Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or infections (STIs) are passed from one person to another through unprotected sex or genital contact.
The vast majority of STDs are treatable, yet in a high percentage of cases people are unaware they are infected because, quite simply, they have no symptoms.
The most common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital warts. Typical symptoms include:
1. Itching or soreness.
2. Discharge – this may have an unusual odour.
3. Discomfort on passing urine.
However, as mentioned above, the most common symptom is no symptom at all.
In women, chlamydia can cause pain or a burning sensation when urinating, a vaginal discharge, pain in the lower abdomen during or after sex, and bleeding during or after sex, or between periods. It can also cause heavy periods.
In men, chlamydia can cause pain or a burning sensation when urinating, a white, cloudy or watery discharge from the tip of the penis, and pain or tenderness in the testicles.
In women, gonorrhoea can cause pain or a burning sensation when urinating, a vaginal discharge (often watery, yellow or green), pain in the lower abdomen during or after sex, and bleeding during or after sex or between periods, sometimes causing heavy periods.
In men, gonorrhoea can cause pain or a burning sensation when urinating, a white, yellow or green discharge from the tip of the penis, and pain or tenderness in the testicles.
It’s also possible to have a gonorrhoea infection in your rectum, throat or eyes.
Gonorrhoea can be easily diagnosed using a urine test, or by taking a swab of the affected area. The infection is easily treated with antibiotics, but can lead to serious long-term health problems if left untreated, including infertility.
Genital warts are small fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes that appear on or around your genital or anal area. They’re caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).
The warts are usually painless, but you may notice some itching or redness. Occasionally, they can cause bleeding.
You don’t need to have penetrative sex to pass the infection on because HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact.
Several treatments are available for genital warts, including creams and cryotherapy (freezing the warts).
If you have symptoms or suspect you have had sexual contact with someone with symptoms:
1. Seek medical advice immediately.
2. Stop all sexual activity.
The vast majority of people treated early recover completely and there are no long-term consequences.
Prevention is always better than cure so make sure you protect yourself by practicing safe sex. Insist that your partners use condoms and carry some yourself just in case.