Itchy urethra or penis – the potential causes

A common symptom that isn’t always the result of STDs

Itchiness affecting the penis can cause serious discomfort and affect your day to day life whether it be an itchy urethra or itchiness across the entire genital region. It can also be the cause of embarrassment when trying to relieve your symptoms when the sensation gets too much to handle. Let’s face it, it’s not a problem that any of us want.

You will however be pleased to know that it’s not always caused by a sexually transmitted infection. In actual fact there aren’t too many STDs that will present themselves in this manner. Nevertheless, you’ll want to get to the bottom of the problem. To help we’ve outlined some potential causes, but you should always seek help from a GP if the problem persists.

man hands in pocket

STDs that cause an itchy urethra and penis

We’ve already mentioned that there aren’t too many STDs that can cause an itchy urethra or penis. If your STD does show symptoms, it could be in the form of a burning sensation whilst urinating, lower abdominal pain, or discharge from the tip of the penis. There are however a small number of STDs which may cause irritation in the form of itching.

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus. It’s a lifelong sexually transmitted infection that can cause outbreaks of small red blisters that may pop to leave open sores. During outbreaks, when the blisters or sores pop, it can be incredibly uncomfortable. Unfortunately genital herpes cannot be cured and the only treatment centres around managing the symptoms. The condition is highly contagious and it can be passed from one person to another through skin-on-skin contact during sexual intercourse.

Genital warts

Genital warts are caused by a particular strain of human papillomavirus (HPV). These can be spread through skin on skin contact such as during sexual intercourse. Although they are not normally itchy, they can become itchy if you catch them. Although they disappear eventually on their own, you can also have them removed by your GP.

Urethritis caused by STDs

Urethritis is where the urethra becomes inflamed mainly causing discomfort or pain whilst urinating, or causing a more frequent urge to urinate. It can also cause an unpleasant itchiness of the urethra. Although urethritis is not an STD, it may be caused by one. If your itchy urethra or penis is accompanied by pain whilst urinating you may require a more complete sexual health screen against bacterial infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Our Profile 3 test can diagnose a range of bacteria which may be causing such symptoms.

What are the other potential causes of an itchy penis?

Now that we’ve explained the types of sexually transmitted infections that might cause an itchy penis, let’s take a look at some of the other possible explanations. Some of these conditions can be treated with over the counter medication, but if the symptoms persist for longer than a week you may need to see a GP.

Candidiasis (male thrush)

Candidiasis, also known as male thrush or yeast infection, is similar to thrush in women. It can develop around the head of the penis, under the foreskin or around the tip of the penis and may often cause redness or a rash. You may also notice white discharge that looks like cottage cheese under the foreskin. The condition can be extremely uncomfortable, causing a burning or itching sensation. Luckily there are a range of topical over the counter medications that can treat it.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an itchy rash that can occur if your skin comes into contact with an allergen. Because the skin around the genitals can often be sensitive, it can cause severe itching of the penis. You can usually treat contact dermatitis that is affecting your penis by removing the source of the allergic reaction. This may mean changing your shower gel, soap or clothes detergent.

Pubic lice

Although not directly affecting the penis, pubic lice are tiny parasitic mites that attach to the hair and skin in the pubic region. Although they are rare, they can be spread during sex or occur with poor hygiene. They can often bite the skin causing severe itchiness. There are a range of treatments available to treat them, including specials creams or soaps, or shaving the hair in the pubic region can also help.

Psoriasis, scabies or other general skin conditions

There are a number of skin conditions that can cause itchy skin, rashes, sores or dryness on any part of the body including the genitals. If you suffer from any of the following, you may notice the issue causing an itchy penis which can be incredibly uncomfortable. Topical creams can soothe the problem, or if it persists you may require stronger treatment.

  • Scabies – this is a condition where tiny mites burrow under the surface of the skin causing serious itchiness. It can affect any area of the body, including causing an itchy penis.
  • Psoriasis – this is another chronic skin condition that can affect the penis. Psoriasis is a condition where too many skin cells are created, causing scaly red patches on the surface of the skin.
  • Lichen planus – this is another skin condition that causes itchy flat topped bumps or blisters on the surface of the skin.
  • Eczema – this is a chronic skin condition that causes itchy, red, dry and cracked. It may affect the pubic region.

