Chlamydia In Men: Everything You Need To Know

Chlamydia In Men: Everything You Need To Know

The key questions about chlamydia in men

According to 2018 figures from Public Health England, a higher percentage of young men tested positive for chlamydia compared to women. Despite this, the number of young men getting tested was half of the number of women getting testing. We’ve created this article, focussing specifically on chlamydia in men, to answer the key questions surrounding the STI. 

What are chlamydia symptoms in Men?

There will often be no symptoms of chlamydia in men, with only around half of those infected noticing any signs. If there are symptoms, these will usually develop around one to three weeks following infection. Common signs of the STD include: – 

  • Pain or a burning sensation whilst urinating
  • A cloudy white discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Urethritis, which is characterised by pain or itching within the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the body)
  • Testicular pain or soreness

These initial symptoms may disappear after a couple of weeks, which often leads people to forget they may be infected. Even when symptoms disappear chlamydia will remain in your body and can be passed on during unprotected sex until you receive effective treatment.

Are men more likely to catch chlamydia?

If you have unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia, you’re likely to catch the infection regardless of your gender. In this respect there is nothing to suggest that men are more likely to catch chlamydia.

That said, latest figures from 2018 suggest that a higher ratio of young men aged between 15-24 tested positive for chlamydia in comparison to females of the same age. This is despite double the amount of women testing for the condition.

What are the long term complications of chlamydia in men?

Although very rare, chlamydia can affect male fertility. This happens if chlamydia causes the tubes that carry the male sperm (epididymis) to become inflamed. 

Although the condition, also known as epididymitis, is treatable with antibiotics it can cause irreversible scarring to the tubes which restricts the flow of sperm. Luckily long term damage like this is rare, but it’s just another reason to get tested for chlamydia regularly.

How is chlamydia in men diagnosed? 

There are a wide range of sexual health tests that can diagnose chlamydia in men. Usually this will require a urine sample where the initial flow of urine is examined in a laboratory. You may test for chlamydia on its own or you may wish to perform tests on a number of conditions at the same time.

Some tests, including the Instant Chlamydia Tests available from Your Sexual Health, may require a urethral swab. This is where a thin swab is inserted into the urethra to take a sample of mucous from the area.

If you are at risk of anal or oral infection against chlamydia then you will need a throat swab sample or rectal swab sample to be collected and tested also.

How is chlamydia treated in men?

Both men and women are treated for chlamydia in the same way. This includes an antibiotic treatment which is taken orally, usually in one sitting. The most common treatments are azithromycin (Zithromax) or doxycycline. To avoid reinfection it’s best that your partner also has treatment at the same time. You should abstain from sex for one week following treatment as you can still pass chlamydia on during this time.

Can men catch chlamydia through oral sex?

Whether performing oral sex on a man or a woman, chlamydia can be transmitted through oral sex. In these instances chlamydia will usually cause an infection of the throat. This may cause symptoms including a sore throat, fever or a cold. It’s also possible that someone can be infected within the throat without noticing any symptoms at all. 

Although less common, you can also catch chlamydia if you receive oral sex from an infected individual. The symptoms in these instances would be exactly the same as if you caught it through vaginal sex.

Can men catch chlamydia through anal sex?

Whether you’re performing anal sex on a man or a woman there is still a risk of catching chlamydia if the person has a rectal chlamydia infection. Likewise if you receive anal sex from someone who is infected then you may catch rectal chlamydia.

The symptoms of rectal chlamydia are different from chlamydia affecting the penis. Symptoms may include discharge, bleeding and pain in the area. It’s possible to have a chlamydia in both the penis and the anus at the same time.

You can find out more about chlamydia in our advice article on the STI or visit our chlamydia landing page to see more information about our range of tests. 

Red Sore On Penis – What Could It Mean?

We break down the potential sexual health causes

If you notice a red sore on your penis, it can often be concerning and embarrassing. There are a number of potential causes, all of which have subtle differences in appearance, but major differences in prognosis and treatment. We’ve broken down the potential causes of any red sores that may appear on your penis.

man worries about STI on river bank

What could this red sore on my penis be?

