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7 Common STI symptoms

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are extremely common – anyone with an STI can pass it to others by having vaginal, oral and anal sex, and through contact with skin, genitals, mouth, rectum and bodily fluids.

By educating yourself on the facts and getting regular STI checks, you’ll be doing your bit to take care of your sexual health. If you are at all concerned that you might have an STI, it’s important to remember that support is at hand. An STI check will ensure you’re given the right advice to manage any symptoms, and help avoid any further spread of infection to current or future sexual partners.


What to look out for

1. Discharge that is not normal for you

Discharge is often normal, helping to keep the vagina healthy. However, if you’re noticing unusual discharge from the vagina (or penis) it could signal that you have an STI.

Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and trichomoniasis are often accompanied by a discharge that is noticeably unusual. Change in smell, and/or colour are things to look out for.


2. Stinging, burning, tingling or itching

Stinging, tingling or itching in the genital or anal area could signal genital herpes.

In men, itching and burning in the genital area could be chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Itching, swelling and soreness of the penis could be trichomoniasis.

In women, itching, soreness and swelling of the vagina (that can affect the inner thigh area) could be trichomoniasis.


3. Painful genital swelling

Penis, testicles or foreskin

Uncomfortable swelling of the foreskin could be gonorrhoea; a sore and swollen penis could be trichomoniasis.

Vulva and vagina

Vaginal and vulval itching, swelling and soreness could be trichomoniasis or herpes.


4. Burning while peeing, or more frequent peeing

Pain when peeing could be chlamydia, with a burning feeling sometimes signalling gonorrhoea.

In women, pain while peeing could be trichomoniasis.

In men, pain while peeing and while ejaculating, plus needing to pee more often could be a symptom of trichomoniasis.


5. Tenderness in the lower abdomen

Pain or tenderness in the tummy could be gonorrhoea. Lower abdominal and pelvic pain could signal chlamydia.

In women, lower abdominal pain could be trichomoniasis and this can be accompanied by green discharge that smells unusual.


6. Pain or bleeding during sex

In women, bleeding during or after sex – plus abdominal pain at all times, often accompanied by unusual discharge – could signal chlamydia. Pain during sex and while peeing could be trichomoniasis. Bleeding after sex can also be a sign of unbalanced flora, or cervical ectropian, a condition where cells inside the cervix develop outside of it, causing redness and inflammation.

In men, pain during ejaculation and while peeing could be trichomoniasis.


7. Sores and blisters

Small fluid-filled blisters which burst and leave painful, itchy and burning sores in the genital area, anus, buttocks or upper thighs could be genital herpes or HPV.

Small painless sores on the vagina, penis or anus could be the initial stage of syphilis.

While this symptoms’ list is a guide, it’s by no means exhaustive and you may experience other symptoms. The best way to find out whether you have an STI is to visit a clinic where you can have a comprehensive screening.


Do STIs always cause symptoms?

Even if you are not experiencing any symptoms, you can still have an STI. The only way you can really be sure about whether you have an infection is to have a screening.

Scheduling regular sexual health screenings will help you to identify an STI that might not carry symptoms, early on.


How can I get checked for STIs?

There are many convenient ways to get tested, from mail tests that can be carried out at home, to examinations in a clinic, carried out by an experienced doctor.


How can STIs be treated?

Many STIs can be treated with a short course of antibiotics. Certain STIs such as HIV aren’t curable, but they can be effectively treated with medicines called antiretroviral therapy (ART) that work to control the virus, prevent it from getting worse, and suppress it so it’s undetectable in your bloodstream.


How can I protect myself from STIs?

The best way to avoid STIs is to use a condom, though it’s important to remember that STIs can be spread orally, too. If you test positive for any STI, we can help advise you on how to communicate this with any sexual partners, and encourage them to get tested, too. We can also help to guide you on the best ways to treat your infection, and give you advice that will help mitigate the chances of getting an STI in future.


Visiting our clinic for a sexual health check

Whether you’re visiting us as part of your regular sexual health check-up schedule, or you have a new symptom and you’re concerned it could be an STI, a visit to The Medical Chambers can give you peace of mind.

A typical STI screening with one of our experienced doctors will involve them giving you a genital examination, taking a swab from your vagina (or penis), and taking a blood or urine sample. Your doctor will want to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible throughout, so they’ll talk you through what they plan to do at every stage.

You can learn more by telephoning us on 020 7244 4200 or you can make an appointment online.