Jock itch

Jock itch is an itchy fungal infection that occurs in the genital area. It often occurs in hot weather if you’ve been wearing restrictive clothing such as jeans that can cause sweating, whilst it also affects people who sweat a lot whilst playing sport. Symptoms include a red rash around the genital region or buttocks. There are a range of treatments you can use to treat the problem – simply ask your local pharmacist.

What’s Causing The Rise In STDs Amongst Over 60s?

We take a look at the potential causes following new campaign

A new campaign from the NHS will attempt to tackle rising numbers of STDs in over 60s by offering them free condoms. The initiative is thought to be the first of its kind aimed at the older age group and comes following some concerning figures. Off the back of this latest campaign, Your Sexual Health delve into the potential causes for this increase and take a look at the figures in greater detail.

old couple on sea front

The figures

The new NHS drive, which is currently only positioned in Derbyshire, comes amidst growing rates of STD incidence amongst over 60s. Some standout figures include: –

  • 25 percent rise in the number of older men diagnosed with gonorrhoea between 2016 and 2017
  • 25 percent more women diagnosed with herpes in 2017 compared to 2016. Which incidentally is not always preventable with condom use
  • 15 per cent more cases of chlamydia amongst over 65s in 2017 when compared to 2016

When put into the greater context, these figure are still low, for example only 216 men over 65 were diagnosed with gonorrhoea in 2017, but the rapid increase will be a concern. There were 422,147 total diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections in England in 2017 across all age groups.

The Potential Causes

There are a range of potential causes for the rate of STDs to increase in over 60s. Rather than the cause being focussed on the STDs themselves, it’s possible this increase can be attributed more to a social shift. Here are some of the potential causes.

Divorce Rates Increasing

Although the total amount of divorces in the UK is decreasing, rates of divorce amongst older people are still rising. This means that there are more sexually active single adults over 60. If these people have been married for a long time, they are less likely to have recent experience using condoms or getting STD tests.

Online Dating Sites

The growth of online dating sites being used by all generations has meant that people are more sexually active than ever before. The opportunity for older people to go on dates and hook up with like minded individuals is more readily available. With this opportunity comes risks for any dates end with unsafe sexual intercourse.

More Male Vasectomies

According to Britain’s Chief medical officer, men who had undergone vasectomies were increasingly likely to put themselves at risk of infections. Once a man has had a vasectomy the contraceptive benefits of a condom are no longer required, but would a couple still feel the same if they were aware of the growing STD risk?  

Less Awareness in Older Age Groups

STD rates are much higher in younger age groups which is why sex education now exists in schools and colleges to help drive these figures down. Younger generations are also much easier to reach via social media and other communication methods. Unfortunately older age groups are much harder to reach to raise awareness about growing figures which could impact them.

Embarrassment and stigma surrounding testing

Attitudes towards sexual health have shifted over the last 30 years, but older people who have grown up in a much more conservative generation may notice stigma surrounding STD testing. It’s important that this stigma is broken down in across all generations in order to ensure STD rates don’t continue to rise.

How can the trend be reversed?

Now that we’ve laid out the potential causes surrounding this increase in STD diagnosis, it’s time to ask how this campaign can be reversed? We asked Your Sexual Health’s Dr Rashid Bani, who is also a practising GP on his thoughts.

The free condom campaign

As we mentioned earlier, the NHS has created a campaign to hand out free condoms to over 60s, but currently the campaign is only based in Derbyshire. Dr Rashid Bani believes campaigns like this should exist nationwide, but you can’t force people to take the condoms or use them.

“Offering free condoms is a great way to ensure that people are able to practice safe sex regardless of their income or age. I don’t think it will necessarily solve the whole problem though. Many older people aren’t necessarily used to using condoms and they haven’t been educated in their importance in the same way as young people have.”

More Awareness of the issue

In comparison to STD rates amongst young people, figures are nowhere near as prolific amongst over 60s. Yet, if nothing is done, rates will continue to rise. Dr Rashid Bani believes that there is probably a lack of awareness about STD rates amongst the older generation which needs to be addressed.

“There is probably a bit of a complacency amongst older people that STDs are a young person’s problem. You don’t hear much information directed at this age range whereas young people are regularly reminded of the dangers. More campaigns targeting this older single population should definitely be explored to spread knowledge.”

More Discreet Testing Options

Younger people are much more open about sex having been taught about it at school and following a shift in attitudes over the years. For the older age groups though, particularly if they have been married, getting tested can seem like something to be embarrassed about. Although this is obviously not the case, Dr Rashid Bani believes more discreet testing options can help.

