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STIs and Valentine's Day

Dr Tom Micklewright photo

Created: 12 February, 2019

Updated: 14 February, 2019

Valentine’s Day and health aren’t typically part of the same conversations, and more often than not, they should be. Memorable though February 14th can be, it pays to take stock and address an elephant in the room in the form of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Reviewing our consultation data from March 2018, only a few weeks after Valentine’s Day, we were surprised at some of our findings – many of which run contrary to what you might expect to see so close to the festivities.

STI Consultations

We start with the gender split in STI consultations. Through March 2018 alone, men had twice as many STI consultations as women – a finding which doesn’t necessarily suggest that men were more frequently affected by STIs, rather that they may be more willing to speak to a doctor about STI concerns sooner, when compared to women. The age split in STI consultations is surprising, however. While we might expect STIs to be most prevalent in 18-25 year olds, it is instead 36-45 year olds where STI consultations were most prevalent. In just one month, we saw six times as many 36-45 year olds having STI consultations than 18-25 or 46-55 year olds, who were roughly equal in terms of volume of consultations. Even when we add together all of our consultations for 18-25, 46-55 and 56+ year olds, the total sits at three times less than the total consultations in 36-45 year olds.

Diagnosis Statistics

Luckily, around half of the consultations in January, February and March 2018 were speculative – consultations that did not lead to a formal STI diagnosis. That is not to say that these consultations were in vain. The reassurance and certainty that a doctor can provide is palpable, and being able to see a doctor the same day your concerns start, is the exact kind of situation that made us start Push Doctor in the first place. The most prominent diagnoses across all three months, and both men and women, were genital herpes, chlamydia and genital warts. This falls exactly in line with expectations, as all three have been the most common STI diagnoses in England since 2008. Lastly, perhaps the least surprising finding of all – we gave daily consultations about erectile dysfunction in the seven days leading up to Valentine’s Day 2018.

STI symptoms to look out for

As chlamydia, genital herpes and genital warts are the three most contracted STIs in England today, it is worth revisiting the commonly reported symptoms associated with each.

Chlamydia

 

Symptoms for men

Symptoms for women

  • A burning sensation during urination

  • Discharge from the penis

  • Testicular pain

  • A burning sensation during urination

  • Discharge from the vagina

  • Pelvic pain

  • Pain or bleeding during or after sex

  • Heavier periods than normal



70% of women and 50% of men with chlamydia will have no obvious symptoms, making the STI one of the toughest to identify yourself. That is not to diminish the damage it can cause, however, so do not hesitate to see a doctor if you think there is a chance you might have contracted chlamydia.

Genital warts

 

Symptoms for men

Symptoms for women

  • Presence of small, fleshy lumps of skin:

    • Anywhere on the penis or scrotum

    • Inside the urethra

    • Inside or around the anus

    • On the upper thigh

  • Presence of small, fleshy lumps of skin:

  • Anywhere on the vulva or cervix

  • Inside the vagina

  • Inside or around the anus

  • On the upper thigh

 

Genital warts are usually painless, but those found in the urethra or anus can cause blockages that lead to bleeding, so any unusual lumps are worth asking one of our doctors to confirm – or you risk passing the infection on.

Genital herpes 

 

Symptoms for men

Symptoms for women

  • Blisters on the genitals, upper thighs and backside that may burst and heal over – but don’t usually scar

  • Pain when urinating

  • Flu-like symptoms including aching muscles

  • Blisters on the genitals, upper thighs and backside that may burst and heal over – but don’t usually scar

  • Pain when urinating

  • Flu-like symptoms including aching muscles

  • Vaginal discharge

 

80% of people with genital herpes don’t realise they have it, or experience such mild symptoms that they are barely noticeable. When symptoms are present, they can last for around three weeks – and even once the symptoms have disappeared, the herpes simplex virus will remain in your system, and can be reactivated at any time.

The best protection against STIs available is contraception, though while all forms of contraception will dramatically reduce the chance of you or your partner getting pregnant, only condoms offer protection against STIs. For more information about any form of contraception, speak to a doctor or visit our dedicated sexual health pages.

 

Topics: Expert health advice, Women's health, Men's health