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A Quick Guide to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) come in many different forms. Some are mild and easy to treat, but others can be very serious. Read on to find out about the different types of STI and how they can affect you.

What Are STIs?

An STI is an illness that can be spread through sexual contact. You can catch an STI through any kind of sexual activity, even if you didn’t have sex. Some STIs spread through fluids, but others can be transmitted just by skin contact with an affected area.

Types of STI

There are many different types of STI that can cause different symptoms, spread in different ways and require different treatments.


Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs in the UK. Most people won’t have any symptoms, but you might notice discharge, abdominal pain in women, or pain when you urinate. Untreated chlamydia can cause serious complications, including reactive arthritis and infertility. Since it is a bacterial infection, it can usually be treated with antibiotics.


Gonorrhoea is a bacterial STI that often causes a thick discharge from the penis or vagina. It can also be painful when you pee and women may notice bleeding in between periods. However, some people (especially women) don’t notice any symptoms. Gonorrhoea can be cleared up with antibiotics, but if you don’t get treated it can lead to infertility and problems if you get pregnant.


Syphilis is another bacterial STI that can be treated with antibiotics. The symptoms are often mild and disappear in time, but unless you get treated the infection will still be there. Common symptoms include small genital sores or growths, a red rash on your palms or soles, and flu-like symptoms. Untreated syphilis can be very serious and could result in meningitis, heart problems, strokes, eyesight problems and dementia symptoms. It can also cause miscarriage and serious infections in babies if you get pregnant.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a virus that can cause small blisters around your genitals, which can be painful and burst to leave open sores that can easily spread the infection. You may also notice itchiness, vaginal discharge or pain when you urinate. Antiviral treatment can help to clear up the blisters, but there is no cure so they could come back in the future.

Genital Warts

Genital warts are small lumps that can form on and around your genitals if you’re infected with a type of HPV. Although they won’t usually cause serious problems, they can be embarrassing and may spread to your partner. It’s also important to get any unusual growths checked, just in case it is something else. If you do have genital warts then it’s easy for a doctor to remove them.

Pubic Lice, Trichomoniasis and Scabies

Certain kinds of parasite can be transmitted sexually. Pubic lice are tiny blood-sucking insects that can live in genital hair. Trichomoniasis and scabies are two types of mites that can also spread as STIs. All three of these parasites can cause severe itchiness, so you will usually know when you are infected.


Most people who have been sexually active will have come in contact with the Human Papilloma Virus at some point. HPV infection doesn’t usually cause any symptoms, but it can lead to changes in your cells that can eventually develop into cancer. The main risk is cervical cancer, but HPV is also connected with other forms of cancer in both men and women. A vaccine is available that can protect against the most dangerous forms of HPV.


The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the most serious STI in the world, even though there are now treatments that can help. There is still no cure for HIV, but treatments can reduce the effects and prevent people from developing AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). AIDS is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when HIV damages your immune system. Medication is also available that can reduce the chances of catching HIV if you are at risk (for example if your partner is affected).

If you think that you might have an STI then you can make an appointment at the 132 Healthwise clinic in London. It’s a good idea to get screened for STIs even if you don’t have any symptoms as anyone who has been sexually active could be affected.

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