“Our service is all about being discreet and confidential which is excellent for older people who are maybe not used to receiving sexual health tests. Our appointment service and clinic locations make the whole process straightforward and relaxed. Sadly, this is not the case for most NHS testing. Clinics have long wait times with little or no options to book appointments, you’ll also have to sit in a waiting room with countless other people which can seem uncomfortable for someone who is not used to this process.”

STD rates in Ireland begin to soar

HIV cases increase by as much as 56%

Ireland is in the midst of a public health crisis as the five most common sexually transmitted infections have all noticed a sharp rise since 2013. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, syphilis and HIV all noticed significantly higher annual diagnosis rates in 2018, when compared to five years ago.

Perhaps the most concerning figures are HIV rates. In 2013, there were 339 new cases of HIV recorded in Ireland, that figure increased to 530 last year. This represents an increase of 56% in comparison to 2013. Even more concerning still is the fact that HIV rates declined in the 10 years prior to 2013.

Potentially fatal syphilis case

Other conditions which noticed a significant rise in diagnosis included syphilis with 512 new cases noticed last year. This was an 88% increase compared to 2013, when just 272 cases were noticed.

One of the most concerning factors for many health professionals is that one case of syphilis progressed beyond the primary infection stage into the tertiary or final stage. Final stage syphilis is potentially life threatening and it was reported to have caused severe medical issues for the patient involved. It’s very rare in modern times for syphilis to go undetected for so long.

Cases of gonorrhoea rose by a similar amount to syphilis during the same period. There were 2407 new cases in comparison to 1282 new cases in 2013.

Chlamydia remains the most common sexually transmitted infection in Ireland with 7942 new cases reported in comparison to 6246 in 2013. Herpes cases have also risen, with 350 new cases in comparison to the 2013 figures.

Health officials concerned

The HSE in Ireland are said to be concerned about the latest figures which come despite significant investment in public health and education campaigns. HIV Ireland director Niall Mulligan warned last year that the detection rates were a major concern and that figures emerging from 2018 were amongst the worst he’d seen. He said: “It is very disconcerting that we are almost becoming accepting of this.

In response to the latest figures, STD testing centres in Ireland are now increasing their screening hours and have urged people to get checked for STDs regularly to prevent the spread of STDs. Anyone who believes they’ve come into contact with an STD should abstain from sex until they’ve been treated.

If you’re still struggling to find a clinic to get checked in Ireland, Your Sexual Health have a number of private STD clinics in the Dublin area. Our service is 100% discreet and confidential, allowing you to get tested in a comfortable private clinic environment.

We offer a wide range of private sexual health tests against all sexually transmitted infections. We also have a number of Early Detection tests which allow you to diagnose HIV just 10 days following exposure. For more information on any of our testing options contact info@yoursexualhealth.co.uk.

Source: Irish Independent

Our Instant HIV Tests allow you to get your results whilst you wait in our clinic. The turnaround times for these quick and easy same day HIV tests is around 15 minutes, meaning you can get an accurate diagnosis without it taking up a large portion of your day.

Please Note: Our Instant HIV Tests are currently only available at 14 clinic locations nationwide (Altrincham, Birmingham – Yardley Wood, Canterbury, Didsbury, Glasgow, High Wycombe, Hornchurch, Liverpool, London – Canary Wharf, London – Ilford, London – Tower Bridge, Manchester, Newton-le-Willows, Shrewsbury, Welling, Wolverhampton

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Everything your need to know about PrEP

We answer the common questions about the game changing HIV drug

PrEP or Pre Exposure Prophylaxis is a drug which reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 90% or more. Following success in the US, a limited trial has been released in England and the drug is due to be fully accessible by 2020. We answer a number of questions surrounding the drug that could change the face of sexual health and end new HIV transmissions in the not too distant future.

Contents

What is PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis?

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and it refers to the use of HIV drugs as a way to prevent HIV negative people from contracting HIV. Broken down, it means: –

  • “Pre” – Taken before
  • “Exposure” – Exposure to HIV through sex or injected drugs
  • “Prophylaxis” – This refers to a treatment to prevent disease

It is usually administered in tablet form and made up of Tenofovir and Emtricitabine. These are the two most common drugs that are used in the effective management of HIV. Sometimes PrEP may be referred to by its brand name, Truvada, but most PrEP used in the UK is in a generic form.

