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Following on from the HealthExpress contraception video, Chief Medical Advisor Dr Hilary Jones once again took to the streets of London to find out how much the average person knows about sexually transmitted infections. This time we wanted to find out how many STIs people could name and whether they'd heard of the lesser-known infections.
From those we interviewed, only a small number were confident in naming more than a handful of STIs. Many could only name one or two infections at best. The most common responses were chlamydia, gonorrhoea and herpes with very few people claiming to have heard of other, equally harmful conditions. Below are the less well-known STIs you need to be aware of.
Although not considered a typical STI, ureaplasma can be transmitted through sexual contact. It is a bacterium that affects about 70% of sexually active people. Ureaplasma usually doesn't cause symptoms but, if left untreated, it can cause serious health problems.
Bacterial vaginosis is most common in sexually active women. Caused by a combination of different bacteria, it is the most common type of vaginal infection. It may increase a woman's risk of uterus infection or pelvic inflammatory disease if left untreated. It may also increase the risk of contracting other STIs.
With similar characteristics to chlamydia and gonorrhoea, mycoplasma genitalium is often difficult to diagnose as it usually occurs in conjunction with other STIs. It is commonly associated with bacterial vaginosis in women. If left untreated mycoplasma may cause infertility, so it's essential to seek treatment as soon as possible.
Non-specific urethritis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection commonly spread by chlamydia. It mainly affects men, although women can also develop the infection. It is called 'non-specific' because the direct cause is not known. It causes an inflammation of the urethra that, if left untreated, can lead to infertility.
The trichomonas parasite affects a man's urethra and prostate gland, and a woman's urethra and vagina. This STI mainly affects women, although it is relatively uncommon. If left untreated it can cause premature labour or infection of the prostate.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection. The bacteria can enter your body if you have close contact with an infected sore, normally during sex. The symptoms of syphilis develop over 3 stages. The first is characterised by the appearance of a painless but extremely infectious sore around the genitals or mouth, whereas the in the final stage the infection can lead to serious conditions such as blindness, paralysis or even death.
How can I avoid STIs?
The only way to completely guard against catching an STI is to abstain from sex altogether. However by using barrier contraception such as a condom when you have sex you can ensure you stay as safe as possible.
If you are having regular sexual intercourse, particularly with different partners, it's important to have regular sexual health checks. This will ensure that any infection is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
Most STIs can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics. This is the case for two of the most common infections; Clamydia and Gonorrhoea. You can find out more about the various treatment options for all the above STIs here.
If you think you have an infection, why not take a short online consultation with one of our registered doctors? If you are approved for a prescription the doctor will then recommend a treatment, which will be delivered to you via our free same day or next day delivery service, depending on where you live.