Discussing the symptoms associated with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is always tricky for any healthcare professional. The symptoms of STIs vary for each individual and indeed many STDs will show no symptoms at all in the majority of patients.
This is why STI testing is so vital for both your own health and the health of others. In many instances a positive STI test may be the only sign that you’ve contracted an STD. We take a look at a range of common STIs that may show not show any symptoms.
Which STIs can go unnoticed?
Although all STIs have the capability to show signs and symptoms at some stage, there are a large percentage that can go completely unnoticed by the carrier until much later following contraction. Here’s a run down of some of the STIs that fit into this category.
Chlamydia is known as the silent STI, because it rarely shows symptoms in the early stages of infection. In fact, it’s thought that at least 70% of women and half of all men with chlamydia don’t notice any symptoms of the infection. 
If you do notice symptoms, they will usually appear one to three weeks following contraction of the STI, but for some they won’t appear until many months after. 
Unfortunately, if you leave chlamydia untreated it can spread to the fallopian tubes and womb, causing pelvic inflammatory disease – a major cause of infertility and pregnancy complications in women. For men it can cause swelling and eventual scarring of the testicles and epididymis leading to infertility.
Although the presence of symptoms is more common with gonorrhoea, there are still a large number of people for whom it may go unnoticed. About 1 in 10 infected men and 5 in 10 infected women will not experience any obvious symptoms. 
If you do experience symptoms they will usually develop a few days and up to two weeks following infection and in many cases they can be extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant. Symptoms may include pain whilst urinating and an unusual yellow or green discharge from the penis or vagina. 
Those that don’t notice any symptoms and leave the condition to go unnoticed for a number of years risk long term complications, including infertility.
The initial stages of HIV present in the form of a seroconversion illness. Symptoms are similar to those of the flu or cold, including fever, chills, night sweats and a sore throat and will usually occur up to six weeks following infection and pass within a couple of weeks. 
Only around two thirds of those affected by HIV will notice these initial symptoms  of the virus, many of whom may mistake the symptoms for cold or flu.
HIV has three stages with the impact on a patient’s health growing more severe the longer the condition is left. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to notice symptoms in the early stages and it’s not until the virus has a greater impact on a patient’s overall health that they notice something is amiss. This is why regular testing for HIV is so important.
Many people are aware of the potentially uncomfortable and unsightly symptoms that come with both herpes and genital herpes. Those affected can notice painful sores or blisters around the genitals, anus or mouth.
The majority of those infected will notice symptoms around two weeks following infection, however others may not notice them for many more months.
Not everyone will have severe symptoms, with many only noticing a very mild outbreak which may resemble a rash or insect bites. Some patients may not notice them at all. 
The symptoms of herpes can reoccur in the form of recurrent outbreaks, although these are usually milder than the initial outbreak. 
Can you still pass on an STI without symptoms?
One of the main reasons that STIs spread so easily is because they can be passed on without the carrier showing any symptoms.
Often if someone has no symptoms they will continue having sex without getting tested or receiving treatment.
This is why its important to always use a condom during sex, including for vaginal, anal and oral sex and undergo regular sexual health tests for both you and your sexual partners wellbeing.
How do you know if you have an STI?
Unfortunately, due to the fact that many STIs show no symptoms at all and those that do have similar symptoms to other conditions, the only way to know you have an STI is through testing. There are a wide range of sexual health tests available from Your Sexual Health which can help you diagnose all of the conditions mentioned above.
If you’re sexually active then there’s a chance that you could have caught a sexually transmitted infection. If you’ve had multiple sexual partners or engaged in unprotected sex with someone for the first time then your risk increases.
Getting tested is the only way to protect both yourself and your future sexual partners against the long term health complications associated with sexually transmitted infections.