Sexual Health Week 2022

Sexual Health Week: The most common STIs that are often symptomless 

As Sexual Health Week (10th-16th October) continues, we’re getting to grips with one of the most common questions surrounding sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Do STIs/STDs always come with symptoms?

As a reputable laboratory providing discreet, reliable STI testing for members of the public, we feel it is our duty to provide customers with the most up-to-date information about specific infections, including when to test. 

In this blog, we look at the most common infections that often show no symptoms, when to seek treatment for an infection if you do start to experience symptoms, and where you can order an STI test online.

The hidden epidemic

Many STIs/STDs can be asymptomatic, meaning that you may not experience any symptoms at all if you are infected.

For this reason, some scientists refer to STIs as the ‘hidden epidemic’: often symptomless, easily spread, and posing a serious risk to public health.

It’s important to be aware of asymptomatic infections for a couple of reasons:

  • If you do not know you have an infection, the risk of you passing it on to other people is much higher
  • Some STIs can cause long-lasting or permanent damage to your health if left untreated. This makes regular testing important, ensuring infections are caught early and treated before symptoms develop or become worse

Which STIs can have no symptoms?

If you’re having regular sex with one or more partners, it helps to be as informed as possible about STIs and the potential risks, so you can make sure you’re playing it safe.

We’ve rounded up the most common asymptomatic (symptomless) STIs below, including possible complications if left untreated:

STI/STD What is it? Possible complications if untreated
Chlamydia

A bacterial infection that is most common among young people and sexually active teenagers.

Most people will not notice any symptoms, meaning it is often transmitted by people who do not know they are infected.

  • Infertility
  • Increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and premature births
  • Eye infections, blindness, or pneumonia in newborns
  • Proctitis in men (inflammation of the rectum)
  • An infection of the epididymis in men (the tube that carries sperm away from the testes)
Gonorrhoea

A bacterial infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus bacteria.

The infection is easily passed on through sexual intercourse and is mainly found in discharge from the penis and in vaginal fluid.

  • Increased chance of getting HIV
  • Infection in other parts of your body like your skin or joints
  • Infertility
Mycoplasma genitalium

A bacterial infection that is commonly transmitted via sex with an infected person, or genital touching (without penetration).

Because of its similarity to chlamydia, it is commonly misdiagnosed and treated with the wrong antibiotics, making testing for mycoplasma genitalium important.

  • Sexually acquired reactive arthritis (SARA)
  • Swelling of the testicles and epididymis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease in women, which can damage the fallopian tubes
Trichomoniasis

An STI caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis (TV).

Up to half of all people will not experience any symptoms.

  • Increased chance of getting HIV
  • Easier to pass HIV onto others
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

A virus that is transferred through bodily fluids including blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.

The virus weakens your immune system over time, and many people do not display any symptoms for weeks, months or even years.

  • A weakened immune system, making you more at risk of developing other infections including pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis, toxoplasmosis, and thrush
  • Increased risk of developing certain types of cancers, neurological complications, and kidney/liver disease
Hepatitis B

Caused by the hepatitis B virus and spread via the blood of an infected person.

It can also be spread through unprotected sex.

  • Increased risk of liver scarring (cirrhosis), liver cancer, liver failure and kidney disease
Chlamydia
Symptoms Possible Complications

A bacterial infection that is most common among young people and sexually active teenagers.

Most people will not notice any symptoms, meaning it is often transmitted by people who do not know they are infected.

  • Infertility
  • Increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and premature births
  • Eye infections, blindness, or pneumonia in newborns
  • Proctitis in men (inflammation of the rectum)
  • An infection of the epididymis in men (the tube that carries sperm away from the testes)
Gonorrhoea
Symptoms Possible Complications

A bacterial infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus bacteria.

The infection is easily passed on through sexual intercourse and is mainly found in discharge from the penis and in vaginal fluid.

  • Increased chance of getting HIV
  • Infection in other parts of your body like your skin or joints
  • Infertility
Mycoplasma genitalium
Symptoms Possible Complications

A bacterial infection that is commonly transmitted via sex with an infected person, or genital touching (without penetration).

Because of its similarity to chlamydia, it is commonly misdiagnosed and treated with the wrong antibiotics, making testing for mycoplasma genitalium important.

  • Sexually acquired reactive arthritis (SARA)
  • Swelling of the testicles and epididymis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease in women, which can damage the fallopian tubes
Trichomoniasis
Symptoms Possible Complications

An STI caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis (TV).

Up to half of all people will not experience any symptoms.

  • Increased chance of getting HIV
  • Easier to pass HIV onto others
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Symptoms Possible Complications

A virus that is transferred through bodily fluids including blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.

The virus weakens your immune system over time, and many people do not display any symptoms for weeks, months or even years.

  • A weakened immune system, making you more at risk of developing other infections including pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis, toxoplasmosis, and thrush
  • Increased risk of developing certain types of cancers, neurological complications, and kidney/liver disease
Hepatitis B
Symptoms Possible Complications

Caused by the hepatitis B virus and spread via the blood of an infected person.

It can also be spread through unprotected sex.

  • Increased risk of liver scarring (cirrhosis), liver cancer, liver failure and kidney disease

Can you get an STI test if you don’t have symptoms?

While it can be difficult to get a free STI test from the NHS if you don’t have symptoms, many private providers of sexual health services offer tests that can be taken whether you have symptoms or not.

However, it is important to keep in mind that every STI has a different ‘window period’; the time from when you were first exposed to an infection, to when a pathogen can be detected in your sample.

This means that knowing when to test for each infection is crucial, as testing too early could mean that the laboratory is not able to detect a pathogen within your sample.

At AlphaBiolabs, we offer six testing packages that are suitable for people with and without symptoms:

You can visit each test page to learn more about these infections, including when you should take a test for the most accurate result.  

What should you do if you have STI symptoms?

If you are experiencing symptoms, you should get an STI test immediately to rule out or confirm an infection.

You should also refrain from having sexual contact with other people while you wait for your results.

Getting an STI test is important as it can help put your mind at rest if you do not have an infection, or enable you to seek the correct treatment for an infection before your symptoms get worse.

If you take a test and your results show that you have an STI, you should contact your GP or visit your local sexual health clinic as soon as possible for further guidance and treatment options.

You must also inform any sexual partners so that they can get tested too and abstain from sexual contact until you are clear of any infections.  

Where can I order an STI test online?

It’s never been easier to order an at-home STI testing kit, direct from our award-winning laboratory.

Our STI/STD test kits have been developed with our customers in mind, are easy to use, and adhere to stringent BASHH, FSHR and MHRA guidelines – so you can test with confidence.

As soon as you order your test kit, we’ll ship it out to you immediately in discreet, plain packaging, for full confidentiality.

Once you’ve collected your samples and returned them to our laboratory, testing can begin. Your secure results will be emailed to you in 2-4 working days, depending on which test you have ordered.

You’ll also be given advice on what to do next, should a pathogen be detected in your sample.

For confidential advice on which test is best for you, call our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email health@alphabiolabs.com.

Get involved in the conversation this Sexual Health Week using the hashtag #SHW22 and tagging Brook on Twitter (@BrookCharity), Facebook (@BrookCharityYP) and Instagram (@brook_sexpositive).

Order an STI test

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