What are the symptoms of STIs?

STIs

Sexual health can be a sensitive subject to discuss. But when you visit your GP, you shouldn’t be worried or embarrassed. We want to help, and we want to ensure you get the right treatment and the right advice. Consultations are non-judgmental and completely confidential.

Sexual health screening is usually quick and hassle-free. It can include blood, urine and swab tests. There are range of conditions that doctors test for when patients come in with symptoms, or wish to have a screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

Symptoms of Chlamydia

Women: vaginal discharge, pain on passing urine, pelvis pain 

Men: penile discharge, pain on passing urine, testicular swelling / pain

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK.

In most patients the infection is asymptomatic – meaning that an infection is present but doesn’t cause any symptoms. This can potentially cause complications in the long term (see below) and there is a risk of passing on the infection without knowing.

In asymptomatic patients the only way on knowing you have the disease is by getting tested.

You are more at risk of getting chlamydia if you don’t use barrier contraception (condoms), have a new partner or multiple partners. If Chlamydia is untreated it can potentially lead to pelvic infections and infertility in females, and testicular infections in males.

The treatment is straight-forward with antibiotics – the most common options being a single dose or a one week course. 

We would generally advise testing after treatment to ensure the infection has cleared. In addition, it is important to refrain from intercourse until a week after treatment if you receive the single dose, or for the duration of antibiotic treatment. Patients testing positive for chlamydia should also be screened for other sexually transmitted infections as they can often co-exist.

Tests can be carried out by taking a swab sample or a urine test. 

Medication to treat infections caused by microbes (organisms that can't be seen with the naked eye), such as bacteria. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
A common sexually transmitted infection. Full medical glossary
A condition that is linked to, or is a consequence of, another disease or procedure. Full medical glossary
A means of preventing pregnancy. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
Relating to the pelvis. Full medical glossary
The bony basin formed by the hip bones and the lower vertebrae of the spine; also refers to the lower part of the abdomen. Full medical glossary
A way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to Full medical glossary
Absorbent material used to mop up bodily fluids, such as blood, for instance during an operation, or to take a sample for laboratory analysis. The term may also be used as a verb to mean the action of taking a swab Full medical glossary
Relating to the testicles. Full medical glossary
The muscula passage, forming part of the femal reproductive system, between the cervix and the external genitalia. Full medical glossary

Symptoms of Gonorrhoea

Men: The infection is men is usually symptomatic, causing penile discharge and pain when passing urine.

Women: Approximately half of women patients with the infection do not have symptoms. However, when symptoms do show themselves, they can include pelvic pain, vaginal discharge, pain on passing urine and heavy periods / bleeding between periods.

Gonorrhoea accounts for a significant number of sexually transmitted infections every year. Risk factors include having a new sexual partner or multiple partners, not using barrier contraception (condoms), anal intercourse and oral sex.

In addition to affecting the genital tract, gonorrhoea can affect the rectal and oropharyngeal tract. 

The treatment is most effective with a single dose of an antibiotic injection in combination with an oral antibiotic. All patients should have a repeat test after treatment to ensure clearance. Untreated gonorrhoea may lead to complications such as testicular infection and prostatitis in men. In females it may cause pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain and infertility.

Testing for gonorrhoea may be done by either a swab or urine sample. Any patient testing positive should also be screened for other sexually transmitted infections as they can often co-exist. We can offer high quality accurate testing with same day results.

A disease of long duration generally involving slow changes. Full medical glossary
A condition that is linked to, or is a consequence of, another disease or procedure. Full medical glossary
A means of preventing pregnancy. Full medical glossary
A sexually-transmitted disease caused by a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
Relating to the pelvis. Full medical glossary
Inflammation of the prostate, a gland that surrounds the urethra near the bladder. Full medical glossary
Relating to the rectum, the lowest part of the bowel leading to the anus. Full medical glossary
Absorbent material used to mop up bodily fluids, such as blood, for instance during an operation, or to take a sample for laboratory analysis. The term may also be used as a verb to mean the action of taking a swab Full medical glossary
Relating to the testicles. Full medical glossary
The muscula passage, forming part of the femal reproductive system, between the cervix and the external genitalia. Full medical glossary
GP consultation

Symptoms of Mycoplasma Genitalium

Mycoplasma Genitalium is a bacteria which can be sexually transmitted and cause symptoms in both males and females. Symptoms can be similar to other sexually transmitted infections, so testing specifically for mycoplasma is the only way to confirm infection.

