Facts about sexually transmitted diseases
With temperatures soaring across the country, many Brits find themselves dealing with chapped and dry lips due to increased sun exposure.
However, sharing lip products, such as chapsticks or lip balms may pose a risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), according to consultant gynaecologist Mr Dirk Brinkmann from Spire Hospital.
Mr Dirk said: “If someone has oral herpes and uses lip balm soon after oral sex, the lip balm may carry the infection.”
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) recently reported a 24 percent rise in STIs in England in 2022, with a total of 392,453 cases.
While patients with STIs are often treated with antibiotics, some symptoms can go undetected, leading to the development of more serious issues.
Mr Dirk warned that untreated STIs can increase the risk of acquiring another STI, including HIV. He said: “Untreated STIs can cause a range of complications and long-term health problems, including permanent infertility, as well as an increased risk of gynaecological cancer.”
Research has already established a link between oral sex and various forms of cancer, including those affecting the penis, anus, vagina, vulva, throat, and head. This is due to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can be transmitted through any form of skin-to-skin contact, including kissing and sexual activity.
There are more than 200 different strains of HPV, with HPV16 and HPV18 being responsible for most HPV-related cancers. While many strains are considered low risk, it is essential to be aware of the potential dangers associated with certain types.
Lesser known HIV symptoms
Mr Dirk has highlighted the lesser-known symptoms of STIs which are often overlooked. For example, heavy periods in women can sometimes be a sign of an STI such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Early HIV infections can be mistaken for flu-like symptoms, including headaches, fever, chills, weakness, and a sore throat.
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can be misinterpreted as an upset stomach as they can spread quickly to the pelvic and abdominal areas, causing abdominal pain. They may also cause joint pain resembling arthritis and eye infections. Body rashes and hives can be mistaken for allergic reactions, despite being caused by HIV or syphilis infections.
If you suspect you have been exposed to an STI, it is crucial to seek medical attention. Mr Dirk said: “This may include urine tests, blood tests and swab tests, where cells are collected from your genitals, mouth, skin, throat and/or bottom using a swab. You can also have a physical examination.”
The NHS has provided a list of warning signs for STIs that individuals should be aware of, including:
- Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
- Pain during urination
- Lumps or skin growths around the genitals or anus
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Itching in the genital or anal area
- Blisters and sores around the genitals or anus
- Warts around the genitals or anus
- Warts in the mouth or throat (rare).
STIs are typically transmitted through sexual activity or intimate contact. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites passed between partners during oral, vaginal, or anal sex if a condom is not used. Infections can also occur non-sexually through pregnancy or childbirth, blood transfusions, shared needles, and skin-to-skin contact.
The NHS explains that the most common STIs include:
- Genital warts
- Genital herpes
- Pubic lice
- Human papillomavirus (HPV).
This article was crafted with the help of AI tools, which speed up Express.co.uk’s editorial research. A news editor reviewed this content before it was published. You can report any errors to [email protected].
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