There are a number of conditions which can cause a red sore to appear on the penis or on the skin surrounding the penis. We’ve outlined some of the potential conditions below, but the only way to know for sure what’s causing the sore is by carrying out an STD test.

Herpes

There are two forms of herpes simplex virus that could potentially be causing a red sore on your penis, including herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2. The herpes virus usually presents in the form of red sores or blisters affecting either the face or genital region. These can be incredibly painful, with outbreaks lasting as long as three weeks.

Herpes Simplex 1 (HSV1)

This strain of herpes generally affects the mouth and is often referred to as oral herpes. HSV1 will usually present in the form of cold sores and can be passed on through kissing or sharing drinks. It can however be passed on to the genital region if someone who has an active cold sore performs oral sex on someone.

Herpes Simplex 2 (HSV2)

This strain is usually the cause of herpes sores that would affect the penis or genital region. More commonly known as genital herpes, HSV2 causes outbreaks of red sores that are similar to cold sores, but they are usually smaller and cover a bigger area. They also often present as multiple sores whereas oral herpes will usually only have one sore. It can be extremely uncomfortable and will remain contagious until the sores have fully healed.

Syphilis

Another sexually transmitted infection that can cause a red sore on the penis is syphilis. One of the first signs of syphilis is a red, but painless sore known as a chancre. It can appear on any area where you’ve had sexual contact with an infected individual. It’s often an open sore, yet due to its pain free nature it may go unnoticed.

In the initial stages of syphilis there are very few symptoms other than the sore, which is similar to herpes. You may however notice swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the groin area. Once the sore disappears there are no further symptoms of syphilis until it progresses to secondary syphilis. Secondary syphilis has flu like symptoms and a severe looking skin rash, this will usually occur 4 – 10 weeks following the passing of primary syphilis.

Genital Warts

The other potential cause of the red sore on your penis is genital warts. Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus, the same virus that causes normal warts. Indeed, genital warts look like normal warts, with the only difference being that they affect your genital region. These warts are usually completely painless, but there may be multiple appear over time as they come into contact with other areas of skin.

Unfortunately genital warts are contagious and they can be passed on to sexual partners if your skin touches theirs. They’re difficult to prevent, especially if a condom doesn’t cover the area affecting the warts. Unfortunately it’s difficult to test for genital warts because there are so many strains of the HPV virus, therefore diagnosis is usually completed through a physical inspection.

As mentioned, the HPV virus has many strains. Some strains are known to cause cell mutations in the cervix which can present a cervical cancer risk over time. Thankfully, the strain of HPV that causes genital warts is not linked to cervical cancer and doesn’t present a risk factor.

How to treat the red sore on the penis?

The treatment that can be offered to heal any red sores affecting the penis or genital region will depend on the cause. Often it’s necessary to be tested for syphilis and herpes together in order to fully ensure that the correct medication can be offered. Once certain diagnosis is achieved the treatment differs greatly.

Herpes

Unfortunately herpes is not curable and will remain in your body for life. You may have future outbreaks that occur periodically, but none will likely be as severe as the initial outbreak. Treatment will involve the use of antiviral therapy and painkillers to control pain symptoms.

Syphilis

Syphilis is treated with simple antibiotics. These are usually administered as an injection into your buttocks. This will normally cure the infection, however a confirmatory test is advised to ensure you are clear. Specialist involvement may be required.

Genital Warts

If left untreated, genital warts will eventually disappear on their own. This however can take years to happen and due to their unsightly nature, treatment is often sought. There are a number of treatment options, all of which can take time to have an effect. These include: –

  • Cream or liquid applied to the area affected by the warts. This is usually applied a few times a week for a number of weeks. It can be painful and cause soreness.
    Surgery where a doctor or nurse cuts or lasers the wart away. This can cause scarring and the warts may still come back.
  • Freezing where a doctor or nurse applies liquid nitrogen to the wart. Again, this can cause scarring and may require a number of attempts before they are completely removed.

How to avoid catching sores on the penis?

