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How do you know if you have an STI?

17th March 2020

The simple answer is that there’s often no way to know if you have an STI. Sexually transmitted infections are extremely common (especially in those aged 16-24) but a lot of them don’t produce any symptoms, meaning that you could have one (and pass it on) without realising.

However, some people do experience STI symptoms and there are a few things to look out for.

Discharge

Female discharge is perfectly natural and is the vagina’s way of cleaning itself. However, you should keep an eye out for any changes in this discharge.

If your discharge has a strange odour, is green or yellow in colour or has a different consistency than normal then it could well be a sign of an STI like Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea.

Similarly, any discharge from the penis should be checked out, as men don’t naturally produce this day-to-day.

Discharge in men or women isn’t always a sign of a sexually transmitted infection, but it could be a sign of another infection such as Thrush. The best thing is to be familiar with your body and if anything changes, get it checked.

Itching

There are a number of reasons that your genitals could itch, including skin conditions or fungal infections (like jock itch). But this could also be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection so it’s important to get regularly tested to be able to rule this out.

Pain urinating

If you begin to notice a burning sensation when peeing then you should get it checked out. Although the most common cause of this is normally a urinary tract infection (which are more common in women than men), it could also be caused by a number of different STI’s such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, genital herpes or trichomoniasis.

Common STI’s could also cause changes in urination (including changes in your urine stream) or pain in your stomach or during sex.

Lumps and bumps

The most obvious sign of a sexually transmitted infection is a physical bump or lesion around your genitals. These can appear as a single one or multiple, and can be anywhere around the genitals, including the anus.

If the bump appears as a fleshy lump or is cauliflower-like in texture then this could be a sign of genital warts, whereas if it’s more of a blister or sore then this is more likely to be genital herpes or chancroid.

Alternatively, any lumps or bumps around the genitals could be something harmless like a spot or an ingrown hair. The best thing to do is visit your GP or sexual health clinic to put your mind at rest.

Irregular bleeding

This one applies more to women than men but is an important one. While bleeding in between periods or noticing irregular spotting can simply be related to your hormonal contraceptive, it can also be a sign of something else.

Bleeding irregularly or bleeding after sex could indicate that you have contracted an STI, and it can also be a sign of certain cancers. This is a problem that you shouldn’t ignore and should get looked at by a medical professional.

What do I do if I think I have an STI?

If you are experiencing any concerning symptoms then you should visit your GP or sexual health clinic for a sexual health check This may seem daunting or embarrassing but it doesn’t take long and will ensure you’re able to get the right treatment (if required).

Even if you don’t currently have any symptoms of any sexually transmitted infections, then it’s advisable to get yourself checked every 6 months or after every new partner. Be sure to practise safe sex by using condoms and educating yourself on your sexual health.