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How does PrEP work?

PrEP works in a similar way to how anti-malarial medication works when you go to a tropical country. It’s a mixture of the two most common antiretroviral drugs that are used to fight the virus in HIV positive individuals. When taken regularly before sex by a HIV negative person, enough of the medication remains in the body to fight the virus after you are initially infected.

Basically, PrEP acts as a shield. To be more specific, if you take PrEP regularly then it remains in your bloodstream, genital tract and rectum in an amount that can fight the first contact with the virus. Rather than being able to multiply in your body and take hold, the drugs kill the virus at source.

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How often should PrEP be taken?

As always, it’s important to listen to your doctor or chemist when taking any medication and advice offered may differ for each individual case. However, generally speaking there are two main ways of taking PrEP that are being trialled in the UK.

  • Taking one tablet per day two hours before you are likely to have sex
  • Taking PrEP “on demand” by taking two tablets two to 24 hours before sex, taking one tablet 24 hours after and then taking a further tablet 48 hours after sex.

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How effective is PrEP?

There have been a wide range of studies conducted across the world into the effectiveness of PrEP and results of these vary based on a variety of different conditions being used. If taken correctly, PrEP can reduce the risk of catching HIV by 90% or more. Some studies conducted in the US have suggested that the figure for efficacy is actually closer to 99%, whilst a UK trial conducted amongst men who have sex with men found the drug to lower risk by 86%.

This risk can obviously be reduced further still by using condoms during sex.

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What happens if you miss a dose of PrEP?

Missing a dose of PrEP has a negative effect on efficacy. According to the US website Prep Facts which gained its information from a US study, missing doses can have the following impact: –

  • 7 PrEP pills per week – 99% effective
  • 4 PrEP pills per week – 96% effective
  • 2 PrEP pills per week – 76% effective

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How long does it take for PrEP to work?

Studies carried out on gay men suggest that effective PrEP levels in the blood and rectum are reached a week following the beginning of treatment. For women, it takes around three weeks. This is because it takes longer for drug levels to build up to an effective preventative level in the vagina and cervix.

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Who should take PrEP?

PrEP is currently not fully accessible on the NHS and in areas where it is accessible different criteria are currently being trialled for access. In general, PrEP is intended for HIV-negative individuals who are at high risk of contracting HIV. High risk includes: –

  • People with HIV-positive partners
  • People who aren’t in an a sexually exclusive relationship and are either,
  • Men who have sex with men who have recently contracted an STD or who have had anal sex without using a condom in the last six months
  • Heterosexual men or women who regularly have sex with partners of unknown HIV status who belong to a high risk sub group. For example an individual with a partner who injects drugs or a woman who has bisexual male partners.
  • Sex workers who have unprotected sexual intercourse with partners

If you intend on purchasing the drug through private healthcare means or online chemists, it’s important that you choose a site with MHRA certification to ensure it’s legitimate. It’s also worth having the drugs independently tested before use if you are still unsure.

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Are there any negative effects of PrEP?

As with any drug, PrEP can have a small number of unintended side effects for various individuals, including: –

  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • stomach cramps

These will usually only be apparent in the first few weeks of taking the drug until your body becomes accustomed to it. If these last longer than a few weeks it’s recommended you consult your doctor.

There are also a number of longer term effects for some people, including: –

  • Liver health – consult your doctor if you notice yellowing of the skin or jaundice
  • Kidney health – this will usually be assessed before taking the medication
  • Bone density – PrEP can affect your bone density over time making you more likely to experience fractures.

Long term effects only occur amongst people taking the drug for long periods of time and only in a small proportion of people.

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When will PrEP be available in the UK?

Currently only 13,000 people at high risk of HIV in England have access to PrEP, but this number is slowly increasing with the availability expected to double by 2020. This initial limited release, which is mostly limited to men who have sex with men, was to allow NHS England to assess its effectiveness before making the drug fully accessible to heterosexual men and women.

Luckily, PrEP is now fully available through the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Should you still take STD tests whilst using PrEP?

No matter what risk group you belong to, if you are a sexually active individual taking PrEP you are still at risk of STDs. Studies have shown that the drug is not 100% effective against HIV, whilst it’s completely ineffective against other common STDs.

