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Anderson-type urethral irrigator, England, 1920-1940

Injected into the urethra, Anderson's urethral irrigator was used to wash out the urethra using a strong antiseptic. In the 1930s, this was a standard treatment for the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea. The solutions used ranged from potassium permanganate to silver nitrate as well as commonly occurring compounds such as the tannic acid found in some plants. These solutions also caused damage while they were ‘curing’ the patient, irritating sensitive tissues. Irrigation was a typical treatment prescribed in STI clinics, or venereal clinics as they were then known, until antibiotics were introduced in the 1940s.

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    Glossary: urethral irrigator

    No description.

    Glossary: sexually transmitted infection

    Any disease transmitted by sexual intercourse. STIs include HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhoea, some chlamydia infections and genital herpes.

    Glossary: gonorrhoea

    A sexually transmitted infection that affects the genital membranes of either sex. Symptoms include a yellowish discharge from the genitals.

    Glossary: antibiotic

    A substance that is used to treat infections.