VISITING the doctor is something few of us enjoy, but when it's about something down there then it can be even more frightening.
But now embarrassed patients can send photos of their genitals to a doctor for medical advice.
Private sexual health testing provider, Better2Know, is offering a service where its doctors will check the sensitive images for signs of STIs.
Patients asked to send an email with pictures of their physical symptoms – such as lumps, rashes or blemishes – to a private inbox.
They can use a "unique PIN number" instead of their name so that they can't be identified, the clinic says.
A team of advisers then monitor the inbox and will arrange for an experienced doctor to take a look.
After examining the images, a doc will then discuss their thoughts with the patient over the phone and advise them on their next steps.
They won't be given a diagnostic test or offered treatment at this stage – instead, advised on whether to attend a sexual health clinic.
For those who are still too anxious to go in person they can request a self-administered testing kit to be sent via post.
Depending on the results, patients will still need to go to a clinic to get the appropriate treatment.
The cost of the photo consultation service, which was launched earlier this week, costs an eye-watering £160.
A face-to-face appointment at a Better2Know clinic costs £50 less at £110.
But the clinic hopes that it will help boost the number of people getting screened for STIs after figures show face-to-face consultations have fallen.
Anthea Morris, co-founder of Better2Know, said: "Some patients can, understandably, feel a little anxious about getting tested for an STI, especially if it is their first time getting a checkup.
"Our hope is that the photo consultation service will be the first step for many on a journey towards better sexual health and receiving a diagnosis, advice and treatment where necessary.
This will be the first step for many on a journey towards better sexual health and receiving a diagnosis
"However, STIs do not always produce visible symptoms, so it is important for people who are sexually active to get tested regularly – regardless of whether or not they are experiencing any visible indications of an STI."
It's hoped the service could provide people with a faster diagnosis to prevent the spread of STIs and avoid delays in treatment.
If left untreated some STIs can cause infertility, blindness, paralysis and in some rare cases, even death.
Face-to-face consultations in sexual health clinics have fallen by 85,000.
The total number of contacts with sexual health services has dropped by 245,000 since 2015/16.
Figures from Public Health England show about 420,000 STIs were diagnosed in England in 2017.
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