Your sexual health is an important part of your overall health and you should pay as much attention to it as your overall physical health and mental health. With STIs on the rise, and many of them having no symptoms, it’s important to take care and always get checked out if you think you might be at risk.
While suspecting you might have an STI can lead to embarrassment, the potential health implications for you and for anyone you sleep with could be serious so it’s really important to break through that embarrassment and get tested.
Nowadays, common STI’s can actually be tested from buying home test kits which can be ordered online, so you can get a test and diagnosis in the privacy of your own home, and then take the most appropriate course of treatment.
Sexually Transmitted Infections can be spread via vaginal, anal and oral sex and it can be passed on no matter who you are having sex with. They can be passed between both sexes and either sex, and many have no symptoms at all.
When you meet someone you have no way of knowing if they have an STI or not, so you have unprotected sex with a new partner, you are potentially at risk so you should get yourself tested as quickly as possible.
Even though chlamydia, for example, is symptom-less, it can actually infect your body and leave you infertile in the future, all without you knowing, which is why it’s really important to get checked out. The good news is chlamydia, along with many other STIs, is completely treatable with a course of antibiotics. Of course more serious STIs, such as HIV, can’t be treated in this way but will still require medical intervention.
There are some symptoms which might indicate you have contracted an STI, so if you have any of these, you should get tested straight away either at your GP clinic, or at a sexual health clinic near to you:
- Pain when passing urine
- Itching or tingling feeling in the genital area
- Sores, spots or blisters around the genital area or anus
- Yellow or green discharge, or smelly discharge
- Bleeding or pain after sex
These symptoms could be an STI, or they could be signs of a different infection, such as thrush, which would still need treating so it’s always best to get tested or see your doctor so you can find out what is causing the symptoms, and get it treated.
The best way to look after your sexual health is to have safer sex to start with, by using condoms every time, to help protect yourself from catching or passing on an STI. Always check that condoms have safety standards on the pack before using them.
As well as STIs you need to protect yourself against unwanted pregnancies and condoms can help with this as well as protecting you from infections. If you decided to use hormone-related contraception such as the pill or patch, and then remember you are protected against pregnancy but not against the spread of infection.
If you suspect you might have put yourself at risk of infection, the best thing you can do for your own health is to attend a sexual health clinic and get tested for all possible STI’s as it’s not possible to buy tests for everything to do at home. Some might require a blood test.
You should also refrain from sexual activity with a partner until after you have your test results back. It is also important that you talk to anyone you have had sexual contact with while you might have been infected so that they can also get tested and treated if necessary.
Chlamydia is one of the most common STI’s particularly among young people, largely because it is symptom-free and easily transmittable from person to person but it can have serious consequences in the future so it is important to get it treated.
Some clinics will contact former partners for you, to alert them to the potential infection, if you don’t want to do it directly, but it’s important to let them know they might have been put at risk as well.
Looking after your sexual health is a matter of being careful in the first place, getting checked out straight away if you think you might have put yourself at risk, telling your partner, and then getting treated. If you follow these steps and take responsibility then you should be STI free and healthy.