Sexuality is a normal part of human life and we all consider it to be a rather important personal experience. As such, we would always prefer our sex life to be as care-free as possible which includes uncompromised sexual health and no risk of infections. But, despite these best wishes, sexually transmitted infections (or STIs) are reality for many residents of the United Kingdom. According to NHS, more than 400.000 new cases of STIs are being routinely reported each year within the UK alone.
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Talking about this topic can be very embarrassing for most due to stigma and prejudices that are often embedded in the popular understanding of these issues. Due to this, many of those infected simply choose to ignore their condition and avoid facing the problem. However, nothing could be less productive. For most time, STIs can be more or less easily treated with proper medication and prevented with well-known precautions.
The real issue arises from the fact that a significant percentage of those affected may decide not to seek medical help, thus keeping the infection present and potentially spreading it to future partners. In the 21st century, there is just no excuse for this – not only is information about STDs widely available for anyone, but even the inherent awkwardness of talking to a doctor about this issue can be easily overcome by consulting with a medical professional employed at an online clinic. In this way, you can get valuable medical advice and prescription treatment without a face to face contact.
However, if your condition is not diagnosed yet, it is crucial that you take an STI test in order to precisely identify your condition. In this way, you can get prescribed proper medication and get the problem under control.
In this article, we will explore some of the most common sexually transmitted infections and their symptoms, while also tackling topics such as possible treatments and STI test kits.
STDs versus STIs: What’s the difference?
You might have noticed that when talking about sexual health, the terms sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and sexually transmitted infections (STI) are used interchangeably, leading to confusion regarding the issue. STD is, as of now, still the most widely used term in the general public, while in the recent years the scientific community has made a considerable effort in introducing the alternative term.
But, why does it matter?
It’s not just a question of terminology – the term sexually transmitted infections is recently more favoured by the scientists and medical professional due to the fact that not everybody infected will necessarily develop the symptoms. In fact, for some conditions, like HPV virus, a majority of those infected might not be aware of the condition unless they undergo STI testing. In other words, not every sexually transmitted infection will necessarily develop into a sexually transmitted disease. Instead, it can lay dormant for prolonged periods of time and sometimes even indefinitely.
Most common STIs in the UK
With more than 400.000 new cases every year, United Kingdom is as affected by STDs as any other part of the world. In this section, we will explore the most common STIs reported to the NHS.
Often symptomless, this condition can be rather hard to identify. Despite the fact that it remains dormant in a significant portion of those affected, it’s not a completely harmless condition – there are some hard scientific evidence suggesting a direct link between Chlamydia and infertility.
However, once diagnosed, it can be treated very easily with simple antibiotic medicine.
A very common, yet unpleasant and annoying condition, genital warts usually manifest through small fleshy growths in the vaginal, penile or anal region, often in cluster. Genital warts are caused by Human papillomavirus (or HPV for short).
Gonorrhoea is yet another sexually transmitted bacterial infection that can remain symptomless for a long time after it was initially contracted. However, just like chlamydia, once it’s identified, it can be easily treated by antibiotics.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV), commonly known simply as herpes is among the most common sexually transmitted infections in the world. Usually, the symptoms include tell-tale blisters and sores around the mouth or in the genital region. What makes herpes especially problematic to deal with is the fact that it cannot be completely cured. Instead, it can be successfully managed so that the virus is forced to enter into a period of remission.
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Unlike other mentioned STIs, trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite belonging to a class of microscopic animals (protozoa) called anaerobic flagellated protozoan parasites. The characteristic symptoms include itching, burning or pain in the vagina, although those manifest in just 30% of those infected.
Luckily, most of sexually transmitted infections can be easily treated. The exact type of treatment will depend on the exact nature of the condition, which puts strong emphasis on the need for a correct and precise identification of the problem. Bacterial infections such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia can be successfully treated by the use of localized or general-purpose antibiotics, depending on the severity of the condition.
Other infections, most notably viral ones are significantly more challenging to treat. While this certainly isn’t impossible, some of them, like herpes, cannot be completely cured and will turn into life-long conditions. On the other hand, even then, they can be successfully managed with proper medication, allowing those affected to lead perfectly normal and healthy life.
Testing for STI
If you suspect you might have contracted a sexually transmitted disease, the first thing you should do is to get tested in order to confirm or deny your suspicions. If it turns out you do have an STI, determining the exact type and nature of the condition is the first and most important step in obtaining the proper treatment.
The conventional method of doing this is through a genitourinary medicine clinic (GUM), also known as STI clinic. Here you can book an appointment and get tested by medical professionals who will usually be able to offer you valuable advice on the spot.
However, for a majority of people, this experience can be rather daunting and uncomfortable. However, this shouldn’t prevent you in identifying your condition! If you really want to avoid visiting a GUM, a rather convenient and reliable alternative can be an STI home test. In this way, you will take samples (urine sample and non-invasive vaginal swab for women) by yourself in your home and then post them to a certified laboratory which will inform you about the results without the need for any face-to-face meeting or contact.