About Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that can be passed from one person to another during sex or intimate contact.
Often people with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have no symptoms. The only way to know if you have an infection is to have an STI test.
Most STIs are passed between sexual partners through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex.
It is a good idea to get tested, especially if you have recently changed partners.
STI’s can take time to show up in tests – read about tests before you take one
If you have an STI you should avoid having sex with anyone until you have completed treatment to stop the infection being passed on.
STI symptoms can include itchiness, soreness, rashes or redness, pain when passing urine, discharge from the penis or vagina, and lumps or sores in the genital area.
Sometimes you will get no symptoms at all or they will take a long time to show. This means you could be passing infections on to other people without knowing it.
The only way to know you have an infection is to have an STI test.
When do sexually transmitted infections show on tests?
Experts often refer to ‘window periods’ when testing for STIs. This means the length of time it takes from catching an infection to it showing up on a test. The window period is different for each infection. The window period for the tests we provide are below.
- Chlamydia- 2 weeks
- Gonorrhoea- 2weeks
- HIV- 6-12 weeks
- Syphilis- 6-12 weeks
- Hepatitis-6-12 weeks
Mycoplasma Genitalium is a very small bacterium that can infect both men and women. The Mycoplasma Genitalium bacteria can be passed through sexual contact. It can cause a discharge, pain on passing urine or soreness. Very often urethritis that is not caused by either Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea is caused by Mycoplasma Genitalium.
Herpes is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of herpes: HSV1 and HSV2. Herpes can affect any mucous membrane but the most common infection sites are the genital area, buttocks, thighs and around the mouth. Herpes can be passed through sexual contact so it is categorised as an STI. Herpes can cause tingling sensation and painful, watery blisters, a general feeling of being unwell, fever, pain or irritation when passing urine. Cold sores around the mouth are caused by the herpes virus. We only advocate testing if you are symptomatic. We can test for herpes from a urine sample. If you have herpes in the genital area then the virus will normally shed in your urine and can be detected, but this would not be our primary recommendation. Where symptoms are present in the form of blisters or sores, we strongly recommend a swab of the area.
Trichomonas Vaginalis is a small protozoa similar to bacteria. The Trichomonas protozoan can infect the vagina and urethra in a woman and the urethra and occasionally the prostate gland in men. Trichomonas is normally passed by sexual contact. An unusual discharge, which can be a greenish-yellow colour. The discharge can sometimes be rather frothy with a fishy odour. Pain when passing urine. Pain during sexual intercourse. The penis and vagina may itch and there may be a general feeling of discomfort. It is important to remember that 50% of both men and women experience absolutely no symptoms at all of a Trichomonas infection.
Ureaplasma is a bacterium that can be passed through sexual contact although it is not considered a classic STI or STD because of its low degree of pathogenicity. The two species are Parvum and Urealyticum. It is estimated that quite a large proportion of the sexually active population is infected with Ureaplasma without it causing any problems whatsoever. Most people do not have any symptoms whatsoever and there is no evidence that Ureaplasma has any long term health consequences for those who are asymptomatic. Where symptoms are present, these include: Burning sensation when passing urine, Urethral irritation, unusual vaginal discharge in women and urethral discharge in men. We sometimes encounter female patients who have experienced chronic cystitis/urinary tract infections that show no evidence on a culture of any bacterial organisms. When we test the urine for Ureaplasma using PCR we then find it to be present; so we believe that Ureaplasma can be implicated in such cases.
Hepatitis B is a virus that affects the liver. The liver becomes inflamed and cannot function properly. Hepatitis B is contained in blood, semen and vaginal fluids. Patients infected with Hepatitis B can be infected through sexual contact (including oral sex) or coming into contact with infected blood.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that affects the liver, causing inflammation. This can prevent the liver from functioning properly. Hepatitis C has six different types; these different types are known as genotypes and are numbered 1 - 6. The most common route of infection with Hepatitis C is the sharing of needles between injecting drug users. There is a small risk of infection with sexual activity and some sexual activities carry a higher risk. Around 7% of HIV infected men who have sex with men have had a Hepatitis C co-infection diagnosed.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria. You can catch it during vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner. It is typical for syphilis to cause painless sores during the early stages of infection. If it is left untreated, it can spread to various organs and cause severe complications. Early treatment is essential to prevent syphilis from causing serious damage to your inner organs and brain.
Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted infection. It is also very easy to treat with antibiotics. Unfortunately, there are very few chlamydia symptoms. In fact, sometimes it is completely symptomless. This means that people can have chlamydia without realising it. Chlamydia can cause serious health issues if it is left untreated. It can lead to infertility and (in women) Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. For this reason, if there is a chance that you might have contracted chlamydia, it is better to do a quick test to check.
Like chlamydia, gonorrhoea is common and easy to treat with an antibiotic injection. Also like chlamydia, gonorrhoea often doesn’t have many symptoms. For men the most common symptom is pain during urination and, sometimes, a discharge from the tip of the penis. Women may find it even more difficult to notice the symptoms, but they can also experience pain when urinating and a vaginal discharge. If gonorrhoea is left untreated it can lead to serious complications with the reproductive system, including (in women) Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is transmitted during sex or when sharing needles with an infected person. It is important that you get tested if you believe that you may have caught HIV. Early treatment allows patients to lead an almost normal life with a normal life expectancy. If the infection is not treated early on, however, the virus spreads and damages your immune system. HIV testing is recommended if you have had unprotected sex with a partner who may have it or if you have shared needles on any occasion. In most cases, HIV transmission happens during vaginal or anal sex. However, it is also possible to catch it during oral sex. If you think that you could be HIV positive you should make sure to get tested six weeks after the incident.