what do you need to know?

All things sexual health

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Having a happy sex life starts with good sexual health, which you can only be confident of if you know what to look out for.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed from one person to another through unprotected sex or genital, oral or anal contact. Anyone who has sex can get an STI, you don’t need to have lots of sexual partners. 

So how might you know if you have a sexually transmitted infection? They can include:

  • unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
  • pain when peeing
  • lumps or skin growths around the genitals or bottom (anus)
  • a rash
  • unusual vaginal bleeding
  • itchy genitals or anus
  • blisters and sores around your genitals or anus
  • warts around your genitals or anus
  • warts in your mouth or throat, but this is very rare

You should never apply more than one condom at a time, some people do this because they believe it will be safer, but in fact quite the reverse is the case – doubling up can lead to friction and even breakages. Breakage can also occur too where any oil-based lubricants are used with a condom, so you should stick to water-based lube. Condoms also have an expiry date; this is in place to avoid the risk of them breaking due to age. The expiry date should always be looked at before use to avoid the risk of breaking and avoiding some sexual health diseases.

However, condoms can’t guard against everything – they’re not a catch-all and shouldn’t be treated as such. Certain sexually transmitted infections, like genital herpes, are spread by skin contact, so if you notice sores around your partner’s genitals you should remember condoms won’t protect you from it. There are also alternatives which are less well-known: dental dams, for instance, are squares of thin, soft plastic which are designed to cover the genitals or anus during oral sex.

Many STIs have no symptoms at all, like HIV. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.

You should book an appointment with a GP or go to a sexual health clinic if:

  • you have symptoms of an STI
  • a sexual partner has symptoms of an STI
  • you're worried after having sex without a condom
  • you're pregnant with symptoms of an STI

If you are worried about symptoms, you may be experiencing or would like to chat to one of our GPs about sexual health and how to stay safe, book an appointment with us today.

Or head to our Sexual Health page for more information on what we treat, as well as information on everything from general advice to contraception and family planning.

Last reviewed August 2022.

 

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