STD tests are an effective way of preventing the spread of STDs because they allow you to diagnose and treat the condition before passing it on to another individual. If you’ve had unprotected sex with someone for the first time or you’ve slept with more than one person in the last year, you should get tested.

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What are the existing alternatives to PrEP?

There’s no doubt about the fact that PrEP is an effective way of preventing HIV, particularly if you’re within a group that is high risk. However, if PrEP is not accessible for you at this current time, it’s worth noting that there are still other ways to reduce the risk of catch HIV.

  • Condom Use – when used correctly condoms are still highly effective at preventing the spread of the virus.
  • PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) – Although PEP is not as effective as PrEP, it can still be an effective last resort. It involves taking HIV medication after you have been in a risky sexual situation.
  • Effective medication – if you are sleeping with someone who has HIV, it’s important to ensure they are receiving treatment for the virus that reduces their viral load to an undetectable level.
  • Regular testing – although this won’t protect you, regular testing will stop the spread of the disease detecting infection early and receiving treatment

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5 Ways in Which The Government Can Meet Its 2030 HIV Pledge

Health secretary renews UK pledge

The Health & Social Care Secretary has announced a pledge to end new HIV transmissions in the UK by 2030. Speaking at the AIDSfree Cities Global Forum last week, Matt Hancock set out plans to achieve the government’s goal through better prevention, detection and treatment. As the government sets out on its landmark target, Your Sexual Health take a look at a few of the areas that will need improvement.

Department of health

More public funding

The government has pledged an extra £600,000 to Public Health England’s innovation fund, the aim of which is to find community driven ways to prevent the spread of HIV. The initiatives that are supported throughout the scheme have proved a great success for informing those in at risk groups, but they have occurred amidst a number of cuts to the public health sector. Without increased spending on public sexual health services these schemes will be fighting a difficult battle.

Improved access to preventative treatments

The revolutionary PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) drug has been clinically proven to greatly reduce the risk of catching HIV following exposure to the virus. However, it’s yet to be fully rolled out on the NHS. Currently the government are doing a limited trials amongst at risk groups to discover its overall impact on HIV transmission rates. So far the trial seems to be successful and pressure groups have argued that the drug should be made more readily available in order to reach as many people as possible.

Early Detection testing

Standard HIV tests offered by the NHS are only accurate from 28 days following exposure. This wait time can cause more people to be exposed to the virus in the meantime, whilst the carrier is unaware that they have HIV. Tests are available that offer early detection of HIV just 10 days after exposure, but until these are available on the NHS people will continue to unknowingly spread the virus.

If you believe you’ve been exposed to HIV or you’ve noticed the primary symptoms of the virus, our Early Detection tests will offer you accurate results without the unpleasant wait.

More sexual health clinics

Government cuts have reduced the amount of sexual health clinics in the UK leaving a vast amount of people under served. Often, areas that do have a clinic struggle to meet the demand. In order to reduce HIV transmission rates, testing needs to be more readily available with more clinics located across the UK.

Your Sexual Health have over 60 private sexual health clinics located across the UK, all of which allow you to book an appointment in order to reduce waiting times.

Education to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease

A prevention first approach to public health has seen an increase to sex education classes in schools. Although classes encouraging more general STI testing is a positive step, many organisations believe that more needs to be done to educate about HIV itself in a bid to reduce stigma. It’s this stigma that prevents many people from being tested against the virus regularly.

3 STIs That Can Be Caught Even Using A Condom

When used correctly condoms are effective against the majority of sexually transmitted infections. They can prevent the spread of the most common infections, including chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and the most dangerous in HIV. However, one thing that many people probably don’t realise is that there are a number of STIs that can still be caught regardless of whether you wear a condom or not. In this article we identify which conditions you’re still at risk of.

condoms laid on table

OK, first things first…

As we’ve already mentioned, condoms are incredibly important when it comes to practising safe sex. That said, they are still only 98% effective against the prevention of all STIs, including those that didn’t make our list below. That is to say that if you have sex, condom or not, there is always a small chance that you may catch something. For this reason it’s important that you get tested regularly, particularly if you’ve had sex with multiple people since your last test or you’ve recently started a new relationship.

Which STIs don’t condoms prevent?

Whether you practice safe sex or not, you’re still at risk of catching these infections.

Genital Herpes

Herpes is a virus that presents on the skin as lesions. It can never be cured, only managed. During outbreaks of genital herpes there may be a number of lesions that appear around your genitals that are highly contagious.

