Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) are infections which can be passed on from one person to another during sexual contact. They are caused by bacteria, viruses and other microscopic organisms which are present in the blood, semen, body fluids or the

Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) are infections which can be passed on from one person to another during sexual contact. They are caused by bacteria, viruses and other microscopic organisms which are present in the blood, semen, body fluids or the pubic area of an infected person.

What are the symptoms of sexually transmitted infections?

Many Sexually Transmissible Infections have no signs or symptoms. People who are infected may look perfectly healthy. However, if you are sexually active and notice any of the following conditions you should contact your doctor or STI Clinic immediately.

  • Unusual discharge from penis of vagina
  • Pain when passing urine
  • Unusual sores or blisters in the genital area
  • Itching or irritation in the genital area
  • Pain during intercourse

Remember: the sooner a STI is diagnosed and treated the greater the chance of it being completely cured without any complications.

Here are some types of STIs:

Chlamydia
Chlamydia is the most common STI and it is thought to affect approximately one in 100 sexually active people under the age of 25. The bacteria infect the cervix, urethra, rectum, throat and eyes. Symptoms usually occur one to three weeks after infection. If you do have symptoms, it might be pain when passing urine, discharge from penis or vagina or abdominal pain and irregular bleeding in women. To test for it, a urine sample is taken from men, painless vaginal swabs from women and there will be tests carried out for other STIs just in case. Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics.

Syphilis
Syphilis is a bacterial infection. The first sign of syphilis is a raised lump or lesion usually found on or near the genitals or anus which may then form a painless sore. This can take one to 12 weeks to develop, and may be followed by a general feeling of being unwell with symptoms such as fever, headache and tiredness. You may notice white patches on your tongue or on the roof of your mouth. If left untreated it is a very serious disease. It can be passed on through sexual contact, kissing and from mother to baby. 50% of people show no symptoms. Testing involves examination of infected sores and blood tests. Early syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, in tablet form or as an injection. Later syphilis can also be treated.
Genital warts

In women, symptoms may be painless lumps in the genital area, which may not appear for some time. In men, there may be flat warts on the penis. Testing is by examination of the genital area and treatment is by freezing or by applying a special cream. Partners may be screened and treated. Women should make sure to have regular smear tests because the infection that causes genital warts can affect the cervix too. Partners need to be screened too.

Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). For women, there may be painful sores on the vagina. These may go away and then come back in another 'attack' but first one is usually most painful. Men may or may not have symptoms, which could be sores on the penis. You may feel generally unwell. A number of people don't have any symptoms or have sores that are not painful.Testing is by examining genital regions and taking swabs. Treatment is tablets for the pain, local anesthetic cream and sometimes anti viral treatment. Screening for partner will be necessary.

Gonorrhea
This is passed on through sexual contact, including oral sex. Women may have no symptoms but it can cause inflammation of the pelvis. Men may have pain passing urine and/or a discharge from the penis. A test is done by examining the genitals and taking swabs of vagina, penis, anus and/or throat. Treatment is antibiotics, full screening for other STIs and partners being treated.

Pubic Lice
Pubic lice mainly live in pubic hair, but they can infect other body hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. They lay eggs (nits) that stick to the hairs. It is also known as crabs. Symptoms for men and women are: severe itching in pubic area, black specs seen on pubic hair (these are the eggs), and seeing lice crawling around your pubic area. Examination of pubic area and skin is the test and treatment is a specific cream or lotion, full screening for other STIs and partners being treated.

Hepatitis B
This is contracted by sexual contact as well as exchange of other body fluids, such as blood, saliva or urine with infected person and sharing needles. Symptoms, if any, may look like the flu and tiredness and pain in the joints. Your skin may start to look yellow and urine may be darker than normal. Blood tests are taken. There is no specific medical treatment - just advice about how to manage it with a healthy lifestyle. You will need to be screened for other STIs and your partner will need to be screened for this. There is however a vaccine available to prevent getting Hepatitis B.

HIV/AIDS
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the immune system. While many viruses can be controlled by the immune system, HIV targets and infects the same immune system cells that are supposed to protect us from illnesses.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. HIV causes AIDS by attacking the immune system?s soldiers ? the CD4 cells. When the immune system loses too many CD4 cells, you are less able to fight off infection and can develop serious, often deadly, infections.

Most people can not tell that they have been exposed or infected. It can take up to 12 weeks for an HIV test to come back positive. The most common test for HIV is the antibody test (called ELISA). It can be done on blood, saliva, or urine. You can be tested by your GP, your student health service or at a clinic.

N.S.U (non-specific urethritis)
A number of things may cause non-specific urethritis such as STIs (eg gonorrhoea), another bacterial infection, injury to the urethra or a urinary infection. Non-specific urethritis occurs in men and is the inflammation of the urethra (the tube that goes from the bladder through the penis). Symptoms include discharge, itching at the end of the penis, pain on passing urine and an increase in urine. Non-sepcific urethritis can be treated with antibiotics if it is caused by bacteria.

Trichomonas
This is an infection caused by a tiny parasite found in the vagina and urethra in both men and women. It is passed on from sexual contact, oral sex, anal sex and possibly by sharing sex toys. For women, there may be a greenish or itchy and smelly discharge. Men may have no symptoms at all but if they do, this could be itchiness or soreness of the penis. Swabs and examination of vagina and penis test for it. Treatment is a course of tablets, full STI screening and treatment for partners.

Thrush
This is caused by a yeast that normally lives very peacefully in the mouth, gut, vagina or on the skin and is kept in place by other bacteria that lives in the body. However, circumstances can change so that the yeast multiplies. Symptoms include itchiness, soreness or redness around vagina or anus; a thick, white discharge that smells; some pain when you have sex or urinate. It can occur in the body for various reasons but can also be passed through sexual contact. It is rare for men to catch it, especially if they are circumcised. In men, the symptoms can be itchiness, soreness, or redness under the foreskin or at the tip of the penis; thick discharge under foreskin; difficulty in pulling back foreskin.

Diagnosis is by examination of genital area and in women sometimes a short internal examination. Treatment is pessaries for women to insert with a special applicator and often an accompanying cream to put on outside of vagina. There is over the counter medication available but it is advisable to consult with a doctor first in case you misdiagnose yourself.

Using condoms every time you have sex or getting a full screening for you and your partner if you are sticking to one faithful relationship will protect you from most STIs and the mortification of having to ring up all of your ex bed partners and tell them that you have an STI and that they should get checked out too.


For Further Information:

Think Contraception
www.thinkcontraception.ie
AIDS West
www.aidswest.ie