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Whether you've just been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection or suspect you have one, it's useful to know exactly what each one is, as well as the possible causes and treatments. Our experts look at some of the main questions surrounding various STIs.

What is gonorrhoea?

Dr Rosemary Leonard

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection. It can affect the penis, the vagina, and also the throat and the anus. The most common symptom in men is the discharge from the penis and women may get vaginal discharge as well though this is not always the case. Women can be infected and have no symptoms at all. Gonorrhoea is particularly dangerous infection in women as it can spread up from vagina to womb and the fallopian tubes where it can cause inflammation which can lead to infertility.

If you suspect you may have caught gonorrhoea or just like a general check-up, you can go to your GP, or better still to a sexual health clinic where you can get the results straight away. Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics so the sooner you go and see a doctor the better.

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What is herpes?

Dr Rosemary Leonard

Herpes is caused by a viral infection with the herpes simplex virus. It causes tingling of the skin and then sores which look like blisters which are painful as well. It’s passed from person to person via direct skin contact. The most common place you see herpes lesions is around the mouth, cold sores, but you can also get them in genital area as well.

Once the virus is entered in the body unfortunately it can stay within a nerve root and then it can reappear at a later date but in the same place as the original viral infection causing a reoccurrence of the blisters. Anti-viral tablets can help heal herpes lesions but they are most effective if taken as soon as possible. So, if you think you may have herpes, please go and see a doctor as soon as you can.

What is syphilis?

Dr Rosemary Leonard

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection and though it can occur in anyone, it’s most common in men who have sex with men. It can also be transmitted from pregnant mother to her unborn child. The first symptom of syphilis is normally a painless ulcer which is usually on the genital area and if this is left untreated, many months or years later, the infection can spread the other parts of the body including the heart and the brain.

Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. It’s diagnosed via a blood test and this can be done either at your GP’s surgery or at sexual health clinic. All pregnant women in the UK are routinely tested for syphilis.

What is urethritis infection?

Dr Rosemary Leonard

Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra which is the passage from the bladder to the tip of the penis. It causes pain on passing urine, discomfort and also usually some form of discharge. It can be caused by a variety of different organisms including gonorrhoea, chlamydia and sometimes the organism cannot be identified. It’s treated with antibiotics.

How do you get trichomoniasis?

Dr Rosemary Leonard

Trichomonas is a sexually transmitted infection. In women, it causes itching, sometimes some soreness and frothy discharge. Men may get slight stinging on passing urine but often have no symptoms at all. It’s treated with a large dose of antibiotics. If either you or your partner is diagnosed with trichomonas then it is important to have both tested to check that you are both clear at the end of treatment.