Get your gonorrhoea gone-horroea

Gonorrhoea and genital herpes are the most common STIs in Ireland. With symptoms so hard to detect, the importance of being checked regualrly should be emphasised.

According to the latest Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) surveillance report by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), there was an 11% increase in cases in 2017. Overall, there were 13,629 people diagnosed with an STI in Ireland in 2017. This was a 5% increase in STIs in Ireland compared to 2016.

In 2017, there were 5,200 15-24 year olds diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhoea or herpes. The majority of people know the names of STIs but have no idea what they actually are. Some STIs can cause serious health problems if left untreated. This guide gives the ins and outs of the three most common STIs in Ireland, chlamydia, gonorrhoea and herpes.

Chlamydia is the most common STI in young people, making up 50% of all STI cases reported by the HSPC in 2017 (62% female and 38% male). According to sexualwellbeing.ie, most people with chlamydia don’t experience any symptoms and if they do occur, they are more likely to develop between one and 28 days after sexual contact with someone who has the infection.

There are no symptoms in half of the men who get infected. The symptoms include discharge from the tip of the penis, pain or discomfort while peeing, bowel symptoms such as diarrhoea, pain, mucus discharge or bleeding from the back passage and pain and swelling in one or both testicles.

In women, there are no symptoms in 7 out of 10 women with the infection but some that can occur are bleeding after sex, bleeding between periods, change in your normal vaginal discharge, pain in your abdomen and pain when peeing. Chlamydia infections are easily treated with antibiotics.

Gonorrhoea is the second most common STI in Ireland and is a curable bacterial infection which can infect the cervix (neck of the womb), the uterus (womb), urethra (the tube through which you pass urine, fallopian tubes, ovaries, testicles, rectum, pharynx (throat) and sometimes the eyes.

Men can have symptoms such as discharge from the penis or burning pain when peeing. One in 10 men will not have any symptoms. Seven out of 10 women have no symptoms. Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics.

Genital herpes is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two HSV types – type one and type two. The two viruses are similar and both can cause ulcers and blisters. Genital herpes is common in Ireland and is mostly diagnosed in young women 81% were female in 2017.

Most people with the herpes virus don’t experience any symptoms when they are first infected and don’t even know that they have it. If you do get symptoms, the first outbreak will usually be the most severe. It takes between two and 12 days after contact with the virus for the first symptoms of genital herpes to appear.

These can be red bumps or multiple spots around the genital area and can be very painful. The swellings can break open and form sores or ulcers. You may also have swollen glands in your groin, flu-like symptoms and a feeling of being unwell. You can also feel pain when passing urine.

The virus can remain dormant in the nerve cells in the affected area of your body after the initial infection. The dormant virus can reactivate and cause you to have recurrences. If genital herpes comes back, you will usually just suffer minor symptoms and these will heal up quickly even without treatment.

“There have been several awareness campaigns in DCU since September. Hopefully, the message got through regarding the importance of using condoms at all times. We provide condoms and students can help themselves when supplies are available”, said Head of the Student Health Centre, Jessie Byrne.

Clara Caslin

Image Credit: fpv.org