The topic of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and their signs and symptoms is quite complex - many are known to show clear symptoms whereas a handful of STIs can go undetected as they show little to no symptoms at all; which is why it’s so important to screen your sexual health on a regular basis.

See also: Common Symptoms of STDs


Can STIs go undetected?


A significant number of STIs show no symptoms at all so it’s quite easy for the infection to go unnoticed [1].

Having said that, if you have an inkling that you may have contracted an STI - it’s important to get screened to rule out any potential infections for both you and your partner’s health.

See also: What Are The Most Common STDs?


Which STIs don’t show symptoms?


Chlamydia


Commonly referred to as the ‘silent’ infection, Chlamydia often doesn’t bring with it any symptoms - making it easy for the infection to go under the radar.

Should symptoms appear, they usually develop around 1-3 weeks after sexual contact with somebody carrying the infection [3].

The most common symptoms in women can include:

  • Painful urination
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Bleeding between periods

The most common symptoms in men can include:

  • Painful urination
  • Unusual discharge from the penis
  • Testicular pain, tenderness or swelling
  • Burning or itching in the urethra

See also: Does Chlamydia Cause Long Term Damage?


Gonorrhoea


Gonorrhoea is the second most commonly reported STI in the world - almost anyone who is sexually active can contract it [4].

Most men and women with Gonorrhoea experience no symptoms at all - when women do have symptoms, it’s common for them to be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection [4].

If symptoms do occur, the most common in women include:

  • Increased need to urinate
  • White, beige or green discharge from the vagina
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Heavy periods
  • Spotting between periods

The most common symptoms in men can include:

  • Increased need to urinate
  • White, yellow, beige or green discharge or drip from the penis
  • Swelling/pain of the penis or testicles
  • Redness or swelling at the opening of the penis
  • A sore throat

Genital Herpes


CDC notes that in the United States, one out of every six people aged 14-49 has genital herpes [5].

The symptoms of Genital Herpes are so mild that most people who contract it don’t even realise. After the initial infection, the virus can lie dormant in your body and reactivate multiple times a year.

If symptoms do occur, the most common include:

  • Small blisters around your genitals, anus, thighs or bottom
  • Tingling, burning or itching around your genitals
  • Painful urination

See also: How Do You Check For Herpes From Home?


HPV


Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is so common that it's likely all sexually active people get at least one strain of HPV during their life[7]. Having said this, most of those people may never know they’re infected as they may never develop symptoms.

There are thought to be over 100 varieties of HPV - each is classified into ‘low-risk’ and ‘high risk’ strains; the side effects of carrying the virus will predominantly depend on what strain you’re carrying.

If symptoms do occur, the most common in women include:

  • Warts on the vagina, cervix or anus
  • Warts on the back of the throat
  • Abnormal skin changes on the vagina, cervix or anus

The most common symptoms in men can include:

  • Itching or a burning sensation inside the penis
  • Itching or burning sensation during urination
  • Unusual drip or discharge from the penis

See also: What is HPV?


The most accurate way to know if you have contracted an STI is to take a test - you can do this with your local doctor or from the comfort of your own home with LetsGetChecked’s range of at-home STI tests.

You should consider getting tested if:

  • You become sexually active
  • You have had unprotected sex
  • You are experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection
  • You are entering into a new sexual relationship
  • You have received a notification from a previous partner that they are infected (STIs can remain dormant for years and/ or take up to three weeks to become detectable.)


References

  1. NHS. How soon do STI symptoms appear? Online: Nhs.uk, 2019.
  2. NHS. How soon do STI symptoms appear? Online: Nhs.uk, 2019.
  3. NHS. Chlamydia. Online: Nhs.uk, 2018
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet. Online: Cdc.gov, 2014
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital Herpes - CDC Fact Sheet. Online: Cdc.gov. 2017
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet. Online: Cdc.gov, 2017
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet. Online: Cdc.gov, 2019