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STI – Useful Information

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Ireland has seen a big increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in recent years

What is an STI?

An STI (formerly called an STD) is an infection that can be passed from one person to another through sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral). What types of STIs are there?

Most common STIs

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. If left untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (P.I.D.) in women which can result in infertility, chronic pelvic pain and ectopic pregnancies. It is known as the ‘silent disease’ as up to 75% of women and 50% of men can have no symptoms at all. Common symptoms include abnormal vaginal discharge, pain on passing urine, pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, irregular vaginal bleeding. Testing can be done on a urine sample or by taking a swab from the cervix and it is easily treatable with antibiotics.

Anogenital Warts

Warts are a very common sexually transmitted infection. They present usually as non- painful lumps anywhere on the genital area and are caused by the HPV virus. This virus can live in the body for many years and people can carry the virus and not know it. Different strains of the virus can cause either external warts or cervical cancer/pre-cancerous cells. Although there is no cure for HPV, there are treatments for external warts including cryotherapy (‘freezing treatment’) which we offer here at Charter Medical.

Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection in the genital area which can cause vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, penile discharge or pain on passing urine. Like Chlamydia, it can have no symptoms at all and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (P.I.D.) which in turn can lead to infertility, chronic pelvic pain and infertility. Testing can be done on a urine sample or by taking a swab. If diagnosed, it is easily cured with antibiotics.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a viral infection which is easily transmitted from person to person. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus which can live around the lips or mouth causing ‘cold-sores’, or in the genital area causing genital herpes. It causes ulcerated, often painful lesions/blisters around the genital area. Diagnosis is made by visual inspection or by taking a swab. There is no cure for genital herpes but out-breaks can be treated with anti-viral medications.

H.I.V. (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

H.I.V. is a virus that can cause Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (A.I.D.S.). It can be transmitted by sexual intercourse and stays in the body for life, attacking your immune system so that you are unable to fight infections. It is diagnosed by a blood test and requires life-long treatment and monitoring.

Syphilis

Syphilis is transmitted by direct contact with a syphilis sore or lesion and is caused by the bacterium treponema pallidum. Ulcers can be found in the genital area and also in the mouth/around the lips. There are 3 stages of the disease and it develops over years. If treated with antibiotics in the early stage it can be cured. It is diagnosed on a simple blood test but if left untreated, it can spread in the bloodstream and cause many problems in different parts of the body.

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause vaginal discharge in women and discharge from the penis in men. It is often without symptoms but can be passed from person to person during sexual contact. It is easily treatable with antibiotics.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can be transmitted by sexual intercourse and can cause inflammation of the liver. It can also be transmitted by sharing needles for drug use, from a mother to her baby and from tattoos with unsterilised tools. It usually has no symptoms but can cause serious liver disease. Diagnosis is by a blood test.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is another liver infection which is usually transmitted by sharing/using unsterilised needles for injecting drugs, from mother to baby and also by sexual contact. It can be diagnosed by a blood test and can be treated with a long course of medication. If left untreated it can cause ‘cirrhosis’ of the liver, liver failure and, in some cases, can lead to liver cancer.

Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are tiny insects that live on the hair in the pubic area. They attach strongly to the hair and are not removed by normal washing or brushing. The main symptom is itch and they can be passed on by close genital contact. Treatment is with a specialized cream or lotion.

Others

Some infections in the genital area are not classed as STIs –

  • Thrush
  • Molluscum Contagiosum
  • Scabies

What are the symptoms of an STI?

  • Vaginal/penile discharge
  • Genital lumps
  • Pain on passing urine/other urinary symptoms
  • Genital sores or ulcers
  • Pelvic pain
  • Itching in the pubic/genital area
  • None of the above!! ( STIs can have no symptoms at all but are still contagious)