonly asked question that we hear from our harley street practice consultant when we see patients who think they might have caught an STI (sexually transmitted infection), and give you a guide to some of the most common infections.
Q. How can I tell that I have an STI?
A. An STI is always ready to make its home in the unwary. You will need to be seen by a medical professional if you notice anything different in the genital area.
This STI is bacterial and its full name is Chlamydia trachomatis. For around seventy five per cent of female sufferers and half of the men affected there are no symptoms except sometimes a burning that might appear to be a urinary infection. If this condition is not treated in women, it can advance to the pelvic organ’s causing pain as well as pain in the back. There might also be some fever or nausea. The initial mild symptoms of a discharge in either sex may resolve but that does not mean the infection has gone. Untreated the disease can go on to damage the reproductive organs in women. With or without symptoms this infection can be transmitted via vaginal anal or oral sex.
Gonorrhoea and chlamydia have very similar susceptibilities. Having multiple sexual partners and not using a condom leave you open to either. If you are diagnosed with either one the antibiotics you are given will treat both.
The symptoms of this STI are burning when you pee and a sort throat. There might also be rectal itching and bleeding. You might think you have simply caught a urinary tract infection or a cold or think perhaps that you have haemorrhoids. However there will often be no symptoms. If the infection is severe there might be swelling of the testicles. In women there may be pain that is caused by injury to the tubes and ovaries - infertility and ectopic pregnancy are also common. If gonorrhoea begins to circulate through the bloodstream, a temperature, skin lesions and arthritis can result.
This is a one-cell parasite. Men will usually have no symptoms, or might develop irritation in the penis. Women might experience vaginal burning and a discharge that is frothy and yellow-green. Without treatment, even if symptoms go, the person will still be infected. Spread is through penis to vagina intercourse or through vulva to vulva contact. Men almost never transmit this infection to male partners. One dose of antibiotic metronidazole will resolve trichomoniasis.
The blistering sores that people think of with this disease will develop in only a hand full of infected people. It is not, therefore, easy to identify the disease as even normal looking skin can harbour the virus and areas of skin around the genitals that are not covered with a condom can spread the disease too. The first outbreak of this disease will be the most painful and in many the first episode will be the only one they have. It is generally true that the severity of the first outbreak will determine whether or not it is likely to recur. Blister fluid swabs will diagnosis the disease but blood tests can be taken if there are no sores. Treatment that will reduce recurrence is with antivirals although it will not eradicate this virus.
Human papilloma virus (HPV)
There are a variety of strains of HPV with genital warts that are an annoyance but not life-threatening in one strain, and cervical cancer in other strains. They can be single or clustered and are spread by skin to skin contact during sexual activity.
Freezing burning or excising are some options for genital warts but there is no cure. Cervical smears can identify the presence of one of the four strains of HPV in cervical cells. A vaccination at any sexual health clinic in London can now protect against this disease.
Prevention – always better than cure
The only way to be sure that you will not catch an STI is not to have sex but limiting the number of sexual partners you have and always using protection will go a long way to help.