It’s a mistake to fall into the habit of convincing yourself you’ll be ok and hoping for the best. Anyone can get an STI – it doesn’t matter how many times they’ve had sex or how many people they’ve had sex with, we’re all at risk. And remember, you may or may not have symptoms, so that is not a reliable way of knowing if you have an STI or not.
Below are some of the symptoms most commonly associated with STIs. Remember though, without being examined and tested by a health professional, you can’t know for certain what your symptoms are caused by. Use this page as a guide and to be sure, arrange an STI test today.
If you have more questions or are worried, you can always ask at your local Brook clinic or other sexual health clinic or GP.
Discharge is fluid or mucus that comes out of your body. Some discharge is perfectly normal and we may all experience this from time-to-time. However, if you notice discharge from the vagina, penis or rectum that is unusual for you, it could be an STI.
You’d be naive to fall into the trap of thinking "I don’t have any symptoms so I must be fine". STIs don’t work like that unfortunately. Some people won’t ever experience any symptoms, and yet they’re still infected. For others, symptoms can take months to appear. For example:
You can get tested for STIs at:
STI tests are nothing to worry about. They’re usually quick, simple and relatively painless. Depending on what you’re being tested for, a test usually involves an examination of your genitals, as well as taking a swab from inside the vagina or from the tip of the penis and a urine or blood sample. Find out more about getting tested.
Most STIs can be treated with a short course of antibiotics. Some STIs, such as HIV cannot be cured – but they can be treated to prevent them from getting worse.
If you test positive for any STI, your clinic will encourage you to talk to your current partner and sometimes to your previous partners so they can be tested as well. The clinic will help you find the best way to talk to other people if you need to, and can notify even contact them for you through 'partner notification' without even mentioning your name.
STIs can be caught during oral (licking, kissing or sucking someone's genitals), vaginal or anal sex and some can also be passed through sexual touching and skin-to-skin contact – so the best way to avoid STIs is to use a condom or dam every time you have sex.
A condom is made of very thin latex (rubber) and is designed to cover the penis in order to stop sexual fluids being transferred between partners which provides protection against STIs and pregnancy.
A dam is a thin square of latex, which can be placed over the genitals or anus for oral sex; they are available from your nearest sexual health service (often called GUM clinics) or you can buy them online.
Even if you are using another method of contraception such as the pill, implant, patch, contraceptive vaginal ring, IUD or IUS – it’s important to use condoms and dams as well to also protect from STIs.
Page last reviewed: November 2015
Next review due: November 2017