health articles

The most common genital disease symptoms to look out for

Sexually treated infections or STIs cause a range of symptoms, including discharge, pain and rashes. However, some infections can be silent, causing no symptoms but still having serious implications for your future health and fertility. Virtually Healthcare provides specialist screening for STIs as well as expert treatment, support and referral whenever necessary.


How do I know if I have an STI?

The symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease will depend on the infection. However, it’s important to be aware that having no symptoms does not mean you are free from infection. You may not know if you have an STI; the WHO says that the majority of STIs have no symptoms or only mild symptoms that can be missed1.

The genital disease symptoms to look out for include:

  • Unusual discharge from the penis or anus
  • A smelly or discoloured vaginal discharge
  • Sores or blisters in the genital area
  • Discomfort or itching around the genitals or anus
  • Lumps or growths in and around the genitals or anus
  • Pain and inflammation in the testicles, penis or pelvis
  • Pain or burning when passing water
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Pain during sex 2

Who should have sexual health screening?

The sexual health specialists at Virtually Healthcare recommend sexual health screening if you have symptoms, but also if you could be at risk of STIs.

  • If you have a new partner, particularly if you have had sex without a condom.
  • Every three months, if you have sex with many different partners.
  • Every six months If you have casual sex without a regular partner,
    If you are starting a new relationship or considering sex without condoms.
  • If your sexual partner has intercourse with other partners.
  • If you or a partner has STI symptoms.3

Sexual health testing at Virtually Healthcare

Virtually Healthcare offers a comprehensive range of STI tests, most of which can be done in the comfort and privacy of your own home. We have a sexual health specialist doctor and two sexual health trained nurses as part of the Virtually Healthcare team. They can provide expert assessment, treatment and support on the phone, in a video consultation or in person. We work closely with the NHS STI service, which allows us to send out kits directly to your home so you can take samples to check for STIs.

The Virtually Healthcare difference

Virtually Healthcare is an innovative GP practice, providing expert care in the comfort, safety and privacy of your home. The Virtually Healthcare service is designed to fit with modern lives. Consultations are easy to access, discreet and convenient, with virtual appointments available seven days a week.

The highly-skilled team includes more than 40 clinicians working together to investigate and treat disease and help you optimise your health and wellbeing. As well as experienced GPs, the team includes sexual health specialists, physiotherapists and practice nurses to offer a comprehensive primary care service.

During the pandemic, many patients are finding it more difficult to access healthcare. Virtually Healthcare provides rapid access video or telephone appointments, with consultations available the same day if you contact us before 3 pm. Our clinicians can provide professional assessment and advice, arrange investigations, prescribe treatment or arrange for a face-to-face review.

The most common STIs

What are the most common STIs?

STIs are increasing in the UK, with young people and men who have sex with men at increased risk of contracting an infection. The most common infections include:4

Gonorrhoea symptoms

Gonorrhoea is also known as the clap. Around half of women and 10% of men don’t have symptoms of gonorrhoea. However, about ten days after infection, you may notice:

  • An unusual greenish discharge from the vagina or penis.
  • Burning, soreness and pain passing urine.
  • Pelvic and lower abdominal pain in women.
  • Pain during sex for women.
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding.

If gonorrhoea is left untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, pelvic pain and infertility.

Genital herpes symptoms

Genital herpes comes and goes, with attacks recurring if you are run-down, unwell or during the monthly period in women. Usually, the first attack is more severe than subsequent relapses. Symptoms can appear many months or years after infection. Look out for:

  • Painful tender blisters that burst to leave sores over the genitals or around the anus.
  • Pain having sex.
  • Pain passing urine.
  • Pain opening the bowels if there are sores around the anus.
  • Itching, burning or tingling sensation around the genitals.

HIV symptoms

HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is often asymptomatic. However, 80% of people will experience a flu-like illness between two and six weeks following infection. This happens as a result of seroconversion when the body’s immune system responds to the virus and lasts up to two weeks. Symptoms include fever, general malaise, sore throat and a rash.

After this, the majority of people with HIV will have no symptoms unless they develop AIDS. In virus progressively damages the immune system making people vulnerable to infections, cancers and other diseases.

