STD Symptoms – Do I have an STD and should I be worried?
If you’re worried that you could have an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) or an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection), read on.
Although the terms STI and STD are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing, there are differences. You can be infected with a virus (STI), even if you show no symptoms, but this can develop over time into a disease (STD) which can be more serious.
A viral infection is often just the first step of the disease as it multiplies inside the body and establishes itself. When an infection begins to cause damage to cells in your body, disrupting its ability to function normally, this is when it is considered a disease.
For example, a virus such as HPV (Human Papillomavirus) can be carried by a woman who shows no symptoms at all. If this develops into cervical cancer, it’s now technically an STD because cancer is a disease. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea can also develop from STI infections into an STD such as pelvic inflammatory disease.
How do you get an STD or STI?
Specific infections can be transmitted from one person to another through penetrative vaginal or anal sex, oral sex or other forms of sexual activity.
Practising safe sex by using the correct protection significantly lowers the risk of catching an STI or developing an STD, but it’s not 100% effective.
Unless you’re in a long term monogamous relationship with one partner, if you’re sexually active, even if you’re practising safe sex, it’s always a good idea to schedule regular sexual health check-ups.
STI’s can be serious but most of the time they can be treated successfully with antibiotics, especially if they’re caught early on. If they’re left untreated, STI’s could lead to cancer, infertility and other serious problems. Some STI’s cause visible symptoms, but it’s also possible to have an STI and experience no symptoms at all.
What is the first sign of an STD or STI?
You might not notice that there’s anything different for a while, or even at all as many symptoms of STI’s can be hidden.
If an STI develops into an STD, this is when you’re more likely to notice any symptoms but it’s not guaranteed. Diseases like cervical cancer are notorious for going undetected, even if they’re at a considerably advanced stage.
The only way to ensure you’re free of STI’s or STD’s is to get a sexual health check from a qualified medical professional.
Common symptoms of STI and STD in men:
It’s common to experience no symptoms after contracting an STI, so if you haven’t noticed any of the below symptoms this doesn’t mean you’re clear of infection. Infection can also take days or weeks to manifest symptoms (if any). STI’s can also continue to progress despite a lack of symptoms.
If you do notice anything is wrong, physically, it will likely be in and around your genital area. The most common symptoms are:
- Experiencing no symptoms at all
- Painful urination
- Painful ejaculation
- Itching on or around the tip of the penis
- Rash on the penis, testicles, or groin
- Blisters on or around the penis
- Spots, bumps or lesions on the penis
- Discharge (clear, white, or yellow)
- Oozing from the tip of the penis (thick or thin)
You can also experience less common symptoms such as:
- Sore throat
- Chronic flu-like symptoms
- Pain in the testicles
- Swelling of the testicles
- Swelling of the epididymis (known as Epididymitis)
- Swelling of the urethra (known as urethritis)
- Swelling of non-sexual joints (elbow, knee, etc.)
- Rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding (after receiving anal sex)
Symptoms of STI and STD in women:
It’s possible for many women not to realise they’ve contracted an STI because they don’t experience any symptoms. STI’s can go undetected for years whilst they develop in the body, possibly developing into more long term problems like infertility and even, cancer. This is why it’s always important to get checked if you’ve had unprotected sex.
Any symptoms you may experience could take days, weeks or months to develop, however, some of the most common are:
- Experiencing no symptoms at all
- Painful urination or burning sensation
- Lower abdominal pain
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bleeding between periods
- Heavier periods than usual
- Painful bowel movements
- Itching around the genital and/or anal area
Treatment for STI and STD:
The treatment you need will depend on what kind of STI or STD you have. If the infection is bacterial like chlamydia or gonorrhoea, it can usually be cured with a course of prescribed antibiotics. If the infection is viral, like hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), or human papillomavirus (HPV), although it can not be cured, this would be managed long term with medication to reduce or eliminate symptoms.
Getting tested for STI and STD:
If you’ve had unprotected sex, the best thing to do is to book in a sexual health check-up asap. You can book an appointment quickly at your local sexual health clinic, but you may have to wait a few days or more for your results. If you want results quickly, you could book with a trusted private doctors clinic.
Discreet, comprehensive sexual health screenings and private STI and STD testing can be arranged at any one of our private clinics in London, even at short notice. Appointments are just 15 minutes – so you can schedule them around your day.
You can get same-day results on many of the tests, as well as treatment and medication. Some results are even available within 4 hours. All results will be explained in full by a doctor by phone, email or text.
Reviewed by: Dr Preethi Daniel, GP & Clinical Director at London Doctors Clinic
Published: February 2020
Review Date: February 2022