Sexually transmitted infection: What you need to know about STI and symptoms

Whether you are straight or gay, married or single, you are vulnerable to sexually transmitted infection (STI) and STI symptoms. An STI is an infection that can be transmitted from person to person when having anal sex, vaginal sex or oral sex. There are different types of STI you can get when having sex, which can have different symptoms.

Types of STI

The most common STIs in the UK include:

  • genital herpes
  • gonorrhea
  • anogenital warts
  • hepatitis B
  • hepatitis C
  • trichomonas
  • Chlamydia
  • pubic lice
  • syphilis, and
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Symptoms of each of these STIs can vary depending on, among other things, the parts of the body affected. For example, people infected with an STI can have local symptoms affecting the genitals or symptoms that affect other parts of the body.

General symptoms of STI

The most common symptoms of STI to look out for include:

  • A discharge from the vagina
  • A discharge from the penis
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • A sore, rash, ulcer, or lump that appears on the penis or around the vagina, vulva or anus
  • Pain when passing urine (although this is often caused by urine infection not an STI)
  • Pain when having sex
  • Swelling of the glands in your groin.

When no STI symptoms show

In many cases, people who are infected with an STI show no STI symptoms but can still pass on the infection to others. If you think that you may have an STI or have been exposed to an STI, see a doctor as soon as possible even if no symptoms develop. Thinking or hoping you don’t have an STI is not a safe bet—you need to know for sure, and get treated if you are infected.

STI treatments

Many STIs can be cured with antibiotics. However, some like HIV have no cure, although these can be managed with drugs to prevent them getting worse.

Don’t panic if you suspect you have an STI or feel too embarrassed if you have STI symptoms. Just visit your doctor to find out what’s causing the symptoms, and get treated.

If you don’t see a doctor and an STI is left untreated, it can cause great discomfort, increase risk of acquiring other STI like HIV and or even lead to infertility.

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