Tell-Tale Signs That Could Indicate An STI

Everyone knows what a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is, but they don’t necessarily know just how many there are or the symptoms that they need to keep an eye out for.

Similarly, a common misconception is that all STIs can only be transferred by having unprotected sex – this is not the case. Some can be transferred by close contact, from coming in to contact with infection products or by even coming in to contact with infected blood.

Below is a list of some of the most common STIs within the UK and some of the most common symptoms to look out for.


The most common STI within the UK, many carriers will not experience any symptoms suggesting that they have chlamydia, therefore can carry the infection for many years which can lead to serious long-term health issues including infertility.

Some carriers will notice symptoms though, with the symptoms varying slightly between men and women. Men may experience a burning sensation with urinating, a discharge from the tip of their penis, or even tenderness in their testicles. Similarly, women may experience a similar burning sensation whilst urinating, vaginal discharge, lower abdominal pain during and/or after sex, bleeding during and/or after sex and a change to their periods, such as bleeding between periods or heavier periods.

Chlamydia can be determined with either a urine sample or a swab of the infected area, and is then treated with a course of antibiotics.

Genital warts

The second most common STI within the UK, after chlamydia, genital warts are typically small, fleshy bumps or noticeable skin changes within either the genital or anal area. Whilst typically there is no pain associated with genital warts, you may experience itching or redness, and occasionally this can cause them to bleed.

Caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), you don’t necessarily have to have penetrative sex in order to pass along or catch this infection as it’s spread by skin-to-skin contact. Advised treatments include creams to remove the infection or cryotherapy which will freeze the warts.

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a common STI caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), the same virus that causes cold sores.

Typically those infected will notice painful blisters within a few days of coming into contact with someone infected with it themselves. Unfortunately genital herpes can be treated antiviral medicines, but the infection will remain within your system. For many it will lie dormant, but there are triggers that can cause it to flare up again, with small blisters appearing and needing to be managed with further antiviral medicines.


As many as 50% of women and 10% of men don’t experience any symptoms for gonorrhoea, a bacterial STI that is easily transferred through sexual intercourse. Symptoms are similar to that of chlamydia; men can experience a burning sensation whilst they urinate, discharge from the tip of their penis and tender testicles. Similarly, women can experience pain or burning during urination, discoloured discharge (typically yellow or green), pain the lower abdomen during and/or following sex and a change to their periods, either bleeding during periods or an abnormally heavy period.

Gonorrhoea can be also be found in your rectum, throat and eyes. When you’re being tested for STIs you’ll be asked a number of questions to determine which areas will need to be tested, with a swab being taken from the potentially infected areas and treatment consisting of antibiotics. Again, similar to chlamydia, gonorrhoea can lead to long-term health issues, including infertility, if left untreated.


A bacterial infection, syphilis is relatively painless in the initial stages, but a tell-tale sign that you have it are sores either on your genitals or around your mouth that are highly infectious. These will typically last for around six weeks before disappearing. Following this you may get a rash, what feels like the flu and possibly even hair loss. Again, they should disappear after a few weeks, leaving you relatively symptom-free. Many years down the line, if it’s gone unnoticed and untreated, syphilis can lead to serious conditions, including heart problems, paralysis and even blindnesss.

Whilst the symptoms can be difficult to recognise, a blood test can determine whether or not you have the infection, which can then be treated with antibiotics or penicillin injections. If treated, the later stage symptoms and conditions can be avoided.


Not just to be passed on through unprotected sex, HIV can also be passed on by coming in to contact with infected blood, particularly for those who share needles, whether for drugs, steroids or similar.

The HIV virus makes it difficult for your body to fight off infections, illnesses and diseases by attacking and weakening your immune system. Whilst there is not yet a cure for HIV, there is medication available that can be taken on a daily basis allowing you to lead a long, otherwise healthy life. Symptoms to tip you off may include what appears to be the flu, a fever, a rash or a sore throat.

Regularly confused with AIDS, AIDS is in fact the final stage of the HIV infection. Unfortunately for those with AIDS the body can no longer fight off life-threatening illnesses and infections.

Again, a simple blood test will determine whether HIV or AIDS is present.

Public lice

More commonly known as ‘crabs’, pubic lice are easily passed on through sexual intercourse, with the pubic lice not just being transferred in pubic hair as you may think, but also armpit hair, beards and even eyebrows and eyelashes. They can’t be transferred by standing near someone, pubic lice can’t jump, they crawl from hair to hair.

You may not experience any symptoms for the first few weeks, but eventually you’ll experience increased and constant itching, and if you look close enough you may even see the lice and/or eggs on the infected hairs.

Fear not though, you don’t need to shave from head to toe if you have pubic lice. There are shampoos and creams available in most pharmacies, gum clinics and doctor surgeries that you can use to rid yourself of them.


Scabies can be passed on either through close body contact or sexual contact, as well as from contact with infected clothing, bedding and/or towels, and are basically tiny mites that burrow into your skin. The mites can be incredibly difficult to see, but symptoms include intense itching, particularly at night time, either on your genitals, between your fingers, on your wrist and ankles, under your arms and on/around your breasts.

This infection can sometimes be confused with a rash or eczema, but once diagnosed with this STI there are creams and shampoos available that can help to clear it up.

It’s worth nothing that this is not an extensive list of STIs and does not include all possible symptoms, these are just the most common. If you are concerned that you may have contracted an STI you should visit your doctor or nearest gum clinic for testing and treatment.

Pitch perfect Herpes giphy



Found in Sexual Health