Bupa Health Clinics research shows that a high number of us don't prioritise our sexual health.

New research based on internal Google search habits January 2021 to June 2022.

The UK’s biggest sexual health concerns

‘Swollen testicle with pain’

Searches for this term have increased by an alarming 243% from May 2021 to June 2022. Volumes have increased considerably from October 2021 to March 2022.

If you’re suffering with painful or swollen testicles, regardless of whether you’ve ever had unprotected sex, you should always speak to a health professional. Although it’s rare, swollen, painful testicles can also be a sign of testicular cancer so you should always visit your GP to check you over.

More commonly, painful or swollen testicles can be caused by an infection, including gonorrhoea or chlamydia. If you’ve ever had unprotected sex, there’s a chance you could have picked up an STI. Some people may find that they suffer with testicle pain and swelling for a short period of time and then it goes away. But, you should still always speak to your GP about your symptoms so they can investigate what caused them.

‘Green discharge meaning’

This keyword has seen a 200% increase in searches from July 2021 to June 2022. Green discharge is more likely to affect females – and isn’t always necessarily a sign of an STI. But, I’d always recommend that you speak to a health professional if you have any concerns over the appearance or odour of your discharge.

Most people with a vagina are likely to get discharge. It’s a normal substance that the vagina produces to keep itself clean and healthy. However, if you have had unprotected sex, a change in the colour, odour, or texture of your discharge can be one of the first warning signs of an infection.

If you notice any such changes, please see a health professional for appropriate testing and treatment.

‘Burning sensation while urinating’

From July 2021 to June 2022, searches for ‘burning sensation while urinating’ have increased by 120%. Huge volumes were seen consistently between August 2021 and January 2022.

There are lots of reasons that you might feel a burning sensation when you pass urine (pee). Whatever the cause, you should always get it investigated by a health professional. Pain when you pee can be caused by urinary tract infections (UTIs), urethritis and prostate conditions. But it can also be a symptom of sexually transmitted infections. These include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and genital herpes.

The good news is that treatment for most STIs is usually a simple course of antibiotics, antivirals, creams or liquids. It’s important to keep on top of your sexual health to avoid future health complications and passing any infections on to others.

‘Painful intercourse’

Sex should be something that’s safe and enjoyable for everyone. But some problems can lead to painful sex. Painful intercourse can have several causes. These include generalised illness, physical problems around the genitalia, pelvis or abdomen, psychological problems, or infections. Google search volumes suggest more people have been having painful sex in the UK from October 2021. That’s a 127% increase.

Several STIs can lead to pain during sex. So bear this in mind if you’ve ever had sexual contact without using a condom, as it means that you may need a sexual health check. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital herpes, and trichomoniasis can lead to painful sex for both males and females. It can lead to other infections affecting the vagina, for those that have one.

If sex hurts, it’s important to find out what’s causing the pain. A health professional can help you find the right treatment.

‘Itching in private male area’

Itchy genitals are uncomfortable and inconvenient, especially if you’re out in public. Google search volumes show that those with male genital anatomy have been struggling with this issue. Searches for the phrase ‘itching in private male area’ have increased by 83% between summer 2021 and summer 2022.

If you’re feeling itchy down there, it’s best to avoid any sexual contact until you know what’s causing it. Possible causes include irritation from grooming, pubic lice or a fungal infection. Or it could be a sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital herpes, or genital warts.

An STI check will help identify or rule out any concerns and help put you on the right course of treatment.

New research based on internal Google search habits January 2021 to June 2022.

Dr Puri answers some common questions about sexually transmitted infections and tests

It’s easy to quickly Google a symptom, but it’s important to remember that not all information on the internet is regulated. This means that you may be directed to information or advice that’s inaccurate at best, or harmful at worst.

Some symptoms can have complex causes, so it should always be a trained clinician that helps guide you through to any necessary treatment. For example, painful urination could be due to a sexually transmitted infection, but it could also be due to a bladder infection or kidney stones. A doctor with the right knowledge and expertise is far better than a simple search online that may lead you down the wrong path.

Having regular tests helps to identify any infections at an early stage. And they stop you from spreading them to your partner(s). If you have an STI that doesn’t have any symptoms, you could be passing it on to others without realising. Spotted early, sexually transmitted infections are easier to treat. And this means you’re less likely to develop complications or potentially serious sexual health problems in the future. For example, chlamydia and gonorrhoea can lead to impaired fertility in some people if they’re not treated soon enough.

It might be tempting to think that you’re sexually healthy if you’re able to have pain-free, enjoyable sex. But some STIs don’t have any symptoms, making them impossible to know about unless you have an STI check.

STIs spread through sexual activity. The person with the infection passes infected bacteria, viruses or parasites on to another person without. You can catch an STI from any form of unprotected sex where the infection can travel from one person to another. This includes vaginally, orally, or anally. You can also catch an STI if you have genital contact with someone who’s infected, or if you share sex toys.

Not all STIs are curable. The cause of the infection and length of time you’ve had it can affect the options for treatment. Generally, infections caused by bacteria clear up with antibiotic treatment. Some infections caused by viruses can be managed, but it’s not always possible to be fully cured of them. Examples include herpes (HSV) and HIV.

Bupa has a range of sexual health services using urine, swab, and blood tests to detect possible sexual infections. Our health advisers will welcome and support you in our private health clinics. And so will our specially trained doctors, if you book a check that includes them as part of the consultation.

STI checks themselves do not take long at all. Taking swabs, providing a urine sample, and collecting blood from your arm only takes minutes. The only thing that we ask is that you don’t pass urine (pee) for an hour before providing your urine sample.

And don't worry about long wait times. With Bupa’s sexual health services, you can book an appointment on a day and at a time that’s convenient for you.

Anyone who’s had any new sexual partners or unprotected sex since their last sexual health check should have at least one comprehensive sexual health check every year. Whether you’re in a committed relationship or not, regular STI tests can help pick up any infections. This is important so you can get early treatment to prevent health issues further down the line.

Frequent STI tests are especially important if:

  • you’re under 25
  • you have more than one partner
  • have sex without condoms
  • you take part in any activities that could be considered high risk for transmission of STIs

Learn more about STIs and sexual health

Our health information covers some common sexually transmitted infections and ways to protect yourself.

Book a sexual health check today

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Bupa private GP services are provided by Bupa Occupational Health Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 631336. Registered office: 1 Angel Court, London EC2R 7HJ. Bupa GP appointments are only available to persons aged 18 years and older.

Anytime HealthLine is provided by Bupa Occupational Health Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 631336. Registered office: 1 Angel Court, London, EC2R 7HJ. Bupa Anytime HealthLine is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Page last reviewed: 10/10/2023

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