“If you have sex with someone who has herpes and has an outbreak you can catch the disease,” says Dr Bani. “If you use a condom and it doesn’t cover the lesions then you’re still at risk of catching genital herpes. You’re also at risk if you perform oral sex on someone with lesions or they perform oral sex on you if their mouth is infected.”

It’s advisable that you abstain from sex during an outbreak if you have genital herpes. This is the only sure fire way to avoid of transmitting the virus. However, even when symptoms aren’t present there is always a risk that you can transmit the infections as the virus may come to the surface of the skin from time to time without showing symptoms.

Syphilis

During the primary stages of syphilis, a firm, round and usually painless sore, known as a chancre, may be present. If you make skin on skin contact with the sore then you’re at risk of catching the disease. Similarly to Herpes, if the condom doesn’t cover the sore then you’re obviously at a greater risk.

“Condoms can be effective at preventing the spread of syphilis but the risk is still there if the condom doesn’t cover the chancre,” says Dr Bani. “You should abstain from sex until the syphilis is treated, but another complicating factor is the painless nature of the sore can mean that it goes unnoticed.”

HPV & Genital Warts

HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are around 200 strains of the virus and about 40 of them affect the genital region. Some strains of the virus can cause genital warts, but many don’t show any symptoms at all and you can be completely fine. There is no cure for HPV, but your body will usually fight the virus successfully.

“If you’re sexually active, even if you used a condom, it’s probable that you’ll have caught HPV at some stage in your life,” says Dr Bani. “This rarely has any symptoms and there is no cure for the virus itself. Luckily your body will fight the infection in the majority of cases and most of the time you won’t even know about it.”

Because your body fights the virus itself, there’s not actually any need to test for HPV routinely. If genital warts are present you can catch them through skin on skin contact. These will usually go on their own overtime, but they can be removed using a procedure or topical creams. Certain HPV strains are implicated in the development of cervical cancer, which is why regular cervical screening (smear test) is important. There is also a HPV vaccine available and is now part of the NHS children’s vaccination programme.

Testing is the most effective way to prevent STDs causing harm

As you’ve probably gathered from this article, although they certainly help, condoms are never certain to prevent sexually transmitted infections. The only way to limit the damage the sexually transmitted diseases can do is through regular STI testing. Many STDs can harm fertility, whilst others can be fatal without treatment. Luckily, testing is readily available through services such as Your Sexual Health or by visiting your local NHS clinic.

To find out more about our tests or for help choosing the most useful test for you requirements, contact our team today on 0161 660 2599.

Can Genital Herpes be cured?

doctor with arms folded

Your Sexual Health give you the facts

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection which can be passed on through vaginal, anal and oral sex with an infected individual. It causes unpleasant blisters which burst to leave open red sores around your genitals, anus, buttocks or thighs. Unfortunately there is no cure for herpes and most treatment involves the management of the symptoms rather than a complete cure. In this article we look at what genital herpes is and how it can be managed once you’ve been diagnosed.

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the Herpes Simplex virus. It affects the genital area and skin around it, including the anus, buttocks and thighs. Symptoms include blisters which burst to leave painful sores. It is caused by the same family of virus that commonly affects the face and mouth in the form of cold sores. Just like cold sores, you can experience outbreaks throughout your life.  

How is genital herpes treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for genital herpes. Most treatment around the virus usually focuses on improving the symptoms. If you seek treatment in time following an outbreak you may be prescribed antiviral medication which will stop symptoms getting worse than they already are. This is to be taken within 5 days of the first blisters appearing in order to be effective. You may also be offered cream which will help soothe the pain associated with the sores.

Once your first genital herpes outbreak has been treated the virus remains dormant in your system. Many people will then experience outbreaks throughout their life which can surface at any time. These outbreaks may be caused by triggers in some people, such as periods of stress or changes to diet, but they are largely unpredictable. When you suffer from an outbreak you can get treatment in the form of antiviral medication which will reduce the symptoms.

Generally speaking recurrent outbreaks aren’t as bad as the first outbreak that you experience. The symptoms tend to get milder and outbreaks will be spaced out at a greater length of time the older that you get. Some people never have any outbreaks at all, whilst others only suffer from the first initial outbreak.

Fortunately genital herpes is not life threatening for adults and you can lead a normal life following infection.