Chlamydia symptoms

Very many people with chlamydia don’t have symptoms. However, you may notice some symptoms one to three weeks after contracting the infection. These include

  • Pain and burning passing urine.
  • Unusual or smelly discharge from the vagina, penis or anus.
  • Women may have pelvic pain, bleeding after sex and bleeding between periods.
  • Men may have pain and swelling in the testicles.

Untreated chlamydia can cause long term health problems, including pelvic inflammatory disease in women, arthritis, testicular inflammation in men, complications in pregnancy and fertility problems.

Genital wart symptoms

Genital warts can be internal, so you may not know you have an infection. However, you may notice warty growths. Look out for:

  • Firm, painless skin-coloured lumps on the genitals, around the anus and upper thighs.
  • Multiple warts can develop together, forming a large growth like a cauliflower.

Warts are caused by HPV infection, which is linked to cancers of the cervix, vulva and penis. If you are worried that you may be infected, contact the specialists at Virtually Healthcare for advice.

Syphilis symptoms

Syphilis is a progressive infection, with symptoms developing and causing serious problems if it is not treated promptly and effectively. The first stage comes on ten days to twelve weeks after infection. You may notice.

  • Small, painless ulcers called chancres on the genitals, around the anus, or in the mouth following oral sex.
  • Lumps caused by swollen glands in the groin, armpit or neck.

If not treated, it can develop into secondary syphilis; you may notice:

  • Skin rash across the body but particularly on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. The rash appears red and blotchy and is usually not painful or itchy.
  • Skin-coloured, fleshy growths that look like warts on the genitals or anus.
  • Hair loss.
  • A flu-like illness with fever, headache, sore throat and general malaise.

Syphilis is easily treated with an antibiotic injection. If it is not treated, it can cause long-term damage to the heart, brain and nervous system, including blindness, heart disease, stroke and dementia.

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C symptoms

The majority of people with hepatitis B and hepatitis C won’t notice any symptoms. However, some people may notice symptoms two or three months after infection and can last up to 3 months. These include:

  • A flu-like illness with fever, fatigue, muscular aches and feeling unwell.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Upper abdominal pain.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Jaundice- yellow discolouration of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

These symptoms usually settle in 4-12 weeks. However, in some people, both hepatitis B and hepatitis C can become chronic infections. People with chronic hepatitis can pass on infection and can develop liver damage.

Hot topics in sexual health

Hot topics

Virtually Healthcare’s sexual health specialist reports on the questions and concerns they are currently seeing in their consultations.

Sex, lockdown rules and testing

Some people are avoiding sexual health screening during the pandemic because they are worried that their sexual contacts break lockdown rules.

I can reassure anyone who is concerned about their sexual health. At Virtually Healthcare, we provide sensitive advice, discreet testing and treatment without judgement. We can arrange remote consultations on the phone or online and a comprehensive range of reliable STI screening tests that can be done in your own home.

Safer sex

Last year, I read a report saying that your people had ‘fallen out of love with safe sex.5‘ In many ways, this reflected what I saw in my consulting room and virtual clinics. Research by Public Health England (PHE) showed that around half of 16 to 24-year-olds had sex with a new partner without a condom. What’s more, one in 10 sexually active people in the same age group had never used a condom.

Recently, AIDS and HIV have received lots of media and social media attention following the TV drama ‘It’s a sin’. We’ve noticed many more people requesting HIV tests and information on safer sex, which is excellent news.
According to the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASSH):
‘Safer sex means having sex with less risk of transmission a sexually transmitted infection (STI).’6

  • The risk of catching each STI depends on the infection and whether you’re having oral, vaginal or anal sex. You can reduce the risk of infection by:Using condoms for penetrative sex.
  • Oral sex is lower risk, but condoms and dams will reduce this further.
  • Choosing non-penetrative sex such as rubbing and mutual masturbation- although this type of contact could spread warts and herpes
  • Have regular sexual health screening, especially before having sex with a new partner.
  • Having fewer sexual partners.
  • Having vaccinations such as HPV and hepatitis B.

Types of consultations we offer

We offer written, telephone and video consultations with a range of male and female clinicians from GPs, nurse practitioners, and primary care specialists such as physiotherapy.