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Sexually Transmitted Infections

STI's (Sexually Transmitted Infections) are usually caught through having unprotected sex (sex without a condom) with someone who already has the infection. Using condoms when having sex reduces the risk of infections (using condoms is called "Safer Sex"), but you can still get some STI's from other forms of sexual contact, including oral sex - using flavoured condoms (available free from us) can reduce the risk of infection from oral sex.  If you're at all worried, or think you might have put yourself at risk, its best to get yourself checked out at a GUM/Sexual Health Clinic:

01872 255044 (central number)
RCH Truro, Newquay Hospital, WCH Penzance
and St Austell Hospital.

Brook Clinics: 01209 710088
Redruth, Launceston, St. Ives, Newquay & Torpoint

It's best to call and check times and availablity.

If you're at all unsure about your sexual health, its always best to go for a "full screen" (where the clinic staff will test you for all of the above) and put your mind at rest. Remember that not all infections show any signs or symptoms, and if you do have an infection you can get it treated, and not worry about potentially passing it on.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK, and often doesn’t show any symptoms, however - leave it untreated and its effects can be serious.

Signs and symptoms

There often aren't any symptoms, but if there are they could include:

  • Discharge from the penis. 
  • Pain/burning sensation when you go for a pee.

Chlamydia can even cause painful swelling and irritation in the eyes.

How do you get it?

  • Penetrative sex (where the penis enters the vagina or anus). 
  • Oral sex (from mouth to the genitals). 
  • Mother to baby during birth. 
  • Occasionally by touching the eyes after touching the genitals.

Testing and treatment

The test for chlamydia is often a urine test. Some clinics still take a swab from the penis or the vagina. If the test is positive, the treatment for chlamydia is a simple course of antibiotics.

Long-term effects

Chlamydia can cause serious fertility problems for girls. For boys it could mean a nasty infection in the testicles.

If you're between the ages of 15 & 24 Click here to get a free, home testing kit sent to you - they're sent in plain packages - and if you do test positive, the local chlamydia screening programme will treat you, free of charge and in complete confidence.

Click here to be taken to the Cornwall Chlamydia Screening Programme homepage

 

Genital Herpes


Herpes on the face is called a cold sore but you can get it on the genitals or anywhere else. There is no known cure for Herpes though there are treatments available that will help some people.

Signs and symptoms

  • Itching or tingling sensation in the genital or anal area. 
  • Small fluid-filled blisters - these burst and leave small painful sores. They will dry out, scab over and heal but it could take two to four weeks to heal.
  • Pain when going for a pee. 
  • A flu-like illness, backache, headache.

How do you get it?

  • Kissing (mouth to mouth). 
  • Penetrative sex (when the penis enters the vagina or anus). 
  • Oral sex (from mouth to the genitals).

Testing and treatment

Your genital area will be examined by a doctor or a nurse. 
A sample will be taken, using a cotton-wool or spongy swab, from any visible sores. 
A sample of urine is taken.

A course of tablets taken early may make the sores less painful and heal quicker.

Long-term effects

There is no known cure for Herpes. But it's not something that's there all the time. The first attack of sores is always the worst. Some people never get any more after that.

 

Genital Warts

Genital warts are quite common. They look like the warts you get on your hands but you get them on or around your penis or anus.

They're easily treated, but once you have the wart virus it can take months or years to clear it from your system in which time the warts can come back.

Signs and symptoms

  • Small pinkish/white lumps or larger cauliflower-shaped lumps.
  • They can appear on the penis, scrotum or anus.

It usually takes 1-3 months from infection for warts to appear, but can take much longer.

They may itch but are usually painless.

Not everyone who comes into contact with the virus will develop warts.


How do you get it?

  • Skin-to-skin contact
  • During vaginal or anal sex.

Testing and treatment

A doctor or nurse can usually tell whether you have genital warts just by examining you. An internal examination may be carried out to check for warts in the anus though.

Commonly a clinic will prescribe an anti-wart liquid or cream such as Podophyllotoxin, which can be used at home. Another common treatment is freezing or laser treatment. Treatment may be uncomfortable but should not be painful. Never try to treat genital warts by yourself - always seek medical advice.

Long-term effects

Some people find the warts come back at some point in future.

 

Gonorrhoea


Gonorrhoea is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI), also known as 'the clap'. It's serious because if not treated early it can lead to some very serious health problems.

The good news is it's easily treated with antibiotics.

Signs and symptoms

There are often none but if there are:

  • A yellow or white discharge from the penis.
  • Irritation and/or discharge from the anus. 
  • Inflammation of the testicles and prostate gland.

How do you get it?

  •          By penetrative sex (when the penis enters the vagina or anus). 
  •          Oral sex (from mouth to the genitals).

And less often by: 

  •          Rimming (where a person uses their mouth and tongue to stimulate another person's anus). 
  •          Inserting your fingers into an infected vagina, anus or mouth and then putting them into your own without washing your hands in between. 
  •          Mother to child transmission at birth.

Testing and treatment

You can be tested for gonorrhoea and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at your local sexual health (GUM) clinic. 
A doctor or a nurse carries out an examination of your genital area. 
Samples are taken, using a cotton-wool or spongy swab, from any places which may be infected - urethra, anus or throat 
A sample of urine may be taken. 
A course of antibiotics can be taken to treat gonorrhoea.

