Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are infections caused by viral, bacterial or parasitic pathogens that are mainly passed between people during sexual intercourse. This could be vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact; however, some can be passed simply by coming in direct contact with an affected area.
The most common STIs are those caused by bacteria, which includes chlamydia, gonorrhoea followed by viral infections, genital warts and genital herpes. Most STDs are completely curable and are unlikely to cause symptoms, although they can pose a risk to your health if they aren’t treated soon.
What types of STIs are there?
STDs can be divided into three different groups: those caused by viruses, those caused by bacteria and those that develop because of a parasite.
- Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
- Mycoplasma Genitalium
- Ureaplasma Urealyticum
Examples of viral STDs:
Viral STIs include:
- Genital Herpes and
- Genital Warts
Examples of parasitic STIs:
- Pubic lice
- Trichomonas vaginalis
Bacterial and parasitic STDs are usually easy to treat and cure with the help of antibiotics. However, STIs caused by viruses are not usually curable, but luckily can be treated with anti-viral medications.
Will I know if I have one?
Most STDs don’t cause symptoms at all, which is why many people don’t know they have an infection and still continue having unprotected sexual intercourse without using adequate protection. This also means that people aren’t getting the treatment they need.
The following is a list commonly experienced STD symptoms:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Increased need to urinate
- Pain during sex
- Bleeding after sex or between periods
- Unusual discharge from the penis, vagina or anus
- Unusual smelling discharge
- Blisters, sores or warts around the genital area or thighs
- Lower abdominal pain
- Rash on or around the genitals
- Itching of the genitals
- Inflammation of the vagina or penis
If you suspect that you may have an STD or if you’ve never had an STD test and you are a sexually active adult, you should consider getting tested so that you can get treatment if it is needed.
How are STIs diagnosed?
Some STDs, such as genital warts can only be diagnosed after a physical examination by a doctor, but symptoms are rarely the only way in which a doctor diagnoses whether a person has an STI, as many STIs may share similar symptoms or don’t cause you to experience any symptoms at all. You can go to your GP or a GUM clinic to request a test, but you can also request a test from online STD clinic such as LabsDirect. Services like theirs allow you to collect a sample at home and send it straight to the laboratory.
How are STIs treated?
Most bacterial STIs are curable with antibiotic medications, provided they are treated as soon as possible, before it results in any other serious complications. Similarly, parasitic STIs can be treated with the help of antbiotics or, in the case of pubic lice, special ointments or creams. Viral STDs, such as genital herpes and warts, can be controlled with the help of anti-viral medications; however, it is rare that a person will experience common or severe outbreaks. If you have genital herpes or warts, you can speak to your doctor about methods in which you can make transmission less likely if you have sex.