Associate sexually transmitted infections with nasty rashes, nagging itching and burning wee? Sure, that’s the sort of thing that you’re commonly told to watch out for.
But, there are also a host of health complications that arise from getting down (sans condom) that won’t give you so much as a whisper that all is not rosy in your garden. Yes, STIs without symptoms are a thing.
‘Pretty much any STIs can be asymptomatic,’ explains Dr Rashid Bani, medical director for test providers Your Sexual Health and a GP. ‘That’s why my advice is that if you’ve had unprotected intercourse even once, to go and have a test.’
Oh – and if you think that your days of being at risk for these issues are as long gone as American Apparel disco pants and flattening your hair with straighteners, know that cases of antibiotic-resistant ‘super gonorrhoea’ were reported in 2018 and this year, and that there was a 20 per cent spike in syphilis diagnosis between 2016 and 2017.
STIs without symptoms: the infections that might not let you know that they’re there
This one often goes unnoticed – which, thanks to its potential implications for your fertility, could be a big issue. ‘A lot of people experience this as a silent infection,’ says Dr Bani.
‘Though you may experience vaginal or anal discharge [depending on the entry point for the sort of sex you’ve had] or have a burning feeling when they urinate.’
When it comes to STIs without symptoms, this is a biggie. ‘Similarly, many people might experience no signs that they have gonorrhoea,’ says Dr Bani.
And if you do experience symptoms? ‘Though you may experience a thicker, greener discharge and burning when you urinate, and you may experience vaginal bleeding when you’re not on your period.’
This is one that you imagine should be pretty visible, with red sores and blisters. But it can be way more subtle than that.
‘Some people might see just one small Herpes sore and think it’s just a spot,’ says Dr Rani. ‘It’s not always painful or obvious.’
Mycoplasma Genitalium (MG)
This little known STI is both stealthy and nasty – untreated, it can result in pelvic inflammatory disease.
This ‘can damage your fallopian tubes and cause issues with fertility,’ elaborates Dr Rani. It only affects between 1 and 2% of the population, but it’s worth being aware of, natch.
Again, some people experience more-than-normal discharge, burning wee and vaginal bleeding that’s nothing to do with periods – but plenty do not.
Because the bacteria associated with it can take months to grow, it’a also possible to be infected for years, without realising.
Some of the signs of HIV – fatigue, weight loss, fever – don’t, at first, appear to indicate something severe, and might be thought to be a passing illness.
As such, if you do experience these symptoms and you have had unprotected sex, it’s time to get checked, quick sharp.
Similarly, the key symptom of this Victoria-era infection that’s making a serious comeback is small sores – which, if you only get one, can easily be dismissed as a spot.
Remember, though, as Dr Bani says – any STI can be asymptomatic. Make sure that you go and get tested regularly, and, if you’ve started have unprotected sex with a new partner, go together to make sure that you’re squeaky clean.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health UK.
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