STIs – Symptoms & Treatment

As most sexually transmitted infections vary in symptoms, treatment is no different.  We have provided a brief guide only for some of the more common STIs:

Symptoms  :  A Brief Guide

Chlamydia

Women who catch genital Chlamydia infection may find they have any specific symptoms that lead them to suspect they have caught this infection experiencing symptoms of cystitis, a change in the vaginal discharge, or mild lower abdominal pain.

Men on the other hand commonly experience a urethral discharge from the penis, and may have inflammation of the tube leading from the bladder to the tip of the penis (urethritis), or of the tube leading from the testes to the penis (epidymitis). This discomfort may then disappear but the infection can still be passed on to a sexual partner.

Genital warts

Many people do not show any recognisable symptoms.  This makes diagnosis difficult.   If symptoms are present, they may include small white spots or lumps that are hidden inside the vagina or anus.

Genital herpes

Like genital warts, genital herpes often presents no symptoms and can remain undiagnosed for long periods of time.  Symptoms may show in the form of flu-like symptoms, itchiness, burning or tingling around the genitals, small, fluid-filled blisters that burst to leave sores, and pain when passing urine.

Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is an infection that is found in both men and women and can affect the genitals, anus, rectum and throat. About half of all women infected and over 90% of men experience symptoms, including a thin, watery discharge from the vagina or tip of the penis that can appear yellow or green, and pain when urinating.

HIV

Many people do not develop any symptoms when they first become infected with HIV. Some people, however, get a flu-like illness within three to six weeks after exposure to the virus. The only way to know if you are HIV-positive is to have a test. Over time, infection with HIV weakens the immune system leading to difficulty fighting off certain infections.  HIV cannot be cured, although the condition can be managed.

Pubic lice

Symptoms of pubic lice include itchy skin, and you may notice black powder (lice droppings) in your underwear and white eggs.

Scabies

Scabies can occur anywhere on the body, but sometimes the signs are hard to see. Symptoms can appear weeks after first contact and include itching (especially at night), a rash, and tiny spots.

Syphilis

The symptoms of syphilis usually begin with a small sore on the penis or vagina. Up to six months after the initial symptoms occur, you may experience flu-like symptoms, such as achiness and shivering.

Thrush

Symptoms of thrush include intense itching around your penis or vagina, with a thick, white discharge, and the appearance of tiny white spots around the genitals.

Treatment  :  a Brief Guide

Most sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) can be treated using a single dose or course of antibiotics. These include chlamydia, gonorrhoea (although some strains are now showing signs of resistance to antibiotics), syphilis and urinary tract infections.

Antiviral drugs may be used to relieve the symptoms of genital herpes, but infection by the virus cannot be cured. Genital warts can be treated although they do eventually heal and disappear without treatment. Many people choose to have genital warts removed by a doctor, for cosmetic reasons. Caustic agents or liquid nitrogen are used to burn them away, or freeze them.

It is important that your current and past sexual partners are notified and treated, in order to reduce the risk of spreading the infection and/or preventing re-infection Your local GUM clinic may be able to provide help by notifying your previous partners on your behalf.

Below is a basic summary of the treatments that are used to treat the main STIs. Most of these STIs are also covered as separate health encyclopaedia topics which provide more detailed information and advice.

The virus for genital herpes remains in the body as there is no treatment that gets rid of it completely. Antiviral drugs may be used to relieve the symptoms.  Self-help measures can reduce symptoms, or prevent outbreaks. For example, avoid stress, rest, stopping smoking, cut down on drinking alcohol and avoid direct sunlight.

Genital warts are easily treated by either painting them with a liquid, or freezing them with a spray. However, some people need a number of treatments, and if the warts return, further treatment will be required.

While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, there are a number of new antiretroviral drugs that can be used to suppress the HIV virus and preserve the immune system for as long as possible. AIDS-related illnesses that arise can also be treated, and advice from specialists such as dieticians, physiotherapists, counsellors, and support groups is also available.  There is a special section on HIV, please see section for more in-depth information

Pubic lice are easily treated. Special shampoos, creams or lotions are used to kill the lice and their eggs.

Scabies is easily treated. A special lotion is applied all over the body and is washed off 24 hours later.

Syphilis can be easily treated during the early stages using a course of antibiotics for two weeks. It can also be treated during later stages of infection, but any damage to the heart or nervous system may be irreversible.

Thrush is easily treated using pessaries (tablets that are inserted into the vagina), cream or tablets. Creams are usually used to treat men who have thrush.