Sexually Transmitted Diseases: how do you get them?
What is a STD?
An STD is a sexually transmitted disease. They are also known as STIs, ‘Sexually Transmitted Infections.’ They are commonly asymptomatic, or show very little warning signs. In fact, one of the reasons they are so common, is due to their ‘silent’ signs. Many people may be completely unaware that they are infected, and so unintentionally continue spreading the disease. If left untreated, an STD can seriously implicate your health. In some cases, it can even cause infertility. STD’s can also pose risk to pregnancy and infect unborn babies. That is why it is crucial that you are regularly tested to ensure you have not got an STD. If given treatment early, you reduce your chances of long term health implications and of passing it on to more people. STD screening is free in the UK. Your doctor or nurse will ask you to give a urine sample, vaginal swab or a blood test. Treatment for many STDs consist of a course of antibiotics, which both you and your sexual partner must take.
How do you get a STD?
You can get an STI from oral, anal and penetrative sex. According to studies, over half of 25 year olds who are sexually active will have caught an STD. You can still get an STD with or without using a condom, as some infections are passed on through contact with your partner’s skin. Contrary to myth, you can’t catch an STI from kissing. You can catch cold sores though, which are a form of herpes. Coldsores both genital and oral are a form of herpes that will require treatment in order to help control outbreaks.
There are a number of ways you can avoid catching an STD. One of the most important preventative measures is to avoid unprotected sex. The only time sex without protection is safe, is if both yourself partner have been tested for STDs, and have not have sexual intercourse with anyone else since.
How to avoid getting an STD
· Washing before and after sex
· Avoid sharing underwear or towels
· Get vaccinations for hepatitis B
· Reduce the number of sexual partners you have
· Use condoms
If you are tested as positive for an STD, avoid having any sexual intercourse until your treatment has completed. You should also inform you recent sexual partners so they too can be treated in case they have caught the STI.
What STDs can you catch from oral sex?
Oral sex is the stimulation of your partner’s genitals or anus using the mouth and tongue. According to research, you have the highest chance of getting an STD from giving or receiving receiving oral sex. Oral sex can cause an STI to infect the mouth or throat. You can get chlamydia from oral, along with gonorrhoea, genital herpes and syphilis. Less commonly, you can also get HIV, Hepatitis A, B and C, genital warts and pubic lice. Often there are no signs that you have caught an STD in your throat or mouth. If there are signs, they tend to be a sore throat. The chances of getting an STD during oral sex is lowered if you use a condom or a dental dam. A dental dam is used to cover the vagina or anus for the duration of oral sex. It is a layer of latex which acts as a barrier between STDs being passed from one person to another.
How do you know if you have an STD?
It can be difficult to tell whether you have an STD without being tested as many do not show any symptoms. STI symptoms vary depending on which STI it is. If symptoms do present themselves, some of the commonly seen signs are:
· Itching or bumps around the genital areas
· Discoloured or thick discharge. It may be green or yellow.
· Pain during or after intercourse
· Spotting between periods
· A burning sensation whilst urinating
· A yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
· Painful ejaculation
· Blisters on or around the genital areas
· Groin pain
· Lower back pains
· Swelling or pain in the testicles
· Flu-like symptoms such as aching, chills and tiredness
The quicker you are tested or discover you have an STD, the lower the chances of it impacting your overall health. Many STIs can be treated using antibiotics which will be prescribed by your doctor. It is crucial that you take the whole course of antibiotics given to you, even if your symptoms clear. If you do not take the whole course, the virus will remain and it may become harder to treat.