Condoms can prevent the spread of syphilis if used during sexual intercourse. Condoms are not always effective at preventing the spread of herpes and HPV however. This is because the condom does not always cover the infected area, meaning you can still be infected in the area surrounding the penis. If you notice someone has any red sores around their genitals you should not have sex with them. This is the only way of successfully preventing the spread of herpes and genital warts.

Public Health England STI Report: 5 Key Findings

Your Sexual Health help you understand the latest figures

A new report published by Public Health England shows that the amount of sexually transmitted infections in the UK continues to rise. To help you understand what these latest findings mean, Your Sexual Health has broken down the facts.

The Key Findings

Gonorrhoea is a huge cause for concern

In 2018, there were 56,259 new cases of gonorrhoea discovered in England. This was a worrying 26% increase in comparison to 2017. What’s even more concerning about these findings is the fact that three cases of the antibiotic resistant form of the infection, known as ‘super-gonorrhoea’, have been discovered in the UK during this period.

Sexual health diagnoses are on the rise overall

It’s not just gonorrhoea figures that are on the rise, sexually transmitted infections as a whole have increased by 5% since 2017. This included a 5% increase in new syphilis diagnoses and a 6% increase in chlamydia cases. Overall there were 447,694 new STI diagnoses throughout the year in comparison to 424,724 cases reported in 2017.

Young people are getting tested less through national chlamydia programme

It’s only a small decrease, but there was a 1% decrease in chlamydia tests carried out among young people aged between 17 and 24 years of age through the National Chlamydia Screening Programme. Despite less people getting tested, more young people tested positive for chlamydia throughout the same time frame with a 2% increase.

Young heterosexuals aged between 15 – 24 remain the most impacted

Young heterosexuals aged between 15 and 24 years of age noticed more diagnoses than any other age group. Other impacted groups noticing above average positive STD diagnoses included black ethnic minorities; and gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

There are huge geographical variations for chlamydia testing

The amount of young people getting tested for chlamydia varied greatly depending on where in England they lived. According to the report the percentage of young people tested varied from 15% in the West Midlands to 28% in London. The detection rates also varied greatly according to location, with 1,589 per 100,000 testing positive in the South East vs 2,610 per 100,000 in London.

How can the spread of STIs be prevented?

With the continued rise of sexual health, it’s always worth remembering how the spread of sexually transmitted infections can be prevented. We’ve outlined some bullet points below: –

  • Regular sexual health testing can avoid passing asymptomatic sexually transmitted infections on to other sexual partners
  • Using a condom during sex dramatically reduces the liklihood of contracting sexually transmitted infections
  • If you have unprotected sex with someone you should get tested following your first encounter

To find out more about the sexual health tests available from Your Sexual Health visit our tests page. We have a wide range of discreet and confidential tests against all common sexually transmitted infections.

What to do if you have unprotected sex on holiday

From getting tested to spotting symptoms, Your Sexual Health has got you covered

According to a YouGov survey conducted in 2017, Brits are more likely to have a one night stand on holiday. So whether you’ve been swept off your feet by the prospect of a holiday romance or you’ve found love on the dancefloor, you aren’t the first person to get a carried away on your travels. But what should you do if you’ve had unprotected sex on holiday?

Getting tested

If you’ve had unprotected sex on holiday, it’s important that you get tested. But before jumping into the nearest overseas clinic you’ll want to bear these few things in mind.

Don’t get tested too early

It might be everyone’s first instinct to get tested as soon as they wake up following a one night stand, especially if you’ve had unprotected sex on holiday. Unfortunately, although we can’t fault your attentiveness, it’s almost never the best thing to do. That’s because most STDs won’t show up on an STD test until at least 14 days post exposure, whilst standard HIV tests are only accurate after 28 days.

Testing before this window will lead to false negative results whereby you believe you’re in the clear, but in actual fact your STD is yet to come to the surface. Before you get tested check the incubation period for the test you’re taking and wait until it’s passed. If you do test before this period, you’ll want to get a re-test after the incubation period has passed.