Men: In men, symptoms include penile discharge and pain / stinging when passing urine.

Women: Women are often asymptomatic, in those that do have symptoms, these will include vaginal discharge, pain on passing urine, pelvic pain, bleeding in between periods or after intercourse.

If left untreated it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in females and testicular / epididymis infections in males. Treatment is usually with a course of antibiotics and retesting after treatment is recommended to ensure cure.

Testing for mycoplasma genitalium can be done by a swab or urine test. Any patient testing positive should also be screened for other sexually transmitted infections as they can often co-exist.

Symptoms of Trichomonas Vaginalis

Men: In male patients many cases can be picked up incidentally and there may be no symptoms. However, it may present in some males with penile discharge and pain on passing urine.

Women: The symptoms include vaginal discharge, genital itching, pain on passing urine and lower abdominal pain.

Trichomonas Vaginalis is a protozoan infection and one of the most common sexually transmitted infections worldwide.

Treatment is usually with an antibiotic called metronidazole – which can be given as a single high dose treatment or over the course of 1 week.

Testing for trichomonas is usually performed by doing a urine test. Any patient testing positive should also be screened for other sexually transmitted infections as they can often co-exist. We offer high quality accurate testing with results available within 48 hours.

Relating to the abdomen, which is the region of the body between the chest and the pelvis. Full medical glossary
Medication to treat infections caused by microbes (organisms that can't be seen with the naked eye), such as bacteria. Full medical glossary
A group of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye, which are usually made up of just a single cell. Full medical glossary
One of two tubes that carry sperm away from either testicle in a man. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
Relating to the pelvis. Full medical glossary
Fluid in which the blood cells are suspended. Full medical glossary
Single-celled, microscopic organisms, many of which are parasites. Full medical glossary
Absorbent material used to mop up bodily fluids, such as blood, for instance during an operation, or to take a sample for laboratory analysis. The term may also be used as a verb to mean the action of taking a swab Full medical glossary
Relating to the testicles. Full medical glossary
The muscula passage, forming part of the femal reproductive system, between the cervix and the external genitalia. Full medical glossary

Symptoms of Herpes 

The family of herpes viruses can cause a range of different conditions including chicken pox, shingles, cold sores and genital herpes simplex.

The herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2) is most commonly responsible for genital herpes infection, HSV1 can also cause genital infection but is more commonly associated with oral infections.

Men: Symptoms include a painful eruption of sores or blisters in the infected area (penis or the anus, mouth or wherever the virus has entered). There can be pain on passing urine and penile discharge. There may be flu like symptoms as well.

Women: Symptoms are similar to men, with the sores and blisters erupting around the vagina/ mouth or other areas of the body that have come into contact with the herpes infection.

The Herpes virus stays latent in the body and can be reactivated to cause subsequent infection with similar lesions which can take up to 10 days to resolve.

The family of herpes viruses can cause a range of different conditions including chicken pox, shingles, cold sores and genital herpes simplex.

The herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2) is most commonly responsible for genital herpes infection, HSV1 can also cause genital infection but is more commonly associated with oral infections.

There has been an increase in the prevalence of genital herpes especially in the men who have sex with men group. The infection can be passed on when having intercourse with a partner who has active symptoms and also in those that have had previous infection but are currently asymptomatic. Furthermore, a person with herpes may not have ever had any symptoms and can pass this on without knowing. Multiple partners and intercourse without condoms are also risk factors.

Treatment is with antivirals – if initiated early enough can cause a reduction in the severity of symptoms and reduce duration. In individuals having frequent attacks a long term daily course of low dose antivirals may be recommended to reduce the chance of an episode.

Testing can be via a urine test or a swab taken from any suspicious lesions in symptomatic patients. In those without symptoms a blood test can be taken to confirm infection – this is recommended for those patients who feel they may have been exposed to the herpes simplex virus. Results can be available withing 2 – 4 days depending on the test. 