Parents with newborn babies on the other hand should always be cautious, particularly if you’ve been diagnosed in the past or you’re experiencing an outbreak. Herpes can be potentially fatal for newborn babies and genital herpes can pass on to the baby at childbirth.

How do I know if I have genital herpes?

Genital herpes has very recognisable symptoms in the form of small blisters which occur around the genitals, anus, buttocks or thighs. When the blisters pop they leave open red sores which can be painful and irritating. Other symptoms may include itching, tingling or burning around the genitals as well as pain during urination. Women may also notice abnormal discharge.

The symptoms of genital herpes can be similar to the symptoms of Syphilis and as a result the only way of knowing for certain that you have it is by getting tested.

The method of testing will depend on whether sores are still evident. In the case of lesions being present you will usually be tested using a swab. Your Sexual Health have swabs available which can diagnose herpes or syphilis using the same swab sample.

If the sores have healed you can also carry out accurate tests using a blood or urine sample. We also offer Instant Herpes tests which allow you to get accurate results whilst you wait in the clinic.

Will my genital herpes always be contagious?

Although genital herpes will always exist within your body, it is not always contagious. You are at risk of passing on herpes during an outbreak. The contagious period will usually begin when you first notice tingling around the infected area and will still be contagious until the sores have fully healed.

You can transmit genital herpes to another person in any number of ways, including: –

  • Skin to skin contact with the infected area through vaginal, oral or anal sex
  • Sharing sex toys
  • Touching the infected area with your fingers and then touching your own skin
  • If a cold sore touches your genitals

Sores do not always have to be present to pass on the condition. If you have herpes, the virus may shed from time to time without ever presenting symptoms. You can also pass on the virus just before symptoms are present.

You can prevent the spread of genital herpes by wearing a condom, but this is only effective if the condom covers the affected area.

What is super gonorrhoea and should I be worried?

Antibiotics to fight chlamydia

We answer the common questions about the STI

Earlier this year two British women were infected with “super-gonorrhoea”. One of them was infected in the UK, which is the first reported case of transmission in the UK. Medical professionals believe this could mean that more people are living with the STI unbeknownst to them. In this article we take a look at this super infection and what you can do to stay clear of it.

What is super gonorrhoea and how is it different to normal gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK with over 35,000 cases reported each year. Also known as ‘the clap’, it’s caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoea, sometimes referred to as gonococcus. The bacteria is usually found in penis discharge or vaginal fluid and it can be spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Super-gonorrhoea refers to a new strain of gonorrhoea that has become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat the disease. Doctors are concerned about these outbreaks as alternative treatment methods have to be found and it could be the first of many previously easily treatable diseases that have built up a resistance to antibiotics.

What are the symptoms of super gonorrhoea?

The symptoms of “super gonorrhoea” are the same as normal gonorrhoea with the only difference being the disease’s resistance to common treatment methods. In men, the symptoms of gonorrhoea will usually appear within 10 days of infection and include: –

  • Green, yellow or white discharge from the penis
  • A burning feeling during urination
  • Swelling around the foreskin
  • Testicular pain

Women generally show symptoms far less than men and many show no symptoms at all. Some signs that may show in women include pain during urination, a change in vaginal discharge, heavy periods or bleeding in between periods.

People who have been infected in their throat or rectum are less likely to notice symptoms. Gonorrhoea in the rectum may sometimes cause discharge or discomfort.

The fact that gonorrhoea often shows no symptoms, particularly in women, means that the only effective way of diagnosing the condition is through testing. If you’ve had unprotected sex with someone then you risk being exposed to gonorrhoea along with a number of other STIs so you should be tested.

How can the spread of super gonorrhoea be prevented?

Just like normal gonorrhoea, so called “super gonorrhoea” can be prevented through the responsible use of condoms during vaginal, anal or oral sex. Although condoms don’t completely remove the risk of all sexually transmitted diseases they are effective in preventing the spread of gonorrhoea in almost all cases if the condom is used correctly.

Regular sexual health testing can also be an effective way to avoid spreading the disease. If you’ve had unprotected sex with someone for the first time then you should be tested. This will allow you to identify the disease so that you can receive treatment and avoid passing it on to any future sexual partners.

How is super gonorrhoea treated?

