Whatever you do, don’t panic.
No matter how many forms of protection we use, or how many times we’re tested, or how many times our SO has proven he is sexually healthy, we’re always going to have that niggling paranoia that maybe, just maybe, we’ve picked up an STD.
And it’s a very legitimate niggle. STDs are surprisingly common, and can lie dormant for years. Most pointedly, many of them don’t display any symptoms, making them even harder to pinpoint. And while measures such as keeping track of the appearance of your vaginal discharge and paying attention to unusual pelvic pain can help, they aren’t foolproof when it comes to identifying an STD.
Thankfully though, most STDs are actually very treatable, especially if caught in the early stages. And according to GP Dr Michael Johnston, these are the seven most common and easily treated STDs…
1. HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
“Human Papillomavirus (HPV) causes genital warts, and some sub-types of the virus also lead to cancer of the cervix in women,” says Johnston.
To know if you’ve got HPV, your GP or gyno will need to take a swab of cells from your cervix, similarly to the way they’d conduct a pap smear. While there’s no cure, preventative options are available.
“The best way to prevent it is with a vaccination before people become sexually active. The three preventative vaccines available currently are Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil-9,” explains Johnston.
To treat the uncomfortable symptoms, such as genital warts, there are a number of creams your GP can prescribe. Often, the infection will clear up on its own. In most women, the infection will clear within two years of detection; however, the virus will remain in your body.
“Chlamydia is an unusual organism, as it is a cross between bacteria and a virus. It’s an extremely common STI, especially among young people,” says Johnston.
The condition can be present without symptoms, particularly in women. However, possible symptoms are a burning sensation during urination, yellowish-green discharge from the vagina, pain in the lower abdomen, and painful sexual intercourse. Although Chlamydia itself is not life-threatening, it can lead to infertility if left untreated as the fallopian tubes may become scarred. The good news is it’s easily treatable.
“Treatment involves a single dose of an antibiotic tablet,” says Johnston.
“However, the surest way to protect yourself from it in the first place is to use condoms as a handy barrier against infection.”
The organism causing Gonorrhea is a bacterium called Neisseria Gonorrhoeae, which can take up residence in the vagina, anus or throat. It often remains present without any symptoms, although some do manifest.
“It can present with greenish or white discharge from the vagina, and pelvic pain,” explains Johnston.
Other symptoms are a burning feeling while urinating, conjunctivitis, bleeding between periods, spotting after intercourse, swelling of the vulva, and in the case of oral sex, a burning throat.
“Diagnosis involves a urine test or swab, and treatment requires antibiotics, which at present are usually administered by a single injection,” says Johnston.
“Syphilis is a bacteria, and is extremely common. If you are sexually active, it’s very important you’re tested for it by having a blood test a few times a year,” advises Johnston.
Symptoms, especially in the early stages, can be very mild and sometimes unnoticeable. The primary stage usually involves a painless sore on the vagina, cervix, lips, anus, breasts, or mouth. Secondly, body rashes, mild fever, fatigue, sore throat, hair loss, weight loss, swollen glands, headache and muscle pains can emerge for up to two years. The third stage is the most serious, and involves disease of the heart, brain and nervous system, or other organs. This can occur one to 20 years after diagnosis.
“The condition is easily treated with antibiotic injections,” says Johnston.
However, if left untreated it can lie dormant for years.
Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by Trichomonas Vaginalis; a parasite called a protozoan, which is neither a bacterium nor a virus. It is very common, and is considered to be one of the most treatable STDs.
“The condition causes a frothy green vaginal discharge, as well as itching, soreness, redness, or burning of the vagina and discomfort with urination,” states Johnston.
However, approximately 70 per cent of people carrying the parasite do not display symptoms.
“Although it sounds severe, trichomoniasis actually doesn’t cause as much damage as Gonorrhea or Chlamydia.”
To detect if you have the infection, your GP will need to take a swab test. If you’re found to be positive for Trichomonas, treatment involves a course of antibiotic tablets, either with one large dosage. or over a period of several days.
“Herpes is probably the most common STI, and consists of one of two viruses; HSV1 or HSV2,” says Johnston.
“It can cause blisters, ulcers, or fissures, which are splits or cracks in the skin, on the genital region or anus.”
People who have just developed blisters can take a course of antiviral drugs which are most effective if started within 72 hours. Unfortunately, there is no preventative vaccination, but the best way to avoid infection, as with most STDs, is to use condoms.
7. Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
“HBV is a virus that can cause inflammation of the liver, and can be spread by any bodily fluids, such as blood or semen,” states Johnston.
The inflammation can result in loss of appetite, nausea and jaundice; a yellowing of the skin, which can cause a severe itch. The illness can be mild or severe. However, the real complication is those who recover, but continue to carry the virus in their bloodstream. This means although these people are physically healthy, they can continue to pass on HBV to others.
“Speak to your GP about diagnosis, which will involve a blood test as opposed to a swab,” recommends Johnston.
“The take-home message to prevent any and all STIs is to simply make sure you get tested regularly. Have STI checks with every new sexual partner, and very importantly, regular pap smears to maintain your general sexual health.”
Images via newscult.com, playbuzz.com, prezi.com, giphy.com, moviecentral.com