Visiting your GP or a sexual health clinic for an STI test can be embarrassing, but if you develop unusual symptoms it’s important to get checked as soon as possible.

Many different kinds of sexual activity can spread infection, and certain STIs can remain symptomless for a long period; this means that it’s possible to spread and contract STIs without having any idea that you’re at risk.

To stay safe, always practise safe sex and familiarise yourself with the symptoms below. The sooner you can spot a problem and get diagnosed, the sooner you’ll have the all clear.

STI Symptoms in Men & Women

Certain STI symptoms affect men and women in the same way. These symptoms include:

Pain while urinating can indicate chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhoea, trichomonas and mycoplasma .

Itching or tingling around the genitals can indicate genital warts, genital herpes, trichomonas, pubic lice and scabies.

Blisters, sore or lumps around the genitals or anus can indicate genital warts, genital herpes and syphilis.

Black powder or white dots in your underwear can indicate pubic lice.

STI Symptoms in Men

In men, the main STI symptoms to watch out for are:

Discharge from the penis that is white, yellow, green, cloudy or watery can indicate chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomonas and mycoplasma.

Pain or tenderness in the testicles can indicate chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

An inflamed foreskin can indicate trichomonas.

STI Symptoms in Women

In women, the main STI symptoms to watch out for are:

Unusual vaginal discharge that is yellow, green, watery, frothy or has a strong, unpleasant smell can indicate chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomonas, mycoplasma or bacterial vaginosis (gardnerella).

Irregular bleeding, heavy periods and pain during sex or in the pelvic region can indicate chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomonas and mycoplasma.

For more information on the STIs listed above, consult this guide from the NHS.

Unusual STI Symptoms

In 2016, there were almost 6,000 diagnoses of syphilis in England, marking a 12% increase from the previous year . This is significant because syphilis is one of the less easily recognised STIs.

The symptoms of syphilis are unusual and distinctive. In the early stages of the infection people often experience the following:

This stage of the infection can last up to eight weeks; if it progresses it can cause further symptoms:

The good news is that, because syphilis is bacterial, it can be treated with antibiotics. If you have had syphilis for less than two years, the treatment is slightly easier , so if you notice any symptoms you should get checked as soon as possible.

Syphilis aside, some STI symptoms can be unusual because of where they occur, not what they look like.

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are two STIs that can cause infection in the rectum, eyes or throat, usually as a result of anal or oral sex . If you have had sex with someone who may be infected, look out for:

Perhaps the most unusual “symptom” of all is…no symptoms! Many STIs can remain symptomless for a long time, so if you’ve had unprotected sex, or simply haven’t been checked in a while, it’s a good idea to get a full screen.


13th February 2018