Have you ever wondered about the first signs of an STI? Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are prevalent, especially in London – they can be passed on to partners through oral sex, genital touching, anal or vaginal sex, and they can affect you whether you are married, single, gay or straight.
“People assume they will know if they have an STI because they will see symptoms, but the reality is that 50% of men and 70% of women will not experience any symptoms at all.” explains Dr Eskander, Consultant Gynaecologist here at The Gynae Centre. “It only takes the one encounter. Now, more than ever before, regular sexual health checks should be carried out for anyone who is sexually active.”
Although using condoms can help to reduce the spread of STIs through genital fluids, they do not offer protection 100% of the time and don’t provide protection against any sores or infected skin that is not covered by the condom.
Most of the time, if caught early, STIs are relatively easy to treat and cure with the use of antibiotics. However, when left untreated for a long period of time, can lead to serious complications, including fertility problems.
How Do I Know If I Have An STI?
Without a sexual health check, you cannot be certain that you do or don’t have an STI. You could have no symptoms at all but have a number of STIs.
The best thing you can do is to regularly get checked – particularly if you have multiple sexual partners or if your partner has had intercourse or oral sex with another person.
How Long Does It Take For STI Symptoms To Show?
STI symptoms take varying amounts of time to show (if they show at all). If you are one of the 30% of women who do display symptoms, or have noticed any of the following symptoms in your partner, it’s time to get checked:
Symptoms Of Chlamydia
Symptoms usually show around one to three week after infection but it’s also possible they show later or not at all.
- Burning when peeing
- Pain or burning during sex
- Abnormal discharge
- Pain in pelvic area or testicles for men
Untreated, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which is a common cause of miscarriage and infertility for women.
Symptoms Of Gonorrhoea
You will usually notice symptoms of gonorrhea in around 2 weeks but again, these may not appear until later – or not at all. 1 in 10 men and 5 in 10 women won’t have any symptoms at all.
- Burning or pain when peeing
- Abnormal discharge
- Bleeding outside of period
- Inflamed foreskin
- Sore testicles
Gonorrhoea, if left untreated, can cause miscarriage and premature labour. It can be passed from mother to baby during birth and if baby is not treated it can damage vision. As well as this, it can cause PID, infertility in men and women, can cause infection in the testicles and prostate in men and can lead to sepsis.
Symptoms Of Syphilis
You may notice the first signs of syphilis (painless sores around the infected area) 10 days to 3 months after exposure, but left if you do not seek treatment, the disease remains and secondary symptoms can include:
- Sores on around genitalia or around mouth
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- White patches in the mouth
- Genital warts
- Flu-like symptoms
Left untreated, syphilis can cause damage to internal organs and death.
Symptoms Of HPV
Although some people might experience genital warts or warts on other body parts, most people won’t show any signs of HPV infection. Certain strains of HPV can lead to some pretty serious complications including cervical cancer, cancer of the mouth, genitals and upper respiratory tract.
Symptoms Of HIV
Between 2 and 6 weeks after infection most people infected with HIV experience flu-like symptoms. These can include fever, sore throat, joint pain and rashes. You may not experience any other symptoms for a long time. Eventually HIV symptoms can return once the immune system is damaged:
- Weight loss
- Skin problems
- Life-threatening illnesses
There is no cure for HIV and living with it means that you are at higher risk of catching bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. There is also a chance you will pass HIV onto your baby through birth or breastfeeding, though the risk of this is 1 in 100 compared to 1 in 4 if left untreated.
What Happens During An STI Test?
You’ll be asked questions about your lifestyle, sexual history, any symptoms, your sexual partners, what contraception you use, and the type of sex you are having.
What test or tests your consultant recommends will depend on your answers. Although requirements depend on the particular test, STI tests can require swabs to be taken, blood tests, and examination of the genitals and any areas where you have symptoms.
How Long Does It Take To Get STI Results Back?
Samples need to be sent to our laboratory to be tested but turnaround time for STI tests is quick and it takes between 2 and 7 days to get results, depending on the type of test you’ve had.
STI Tests & STI Treatment In London
Dr Eskander says: “There is no need to be embarrassed about STI screening – it’s a tool to give you peace of mind and let you enjoy your sex life. With the prevalence of STIs, particularly in the London and surrounding areas, it is prudent to make STI checks a regular part of your life. We recommend once a year or alternatively, after you or your partner have had any sex with a new partner.
“The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to have a sexual health check. The sooner, the better and less chance of serious and permanent complications. The problems arise when STIs have been left untreated for a period of time. We offer mini sexual health screen and full sexual health screens to give you peace of mind.”