Monday the 4th of September is World Sexual Health Day! Join us as we look at a variety of sexual health topics in the lead up to the 4th!
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are nothing new in Europe – historical records indicate that syphilis and gonorrhoea have been present since Mediaeval times. Over the last few years, research indicates that the most common STDs in Europe are Chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhoea, and HPV (Human papillomavirus). Today, we’re going to have a look at each one – what causes them, STD symptoms to look out for and what treatments are available.
What is the Difference Between STDs and STIs?
The two terms are mostly interchangeable in daily use; essentially, an STD causes active symptoms, while an STI is just a statement of where an infection came from. As you will see, several STIs do not always cause symptoms, which allow them to spread undetected.
Chlamydia is a relatively common STD, caused by an infection of the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia is often symptomless; when they do appear, it can be weeks or even months after infection. Men are particularly prone to presenting as asymptomatic when infected, but they can still pass the infection on. If left untreated, Chlamydia can result in infertility in women, as it affects the reproductive organs.
Chlamydia symptoms can include a burning sensation when urinating in men and women, unusual vaginal discharge, and swelling and pain in one or both testicles in men as well as an unusual discharge from the penis. Other symptoms that some women may experience include heavy menses, abnormal bleeding including during and after having sexual intercourse and between each menstrual cycle. Women may also experience Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) as a result of infection.
Like most STIs, the site of infection for Chlamydia is not restricted to just the sexual organs; it can be passed on via anal or oral sex, and you can even experience the infection in your eyes.
This condition is one of the most common STDs in modern Europe; around 2% of people in the UK are infected. According to the ECDC Surveillance Report 2014, people 15 to 24 accounted for 68 percent of cases of this disease, with the 20 to 24 age group having the most cases. The report also showed that the most common transmission route for Chlamydia was through heterosexual sexual contact.
If you are concerned about the possibility of having Chlamydia, you can order a Chlamydia Test Kit through our online pharmacy. Simply take a urine test for men, or a swab test for women, and send it to a lab for testing from the comfort of your own home. You will receive your test results as soon as the test has been processed.
We can also provide prescriptions for antibiotic treatments designed to prevent the bacteria that cause chlamydia from multiplying, allowing your immune system to destroy them. We provide multiple treatments for chlamydia, including doxycycline and azithromycin.
Syphilis is caused by the bacterium treponema pallidum. Like most STDs, syphilis is caused by sexual contact. When left untreated, syphilis can lead to serious health issues including blindness. Symptoms of this disease are broken down into four stages – primary, secondary, latent and late.
Primary symptoms may start as small as a single ulcer (chancre), though there may be multiple. These are usually firm, round and painless, and located around the genitals or anus. These last around 3 to 6 weeks, and will heal even without treatment; however, without treatment, the infection will progress to the secondary stage.
Secondary symptoms start to get more serious. Skin rashes and lesions in the mouth, vagina or anus are common, often appearing when the chancre is healing or after it has already healed. These rashes may appear as rough, reddish-brown spots on the feet and hands, or may appear on other parts of the body, or even be so faint they are hard to notice.
Condyloma lata are large, raised, grey or white lesions. They may develop in warm, moist areas like the mouth, underarm or groin region.
In addition to rashes, signs and symptoms of secondary syphilis may include:
- swollen lymph nodes
- sore throat
- patchy hair loss
- weight loss
- muscle aches
The symptoms of secondary syphilis will go away with or without treatment. However, without treatment, the infection will progress to the latent and possibly tertiary stages of the disease.
During the latent stage, you may not see any symptoms; however, the infection is still present, and can stay dormant for years.
Once the tertiary stage is reached, the infection has become systemic. It can cause major problems in your heart, blood vessels, brain and nervous system, and can lead to blindness, dementia and death.
In most cases, people with untreated syphilis will not develop tertiary symptoms; it can take up to 30 years for these symptoms to become apparent. However, they are severe enough that you should always seek treatment as soon as possible.
While we do provide a Syphilis Home Test Kit, we do not provide syphilis treatment through our online pharmacy. You will need to speak to your doctor or a sexual health clinic for treatment options, which will normally be antibiotic treatments.
This STD affects not only the sexual organs, but also the anus and throat. While some research indicates that it is most prevalent in the age group 14-24, it can and does affect people of all ages.
Not everyone with this STD shows symptoms; when they do, common symptoms across all genders include burning and stinging sensation when passing urine and discharge from the genitals.
Men may experience pain in their testicles possibly accompanied by swelling. Women may also find that they experience bleeding between their normal menstrual cycles.
Much like syphilis, we provide a Gonorrhoea Home Test Kit, but we do not currently supply antibiotics for gonorrhoea; you will need to speak to your doctor or a sexual health specialist for treatment.
HPV / Genital Warts
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) affects both men and women; according to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), roughly 11% of women and 21% of men are infected with HPV.
Of the over 100 types of HPV, more than 40 are thought to affect the genitals. HPV is passed on through oral, vaginal or anal sex from a partner who has these warts. HPV can cause genital warts, and in some cases cervical cancer.
While the link between cervical cancer and HPV is well-known in women, there is also a link between HPV and cancer in men. This infection can also lead to penile cancer in men. The HPV virus can also cause cancers of the vagina, the back of the throat (oropharynx), and the anus.
Here at Simple Online Pharmacy, we stock a number of treatment options for the symptoms of HPV. As well as an at-home HPV Test Kit, you can find multiple treatments for genital warts, including Aldara (imiquimod) and Warticon. These treatments can help clear up genital warts, but prevention is better than a cure; many teenagers will have access to a HPV vaccination at school, which can prevent infection.
- There are a wide variety of sexually transmitted diseases, with new cases rising each year.
- Several STIs, including chlamydia and gonorrhoea, may not exhibit symptoms when you are infected, particularly if you are male.
- Regular STI testing is a vital component of good sexual health for anyone who is sexually active.
- While these STDs can be dangerous, there are treatments available, including antibiotics.
- We have a wide range of At Home STD Testing Kits available through our website, or you can find sexual health services near you on the NHS website.