Spot the symptoms

First things first, it’s important to know that just because you don’t have any symptoms doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear. Some people experience no symptoms at all. If you’ve had unprotected sex on holiday you should get tested as standard, but here are some of the tell tale signs of an STD: –

  • Unusual discharge that smells or is a funny colour
  • Sores, blisters, rashes or spots on or around the genitals
  • Unusual bleeding for women between periods or after sex
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pain during urination and/or irregular urges to pee
  • Cold and flu like symptoms 1 – 3 weeks following exposure could be a sign of HIV

Testing options abroad

There are a range of reasons that you might want to get tested abroad. For example if you are living in the country for the entire holiday season for work or if you’ve already noticed symptoms. On these occasions you can visit a local doctor and describe the problem to them and they’ll do the appropriate tests.

By visiting a doctor overseas you’ll have to abide by the local procedures and costs when it comes to paying for your appointment, but depending on your insurance you may be able to claim this back. It’s worth remembering that you may still have to wait for your results following your test and these may not arrive for 2 or 3 days, by which point you may have returned to the UK.

The other way is by ordering an STI home test from Your Sexual Health to be delivered to your address overseas. If you’re on your way home soon, you can get one delivered to your home address to be waiting for you on your return.

Your Sexual Health can deliver sample collection packs to your overseas address which can be posted back to our laboratory or if required you can arrange an appointment with us for when you return.

Test as a precaution when you return

If you’ve had protected or unprotected sex on holiday, but you’ve not noticed any STD symptoms you should still get tested. Condoms aren’t effective 100% of the time and they aren’t effective against all STDs. There are a range of sexual health testing services available when you return to the UK, including your local NHS provider or private STI testing providers like Your Sexual Health. Routine testing is important for both your own and other people’s sexual health.

High risk situations

Some sexual situations are higher risk than others, such as engaging in sexual activities with a sex worker whilst on holiday. If you’ve paid for sex whilst on holiday, even if you used a condom you should be tested at the earliest opportunity on your return to the UK. Your Sexual Health offer a range of Early Detection tests which can diagnose HIV, hepatitis B and Hepatitis C just 10 days following exposure.

Getting treatment

If you’ve had unprotected sex on holiday that’s lead to an STD then you’ll want to get treatment as soon as possible. It’s important that you only get treated following a positive test as every STD has a different medical treatment and you’ll only receive the effective medication if the doctor knows what to treat.

In addition, if you take antibiotics without knowing for certain that you have an STD you reduce the chances of treating yourself effectively for future infections when you may really need it. You may also play your part in making STDs more resistant to antibiotics for everyone in future.

How to ensure you don’t make the same mistake

If you’ve had unprotected sex on holiday you’ve needlessly exposed yourself to sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Here’s how to make sure you don’t make the same mistake next time you go away.

Don’t forget the condoms

Let’s face it, when you go abroad the first thing you want to think about is finding the nearest bar or deciding what bikini you want to wear first. No one wants to be trailing around pharmacies or supermarkets looking for condoms. Make sure you’ve always got some to hand by packing them in the suitcase before travelling.

Don’t forget to use it

Many people think that having “the condom chat” ruins the mood. Take it for a fact that nothing ruins the mood of a holiday like an STD, so always have “the chat” and always use a condom before your holiday encounter.

Don’t get too carried away

Foam parties, pool parties, beach parties and boat parties. These are all opportunities to meet like minded holiday singles, but they’re very rarely the cleanest or most advisable places to have sex. Save the sex for the dry land of your hotel room wherever possible, as sex in any other location can make you forget to use a condom.

Get tested before you go abroad

If you’re a responsible sexually active single, do the right thing and get tested before you go abroad. This will reduce the risk to your sexual partners on holiday. You never know, you might sweep someone of their feet and have a holiday romance to remember, but lesions, rashes or unsavoury vaginal discharge will soon put an end to it.

Can you get an STD from a swimming pool?

Can you get an STI from a swimming pool?

It’s one of the most commonly asked questions on Google during the summer months, but can you actually catch an STI from a swimming pool? To answer the question in full, we asked Your Sexual Health resident GP, Dr Rashid Bani.

Can you get an STI from a swimming pool?