Long-term effects

If left untreated it can mean a serious infection in the testicles.

In rare cases it can get in the bloodstream and cause heart, skin and joint infections.

 

Hepatitis B


Hepatitis B (HBV) is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. It's much easier to get than HIV, and can cause permanent liver disease and cancer. Most people have no obvious symptoms, and there is no known cure.

Signs and symptoms

  •          There often aren't any symptoms but if there are they may include: 
  •          A short, flu-like illness 
  •          Fatigue 
  •          Nausea and vomiting 
  •          Diarrhoea 
  •          Loss of appetite 
  •          Weight loss 
  •          Jaundice 
  •          Itchy skin

How do you get it?

  •          By unprotected penetrative sex (where the penis enters the vagina or anus) or sex which draws blood.
  •          By oral sex (from mouth to the genitals).
  •          By sharing needles or other drug injecting equipment contaminated with blood.
  •          By using equipment for tattooing, acupuncture or body-piercing contaminated with blood.
  •          From an infected mother to her baby.
  •          Through a blood transfusion in a country where blood is not tested - all blood for transfusion is tested in the UK.

Testing and treatment

Hepatitis B can be diagnosed by a simple blood test. Most people who acquire Hepatitis B as adults will clear the infection and become immune. Those who remain infected can get treatment though it is not always successful. A vaccine is also available to help protect against Hepatitis B.

Long-term effects

You are at risk of chronic liver disease. Always wear a condom and avoid sharing toothbrushes or razors as Hepatitis B can be passed on this way.

 

Hepatitis C


Hepatitis C (HCV) is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. It's much easier to get than HIV, and can cause permanent liver disease and cancer. Most people have no obvious symptoms, and there is no known cure.

Signs and symptoms

There may be no symptoms at all, but if there are they may include: 

  •          A short, flu-like illness 
  •          Fatigue 
  •          Nausea and vomiting 
  •          Diarrhoea 
  •          Loss of appetite 
  •          Weight loss 
  •          Jaundice in a small number of cases
  •          Itchy skin

How do you get it?

  •          By sharing contaminated needles or other equipment for injecting drugs.
  •          By using unsterilised equipment for tattooing, acupuncture or body piercing.
  •          By unprotected penetrative sex (where the penis enters the vagina or anus) or sex which draws blood - this is relatively rare but possible.
  •          By unprotected oral sex (from mouth to the genitals). 
    Between 1-5% of infected mothers may pass it on to their child during pregnancy or at birth.
  •          Through blood transfusion in a country where blood is not tested for HCV - all blood for transfusion in the UK is tested.

Testing and treatment

A doctor or nurse will give you a blood test to see whether you have the virus. About 1 in 5 people manage to clear the virus from their blood. The others remain infected and after a number of years they could develop serious liver disease.

In the last couple of years a treatment has become available but it is often not very successful.

Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are tiny insects that live on the skin and are often referred to as "crabs". They tend to infest hairy parts of the body, such as the pubic area or under the arms.

Signs and symptoms

The most common symptom is itching in the infected areas and it may be possible to see droppings from the lice in underwear (black powder) as well as eggs on pubic or other hair. It is sometimes possible to see lice on the skin.

How do you get them?

Pubic lice are usually sexually transmitted but can occasionally be transferred by close physical contact or by sharing sheets or towels.

Testing and treatment

You can usually see pubic lice just by looking. You can get rid of them by using a special shampoo or lotion - you can buy this from any Chemist's, brand names include Quellada, Derbac, Prioderm and Lyclear.

Scabies

Scabies appears in the form of an itchy rash. The rash is caused by a female mite laying her eggs beneath the skin surface.

Signs and symptoms 


The main symptom of scabies is an itchy rash on hands, wrists, elbows, underneath arms, abdomen, breasts, genitals and bum.

How do you get it?

  •          Any close physical contact can spread the infection.

Testing and treatment

A doctor can tell by looking at the rash whether or not you've got scabies. It's easily treatable with a special shampoo or lotion.

Syphilis

Syphilis is an infection that can spread without either partner knowing. The first signs are often painless sores or rashes followed by flu-like symptoms. Left untreated, it can lead to heart disease or brain damage.

Signs and symptoms

Syphilis has three stages:

  1.     Primary stage symptoms - sores can develop where bacteria entered the body.
  1.     Secondary stage symptoms - sores in the mouth, a rash can develop, warty growths on genitals, and a flu-like illness may develop.
  1.     Latent stage symptoms - if left untreated, over time syphilis can lead to heart, joint and nervous system damage.

How do you get it?

  •          Oral, vaginal or anal sex. 
  •          Skin contact with any sores or rashes. 
  •          From a mother to unborn child.

Testing and treatment

Blood samples will be taken and swabs from sores. A visual examination will be carried out as well as an internal physical examination for women. Treatment for syphilis is often given as a single injection or course of penicillin injections, or in some cases antibiotic tablets or capsules.

Long-term effects

In pregnancy syphilis can cause miscarriage or stillbirth and can be passed from mother to unborn child in the womb.