Normal gonorrhoea is treated using a routine course of antibiotics. The most commonly prescribed form of antibiotics for gonorrhoea are a powerful mixture of ceftriaxone and azithromycin. The latest strain of “super-gonorrhoea” is resistant to both of these meaning that treatment of the disease is extremely difficult. One of the women who was infected earlier this year had to be treated with an IV drip such was the resistance to the standard medications.

With cases of super-gonorrhoea now occurring in the UK, it means that retesting following treatment is essential to ensure you’re cured. Following your course of antibiotics it’s recommended that you take another test two weeks after you’ve finished your course of treatment to be certain that the disease has being treated.

What happens if gonorrhoea goes untreated?

Gonorrhoea can cause a range of long term health complications if left untreated in both men and women.

In women, gonorrhoea can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) with symptoms ranging from minor abdominal pain to more serious internal abscesses. In some cases PID can affect the fallopian tubes enough to cause infertility or increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

In men, gonorrhoea can cause epididymitis, which in rare cases may lead to male infertility.

What tests are available to diagnose gonorrhoea and super-gonorrhoea?

“Super-gonorrhoea” can be diagnosed using the same testing methods as normal gonorrhoea. There are a range of testing methods which can diagnose the condition, including methods that use a swab and those which use a urine sample.

Unless you’ve been notified that you may have gonorrhoea by a former sexual partner, or you’re exhibiting symptoms which a doctor believes may indicate gonorrhoea, testing should always be completed for a wider range of conditions as opposed to gonorrhoea in isolation. If you’ve had unprotected sex, in theory you may have been exposed to any sexually transmitted infection.

Here at Your Sexual Health we offer gonorrhoea testing as an Instant Test, which can diagnose you in under 30 minutes. We also offer a number of standard urine and swab tests which offer accurate laboratory results against gonorrhoea and chlamydia.

If you’ve had oral or anal sex then you will need to complete a swab test of the affected area to accurately diagnose the condition.

Should we stop using antibiotics?

Gonorrhoea is the latest disease to show a resistance to antibiotics that were previously effective against the condition. One of the reasons for gonorrhoea developing into a super infection is due to our over reliance on antibiotics. Health professionals have warned that our antibiotic use should be cut down to prevent future bacterial resistance to them.

It’s thought that more than 2,000 deaths per year are caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria and some doctors have warned that without a reduction of antibiotic use then many routine medical procedures may become too risky to carry out.

With this in mind it’s important that you only take antibiotics when they are prescribed by a doctor. In cases of sexually transmitted infections you should only take antibiotics after you’ve been tested and it’s confirmed that you are infected.

Can you catch an STI from a toilet seat?

A common question answered by Your Sexual Health

You don’t have to be a germaphobe to dislike using a public toilet. No matter where you get caught short, the inside of a cubicle rarely offers us the same confidence as the inside of your own bathroom. When was this toilet last cleaned? Who used it last? Why is the floor wet? All uncertainties that can leave you second guessing your choice to leave the house this morning. But there is one question that Your Sexual Health can help you with.

Battered Toilet Cubicle

So, can you catch an STI from a toilet seat? You’ve probably Googled it at some stage I’m sure. That question (or one very similar) is typed into search engines thousands of times each month. The great news is that whether you’ve used a portaloo at Glastonbury or you’re sitting in your very own toilet the chances of you catching an STI are pretty much the same. That is to say the chances of catching an STI from a toilet seat are almost zero.

Why?

I know what you’re thinking, you’ve been in some pretty dodgy toilets. Thankfully the fragile organisms that are sexually transmitted diseases just aren’t that great at surviving at room temperature on a shiny surface for any longer than around 10 seconds. In reality they only really survive inside your body or directly around your genitals in areas that are unlikely to come into direct contact with a toilet seat.

For you to catch an STI that did somehow survive on a toilet seat it would then have to transfer from the seat and into your genital or urethral tract, or through a cut or sore on your buttocks. The likelihood of which is very small and if you ask any doctor or public health nurse they’ll almost certainly tell you that they’ve never heard a case like this before.

So how are STI’s transmitted exactly?

OK, it’s an obvious answer, but sexually transmitted infections generally only transfer from one person to another during body to body contact through the transfer of bodily fluids. Whether that’s vaginal, anal or oral sex. All STIs are the same. If you’ve slept with someone who has an STI without wearing a condom then you’re likely to have caught an STI from that person. Whether or not you used the same toilet seat as them will have very little bearing on your chances.

To find out more about sexual health or to book a fully confidential private sexual health screen browse our site today.