The short answer is no, you can’t get an STI from a swimming pool. At least not without having sex in the swimming pool. There are two main reasons why it’s almost impossible to catch an STI from a swimming pool.

Firstly, STDs are incredibly bad at surviving outside of the body for any length of time. The majority of STIs are transmitted as bacteria or viruses that only survive whilst inside the body, on the body or in bodily fluids. When they leave the body they die almost instantly. The only time they are transmitted is through intimate sexual contact where bodily fluids are exchanged.

Secondly, all swimming pools should be treated with chlorine which is designed to kill all threatening organisms. This chlorine is not always successful at removing the most stubborn bacteria or viruses, but it will almost certainly be successful at killing off sexually transmitted infections that are not capable of surviving outside the body.

These two factors combined mean that there has never been any confirmed reports of someone catching an STD from taking a swim.

So, you can’t catch and STD from the water, but what about having sex in the pool? Is this bad?

Having sex in a swimming pool is no more risky than having sex in the bedroom when it comes to STDs. Wearing a condom will greatly reduce the risk of catching most STDs whether you’re in a swimming pool or your own bed. That said, swimming pools aren’t the best place to engage in sexual activity (or the best place to put on a condom) for a number of reasons.

Lubrication

Sex in a pool is not as sexy as it might seem on the TV. What you probably don’t realise is the water in the swimming pool is likely to remove your bodies natural lubrication. This makes pool sex a little uncomfortable to say the least.

Infection

We’re not talking about sexually transmitted infections, but general water borne infections. Swimming pools aren’t the cleanest when you consider the level of traffic they get from sweaty sun creamed up holidaymakers. Granted that swimming in the water carries a risk already, but having sex in the water may increase the risk of infection.

Irritation

The chlorine and other chemicals in the pool can cause irritation to your genitals. By having sex women are exposing more of the sensitive skin in and around the genital area to these chemicals. This can cause redness and itching that you won’t notice until after.

Are you really going to use a condom correctly?

If you’re having sex with someone for the first time you’re going to want to use a condom. If you’re in the swimming pool, where do you fit in using a condom? Do you get out of the swimming pool first? Do you sit on the edge and put it on? It’s a logistical nightmare.

So there you have it, you can’t catch an STD directly from a swimming pool, but having sex in the pool might not be the best idea.

Symptoms of an oral STD

Advice on STDs passed on through oral sex

If you perform oral sex on someone who has a sexually transmitted infection, it’s possible to catch an STD in your mouth or throat. The symptoms that you’ll notice if you catch an STD in this manner will usually be localised to the area infected, meaning they’re completely different to catching the STD in your genitals. In this article we take a look at the potential symptoms of an oral STD.

Two pairs of lips side by side

Oral STD symptoms by STD

To make it easier to work out if you could have the symptoms of an oral STD, we’ve gone through the most common STDs individually.

Oral chlamydia symptoms

If you catch chlamydia through oral sex then you’ll rarely notice symptoms and the only way to know for certain you have it is by performing an STD test. Some of the symptoms that you might notice though include a sore throat and redness at the back of the throat. It’s worth noting that even if you don’t notice symptoms you can still pass the condition on.

Oral gonorrhoea symptoms

If you catch gonorrhoea by performing oral sex on an infected individual then you’re unlikely to notice any symptoms. In many cases the only way to know you have it is by carrying out an STD test using a swab sample from the throat. If you do happen to notice symptoms it will usually be in the form of a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Syphilis

The symptoms of syphilis are the same if they affect you in the genitals – following vaginal sex – or in the mouth – following oral sex. Syphilis will show in the shape of small sores known as chancres three weeks to three months after infection. On occasion the sores may go unnoticed or may be mistaken for another ailment such as an ulcer. Even once the sores disappear you are still infected and can pass the condition on.

Herpes

It’s common to pass genital herpes on following oral sex with someone who has an active herpes outbreak. If you have sex with someone who you notice has sores on their penis or vagina you should stop immediately and this includes oral sex. Herpes will show in the form of sores around your mouth. Following your initial outbreak the sores will disappear, but you may have further outbreaks in future as herpes is never cured.

