There are some embarrassing conditions that we don't like to discuss with even our closest friends.
Could you have one of these? Read on and find out. But don't worry too much - they're all very easy to treat
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK. Latest figures reveal that 1 in 10 young people could have Chlamydia (it's more common in women than men) without knowing. Left untreated, Chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and even infertility. Symptoms: Mild lower stomach pain and a change in vaginal discharge. BUT Chlamydia often has no symptoms at all which is why it can go undetected for years. How do I know if I've got it? See your GP, practise nurse or visit a clinic. To find your nearest go to www.fpa.org.uk (opens in new tab). A new 'while you wait' Chlamydia test called the Chlamydia Rapid Test has recently been introduced with great results. The test is easy and painless ( it involves a simple swab) and provides results within 30 minutes, which means treatment can be started immediately. Treatment: A course of antibiotics will get rid of the infection. You should be prescribed a drug called doxycycline or azithromycin.
Bacterial Vaginosis is NOT a sexually transmitted disease, but a very common vaginal infection that affects women of childbearing age. Around 1 in 10 women will get BV at some time in their life. It's caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina and has nothing to do with personal hygiene. Symptoms: A white-grey vaginal discharge with a fishy smell. The discharge is often worse after a period or after sex. How do I know if I've got it? Bacterial Vaginosis can be diagnosed via a simple swab test. Pregnant women who develop BV are at risk of developing complications, so it's important to get this checked out. Treatment: The infection may clear up without medication but a course of antibiotics called metronidazole is usually advised.
Around 1 in 2 women will get thrush, which is sometimes known as Candida. The infection is caused by a yeast called Candida that lives in your vagina. It is NOT a sexually transmitted infection - you can get thrush without ever having sex. But penetrative sex can sometimes play a part in you developing it. (Semen can change the acidity of the vagina and therefore lead to thrush). Other causes include antibiotics, pregnancy, perfumed bubble baths and not changing tampons or sanitary towels regularly enough. Symptoms: a white discharge which smells 'yeasty'. The genital area may be swollen and red and you could have itching and burning sensations. How do I know if I've got it? You can buy self-diagnosis thrush tests and treatments at a chemist, but they aren't as reliable as a test carried out at a clinic or by your GP. Thrush is diagnosed with a swab or sample of mucus taken from your vagina. Treatment: You will be given anti-fungal drugs, either as pessaries, creams or capsules. Although you can buy these at the chemist, it could be cheaper to get them on prescription. If you keep getting thrush (four or more times a year is called 'recurrent thrush') your doctor may prescribe long-acting pessaries.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) happens when bacteria (germs) get into your internal reproductive organs. Thousands of women in the UK are diagnosed with PID every year but many more could have it and not even know because the symptoms are often vague. If left untreated, PID can cause serious complications such as infertility. Symptoms: pain in the lower stomach, lower back pain, bleeding between periods or after sex, period pain, pain during ovulation, burning pain when urinating and an abnormal vaginal discharge. How do I know if I've got it? Unfortunately there is no simple test to diagnose Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Most cases are diagnosed by symptoms and an internal examination. Sometimes blood tests and ultrasound scans are used too. Treatment: You'll be given a course, or an injection, of two or more antibiotics. You'll be told to avoid sex and get lots of rest until the treatment is completed. Your partner should also be tested and treated to prevent re-infection.
Trichomoniasis is another very common sexually transmitted infection. Every year more than 1 million people in the UK are diagnosed with 'Trich'. The best way to avoid it is to practise safe sex. Symptoms: A frothy, yellow green vaginal discharge and odor, vaginal itching, swelling of the labia and painful sex. Many symptoms are mild and similar to thrush, which can cause confusion and a wrong diagnosis. How do I know if I've got it? A simple swab test will reveal if you have trichomoniasis. Treatment: You'll be given a short course of antibiotics, (usually metronidazole) lasting one to seven days. You should also avoid sex until your symptoms have gone.
Cystitis is a bladder infection that affects more women than men. Most women get cystitis at least once in their life. It is NOT a sexually transmitted infection, but it's more common in sexually active women. Pregnant women and women going through the menopause are also prone. Symptoms: a sharp pain when passing urine, back ache, lower stomach pain and feeling unwell, occasionally blood in the urine. How do I know if I've got it? The symptoms are usually very obvious. But see your GP if this is the first time you've had cystitis, if it doesn't improve after 24 hours or you seem to be getting cystitis very frequently. Treatment: Drink lots of water (at least half a pint every 20 minutes for the first three hours). This will make the urine less acidic and therefore less painful. If the infection is bacterial you may also be prescribed antibiotics.
Don't forget: To find a sexual health clinic near you, go to www.fpa.org.uk (opens in new tab)
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