STIs and STDs
What is the difference between an STI and an STD?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are spread through unprotected oral, vaginal and anal sex with someone who has the STI or STD. STD refers to a collection of medical infections that are spread through sexual activity, these start as an infection and if left untreated develop into a disease (although this isn’t always the case).
However this terminology is quite old fashioned and most people and medical professional use the term STI nowadays. This is because not all STIs turn into diseases, you may carry the infection and be contagious but the infection will not develop further. These infections and diseases can affect both men and women; however the symptoms, signs and consequences can be very different.
How many STDs and STIs are there?
The number of sexually transmitted infections and diseases depends upon what is considered to be an infection, parasite or disease. The line between sexually transmitted disease and infection has been blurred, with many being referred to as both.
The most common STDs and STIs:
- Genital warts
- Genital herpes
- Pubic lice
What are the signs and symptoms of STIs?
The signs of STIs and STDs vary depending on:
- the infection that you have
- the severity of it
- whether you're a man or a woman.
Many symptoms of STIs and STDs are very similar, for example you could notice pain when you urinate, discharge from your vagina or penis as well as itching or irritation.
Also it's important to remember that some of these infections are asymptotic meaning that you symptoms may not appear at all, or if they do they might not develop for weeks or months after you are initially infected. That’s why it’s important to get regularly tested for STIs and STDs, as well as practise safe sex by using condoms.
STI symptoms in women can range from unusual vaginal discharge that might be white, clear or greenish in appearance. Men may also notice discharge from the tip of the penis, this too might be yellow in colour and accompanied by itching and irritation.
How can I protect myself from an STI or STD?
To protect yourself from getting and passing on STIs you can wear a female or male condom, this needs to be in place before and during any sexual activity. You can also use a dental dam for oral sex which acts as a protective barrier between your mouth and your partner’s genitals.
The most effective way of protecting yourself from an STI or STD is to refrain from any sexual activity or to be in a monogamous relationship where both you and your partner have tested clear for any STIs. A great way to protect yourself and any partners is to get regularly tested for STDs especially when you begin a new relationship.
How can I protect myself from HPV?
HPV is spread through sexual contact including vaginal, anal and oral sex and the sharing of sex toys. Condoms can help to protect you; however, they do not cover all of the skin on the genital area and it is this skin to skin contact that helps HPV to be passed between partners.
There is a vaccine available which protects against many types of HPV including those which cause genital warts and cervical cancer. Find out more about the HPV vaccine and whether it is right for you today.
Which STIs are curable?
Many Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can be cured these include syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. If you think that you may have an STI you should get tested as soon as possible and if you are prescribed treatment, you need to take the full course to get rid of the infection.
Where can I get tested?
When you’re looking to get tested for an STI there are an array of options for you to choose from. Whether you would prefer to do the test yourself at home, visit your local sexual health clinic or book an appointment with your GP. LloydsPharmacy can offer a variety of STI testing kits for you to order and then complete at home or you can visit our Online Doctor for a confidential consultation online.
How can you catch an STI?
STIs and STDs can be contracted from unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex with someone who has the infection. You can also catch STIs by coming into contact with uncovered genitals or by getting infected fluids into your eyes or mouth. You cannot catch a sexually transmitted infection by kissing, hugging or sharing a towel with someone who has the infection.