HIV

Although it’s possible to catch HIV through oral sex, this would usually only be possible if you had bleeding gums or lips and even then it’s very rare. In these instances the symptoms would be exactly the same as if you caught HIV through vaginal or anal sex. Early symptoms of HIV are similar to those associated with the flu and usually appear 2 to 6 weeks following infection. You can find out more about these symptoms on our HIV Guide.

There won’t always be symptoms

It’s worth pointing out that there aren’t always symptoms when you catch an STD and that’s still true if you catch it performing oral sex. As with any STD the only way to be completely certain that you’ve caught it is by taking a sexual health test. Your Sexual Health offer a range of STD tests that will diagnose STDs affecting your throat.

Which test should you carry out?

If you catch an STD by performing oral sex you will often require an STD test to diagnose it. The type of test that you take will depend on the condition that you want to test for. Some of the potential options are included below: –

Throat Swab

A throat swab will often be required to diagnose bacterial sexual health infections including chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

Symptomatic Lesion Swab

If you notice a lesion or spot that could be caused by either herpes or syphilis then you can take a swab sample from the lesion itself to diagnose it. In these instances the lesion must be open and not have dried up or scabbed over.

Blood Test

There are a range of STDs which can be diagnosed by a simple blood test including syphilis, HIV and herpes. This is the same whether you’ve caught the STD through oral, anal or vaginal sex.

When is it necessary to take a swab STD test?

We answer some common questions about STD Swabs

Choosing the correct STD test to suit your needs can often be difficult. In this article we take a look at swab tests and answer a range of common questions about them, including when it’s appropriate to use them and what kinds of swab tests exist.

What is a swab STD test?

Just like with urine or blood, a swab test is a method of collecting a sample for testing against a number of STDs. The swab is rubbed against an area of potential exposure to collect mucus, discharge or fluid. It may also be rubbed against an open blister or lesion that may be caused by an STD. Once collected, the swab sample can be used to identify a range of STDs including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and herpes depending on where the swab is used.

What kind of swab tests are there?

There are a variety of swab tests, each with their own needs and purpose, including: –

  • Anal swab – this is inserted in the anus to gain a sample of the mucous that lines the anus
  • Throat swab – this takes a swab from the back of the throat in order to test for the incidence of particular bacteria in that area
  • High vaginal swab – this is inserted into the vagina to gain a sample of vaginal discharge from within the vagina itself
  • Urethral swab – this is taken by inserting the swab into the male urethra to collect a sample
  • Symptomatic lesion swab – this is a swab that is taken from a lesion which is open and unhealed to determine what is causing it. Examples of this can include for syphilis and herpes testing.

When should I choose a swab test?

There are a number of occasions when a swab test is necessary to identify for an STD depending on the type of test that you require and the potential exposure that may have occurred.

Following anal or oral sex

Many STIs are localised to the area that was exposed during sexual contact meaning that unless you test within that area you can never be 100% confident that you don’t have the STD. Therefore if you’ve had anal or oral sex it’s necessary to swab in either the throat or anus or both, depending the sexual contact you’ve had.

In the instance of blisters or sores

If you’ve noticed a lesion, blister or sore that you believe could be the symptom of either herpes or syphilis there are a number of tests which allow you to swab the site of the lesion to identify the STD that’s causing it.

If the test requires it

Some tests may require a swab sample rather than a urine sample if the test that you’re taking requires it. For example the instant tests available from Your Sexual Health require a urethral or vaginal swab as the density of bacteria is greater than in urine. This improves the ability of the testing buffer or reagent to react with the STD if it is evident.

Is it necessary to get a vaginal swab STD test?

Unless the test specifically requires a vaginal swab such as with the Instant Tests on offer from Your Sexual Health, it’s often not necessary to use a vaginal swab. This is because a urine sample will usually identify the STI, in exactly the same way, with a comparable accuracy to a swab test. When you consider how easy it is to complete a urine sample test in comparison to completing a vaginal swab test, it’s often far more straightforward to opt for a urine only test.

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