Sexually Transmitted Infections
They cause all sorts of worry for all sorts of people. But straight away, the bottom line is that STIs are easily investigated, easily diagnosed and most of them are easily treated. A gross simplification, but mostly true. Let’s try to demystify this whole business somewhat.
You catch STIs from sexual contact. What does that mean? Well, unprotected penetrative vaginal or anal sex. You can also catch some STIs from oral sex.
How to not get them: safe sex, ie, condoms. They will massively decrease your risk of catching an STI, but some skin-to-skin contact infections like herpes can still be passed along, or as mentioned via oral-gential contact.
You can’t catch most STIs from kissing, hugging or sharing glasses. And no, you cannot acquire an STI from a toilet seat. Never got my head around that one, but I hear it way too often – it is not a thing.
The test itself is really easy. Urine sample (chlamydia & gonorrhoea) and a blood test (HIV, hepatitis, syphilis). Maybe a swab of the throat and anus depending on symptoms and risks. At MensHealth.ie, we offer discreet, confidential and complete STI check and treatment.
When should you get an STI test?
● If you have any of the symptoms described below
● If your partner has an STI
● You have a new partner
● If you have more than one partner
Why should you get an STI test?
Well, a lot of the time if you have an STI, you won’t have any symptoms, so that’s reason enough. Also, left untreated, some STIs can lead to serious health problems. And people you have sex with will not be pleased if you give them STIs. So it’s good to know if you have one and to get rid of it.
The infections themselves
Chlamydia: bacterial infection and the most commonly diagnosed STI. More than half of people with it won’t have any symptoms. Guys can have a discharge from the penis, discomfort when peeing, pain/swelling in the testicles or occasional bowel symptoms (diarrhoea, mucus / blood from the back passage). Untreated, it can migrate into the testicles and cause a serious infection, even damaging fertility. Curable with a short course of antibiotics.
Gonorrhoea: second most common, bacterial infection. Men often get a discharge from the penis with this one, also burning pain when peeing. Again, can migrate to the testicles and affect fertility in the worst case scenario. Again, curable with antibiotics, but a once off injection as well this time.
HIV: Far from the death sentence it once was, HIV is a virus that can now be managed very effectively with medications. Untreated, it will destroy your immune system and you will eventually die without that. Really important, if you think you may have been exposed to HIV, you can get medications that significantly reduce your risk of contracting the HIV virus if taken within 72 hours. There’s also PrEP which you can take in advance.
Syphilis: bacterial STI, hard to identify, had it’s heyday centuries ago, but is making a comeback. Can have no symptoms, can have a small sore or ulcer around the genitals, but this goes away fairly quickly, usually unnoticed. Then a few weeks later, you can get a general rash, feel terrible and have some swollen lymph nodes. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause all sorts of trouble, affecting anywhere and everywhere and it can kill you. But take it easy – it’s very rare, it is easily identified if you get tested and most importantly it can be easily treated.
Hepatitis B: viral infection that affects the liver, transmitted via unprotected sex or blood contact. Symptoms range from none through flu like symptoms, yellowing of skin and eyes all the way through to liver failure (very rare). It can be treated.
There are others, including a rake of superficial infections like herpes, HPV (warts), pubic lice (crabs) and LGV. These are more easily diagnosed on sight alone and all can be treated.