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What if I think I have an STI?

If you think you may have an STI, it is important to be tested. Some STIs can cause serious health problems if left untreated. You should visit your GP, pharmacist or an STI clinic for professional advice.

What symptoms might I have?

What symptoms you may have will depend on the nature of the infection or genital condition.

Many people with STIs don’t notice anything wrong or anything different. For example, half of men infected with chlamydia will have no symptoms and 7 out of 10 women infected with chlamydia will have no symptoms.

Some STIs or genital conditions may cause small spots, bumps or blisters on the skin, anywhere in the genital or anal area.

In men, some STIs may cause symptoms such as a discharge from the tip of the penis, pain passing urine, pain or discharge from the back passage, or pain and swelling in the testicles.

In women, some STIs may cause symptoms such as bleeding after sex or between periods, change in the normal vaginal discharge, pain passing urine or pain in the abdomen (tummy).

Some viruses may cause flu-like symptoms, fever, feeling generally unwell, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhoea. Many people have no symptoms for many years.

More information on STIs can be found in the patient information leaflet Your Guide to Sexually Transmitted Infections.

For detailed information on individual STIs click here and for genital conditions click here.

How would I know if I had an STI?

You may not know if you have an STI, so it is important to be tested.

You may not have any symptoms, or the symptoms can be easy to miss. Even when you don't notice any symptoms, you can still pass an STI to a sexual partner.

The only way to really know if you have an STI, is to be tested. Your partner should also be tested.

When should I have an STI test?

You should be tested if:
• you have any symptoms which suggest an STI
• your partner has an STI
• you have a new sexual partner
• you have more than one sexual partner

What does the test involve?

The type of test will depend on your symptoms.

For men, you will be asked to give a urine sample into a small bottle. Men should not urinate (pee) for two hours before giving a urine sample. Sometimes a swab is used to take a sample from inside the top of the penis. This will depend on what your symptoms are and will be explained to you by the doctor or nurse seeing you.

Sometimes swabs will also be taken from your throat or anus (back passage).

A swab is like a cotton bud.

For women, a swab is taken from the vagina. This can be done by the doctor or nurse and sometimes by yourself.

Women and men will also have blood tests to check for viral or bacterial infections.

All STI testing in public sexual health or GUM (genito-urinary medicine) clinics is provided free of charge. Click here for a list of public STI services available. STI testing is also available through many GPs, NGOs or student health services for a fee.

What if i have an STI?

If you test positive for an STI, you will be offered treatment. The type of treatment will depend on what STI you have. If your STI is not treated, it can be passed on to your sexual partner (or partners).

Do I have to tell my partner if I have an STI?

You should tell your partner (or partners) if you have an STI, so they can be offered testing and treatment.

It is important that all of the people you have recently been in sexual contact with are given the option to be tested and treated. Your doctor or nurse will discuss this with you.

When can I have sex again?

You will have to wait until you have completed the treatment before having sex again. Your doctor or nurse will explain this to you.

Having had an STI once does not protect you from getting it again. It is important to make sure that your partner (or partners) have been tested and treated before having sex with them again.