Any patient testing positive should also be screened for other sexually transmitted infections as they can often co-exist.

A substance that acts against viruses, for example and antiviral drug. Full medical glossary
The external opening of the back passage, the rectum. Full medical glossary
A collection of fluid beneath the outer layer of the skin that forms a raised area. Full medical glossary
Raised areas on the skin formed by fluid collecting beneath the outer layer of the skin. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
A spot or blister around the mouth and nose area caused by infection with the herpes simplex virus Full medical glossary
A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
A sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. Full medical glossary
Herpes simplex virus Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
a general term to cover any abnormality such as a wound, infection, abscess or tumour. Full medical glossary
A painful rash caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus many years after chicken pox infection Full medical glossary
Absorbent material used to mop up bodily fluids, such as blood, for instance during an operation, or to take a sample for laboratory analysis. The term may also be used as a verb to mean the action of taking a swab Full medical glossary
The muscula passage, forming part of the femal reproductive system, between the cervix and the external genitalia. Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary
Microbes that are only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary
PREP

Symptoms of HIV

Men and women: Patients that contract HIV can sometimes present with a seroconversion illness - this is a flu-like illness which can present up to 6 weeks after exposure. In some patients, the only symptom may be a generalised and persistent increase in the size of glands (lymph nodes). However, in many patients there may be no symptoms for many years.

HIV is a retrovirus that can be spread through sexual intercourse, with the risk being higher in those not using condoms, having multiple partners and certain sexual practices such as anal intercourse. 

The virus attacks and weakens the immune system (CD4 T cells) which eventually leads to AIDS where the body is susceptible to infections that would not normally cause an issue in a healthy individual.

Developing AIDS is not inevitable - the advances in HIV treatment mean that if diagnosed and treated early enough the life expectancy is similar to that of an individual without HIV. This has been a huge advancement in recent years and emphasises the importance of early testing.

Testing for HIV can be done as early as 10 days after exposure by looking for the genetic code of the virus itself (HIV RNA), or after 28 days by testing for HIV antibodies (the immune system response after HIV infection) and a specific HIV protein (p24 antigen).

A post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can be offered to patients that have had high risk exposure - this involves taking anti-HIV medication for 28 days (consisting of 3 active drugs) and reduces the chance of developing HIV. It must be taken within 72 hours of high risk exposure (the earlier the better) for it to be effective. The medication does have side effects which can result in patient's not completing the course.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an option for HIV negative patients that are at high-risk of contracting HIV (e.g for individuals whose partner is HIV positive, men who have sex with men). This involves taking an anti-HIV medication (Truvada) on a daily basis or a short regime during the time of intercourse. Studies have shown PrEP greatly reduces the transmission of HIV. 

Dr Amarjit Raindi is a GP who practises at Twenty-five Harley Street Day Clinic, 25 Harley Street, London, W1G 9QW Telephone 020 3883 9525, or email appointments@25harleystreet.co.uk. Discreet sexual health screening is offered at Twenty-five Harley Street Day Clinic. Walk-in appointments from 8am to 8pm may be available.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a deficiency of the immune system due to infection with HIV. Full medical glossary
Special proteins in the blood that are produced in response to a specific antigen and play a key role in immunity and allergy. Full medical glossary
A substance that prompts the immune system to fight infection with antibodies. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
Relating to the genes, the basic units of genetic material. Full medical glossary
An organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. Full medical glossary
The abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus, which is the cause of AIDS. Full medical glossary
The organs specialised to fight infection. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
A watery or milky bodily fluid containing lymphocytes, proteins and fats. Lymph accumulates outside the blood vessels in the intercellular spaces of the body tiisues and is collected by the vessels of the lymphatic system. Full medical glossary
A condition resulting in brittle bones due to loss of bony tissue. Full medical glossary
pulmonary embolism Full medical glossary
treatment given or action taken to prevent disease Full medical glossary
Compounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
A way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to Full medical glossary
A tube placed inside a tubular structure in the body, to keep it patent, that is, open. Full medical glossary
A type of lymphocyte, a white blood cell that fights infection. Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary