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Signs and symptoms of STIs

The Signs
Signs and symptoms of STIs
STIs are also known as Veneral Diseases (VDs) or STDs. These are diseases or infections which are commonly spread or transmitted from one person to another through unprotected intercourse. Some of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) does not show any signs and symptoms in the majority of persons infected. This therefore, increases the risk of spreading and/ or contracting the infection.

STIs are common all over the world, and maybe caused by either bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasites. Below are the list of some of the most common STIs and their commonly presented signs and symptoms or clinical manifestations.


This infection is caused by a bacterium called gonococcus or Neisseria gonorrhoea. It inhabits the moist mucous membranes of the rectum, mouth, throat, eyes and genitals. The signs and symptoms of gonorrhoea usually appear between 2 to 5 days after exposure. However, some persons might not experience any signs and symptoms for up to a month; and this might increase the risk of spreading and/ or contracting the infection. The infection is transmitted and/ or spread through contact with infected persons. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of gonorrhoea are-

  • Pain and/ or burning sensation during urination,
  • Rectal itching, 
  • Painful and swollen scrotum, 
  • Sore throat,
  • Painful bowel movement,
  • Thick cloudy or bloody discharge,
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding, or bleeding in between periods,
  • Increased frequency of urination,
  • Red or swollen urethra,
  • Mild to severe pain in the lower abdomen (mostly in women),
  • Pain during or after sex,
  • Genital itching, etc.


This is an infection which is caused by the bacterium called Treponema pallidum. This bacterium infects a person by burrowing into the moist mucous layers lining the mouth or genital areas. It can also affect other parts of the body such as the skin, brain and the heart. The clinical manifestation of syphilis pass through different stages, which are:

Primary- this stage of syphilis infection is characterized by; 

  • The appearance of a painless sore known as chancre at the genital area,
  • The chancre develops within 10 to 90 days after exposure,
  • After 3 to 6 weeks of development, the chancre resolves on its own without treatment. 

Secondary- this stage develops within 3 weeks to a month after the primary stage of infection, and last for about 4 to 6 weeks. In this stage, the disease has spread to various organs and tissues, causing various symptoms such as;

  • Fever,
  • Skin rash,
  • Fatigue,
  • Lethargy,
  • Unexplainable feelings of discomfort,
  • Malaise,
  • Swollen lymph nodes,
  • Arthritis,
  • Soreness and aching,
  • Kidney disease,
  • Liver problems,
  • Flu-like illness, etc. loss of hair may arise.

Tertiary- at this stage, different types of conditions may arise as a result of the prevailing syphilis infection. This stage is characterized by;

  • Brain infection which might cause stroke,
  • Mental confusion and/ or meningitis,
  • General unexplainable Weakness,
  • Problem with sensation,
  • Abnormal bulging of the large artery (aorta) giving rise to heart conditions,
  • Development of large nodules in various organs of the body, 
  • Deterioration of vision leading to loss of sight or blindness,
  • Deterioration of hearing leading to deafness,
  • Lack of coordination,
  • Numbness, 
  • Dementia,
  • Paralysis, etc.

Syphilis is highly contagious when the sore or chancre are present. Fortunately, syphilis is treatable using the appropriate antibiotics. Endeavour to see your doctor.


This is one of the most common STI and is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. This bacterium is found in the cervix and urethra and can also Inhabit the throat and rectum. Both men and women are infected in the same frequency. Chlamydia May be difficult to detect because at its early stage, there are few or no signs and symptoms at all and this increases the risk of spreading and/ or transmitting the disease unwittingly. Usually, the few signs and symptoms starts to appear within 1 to 3 weeks after infection. The most common clinical manifestation of chlamydia are;

  • Painful and/ or burning sensation during urination,
  • Pain in the lower abdomen,
  • Discharge (in men and women),
  • Swollen and painful testicle in men,
  • Heavy periods or menstrual flow,
  • Bleeding in between periods,
  • Cervicitis (infection of the uterine cervix) in women,
  • Frequent urination, etc.


chancroid is also known as soft sore, it is caused by the bacterium called Haemophilus ducreyi. The clinical presentation of Chancroid starts within 3 to 10 days after exposure. The signs and symptoms of Chancroid begins or start at the exposed area such as the genital skin, most commonly the urethra and vulva.

The most common clinical manifestation or signs and symptoms of Chancroid are;

  • Tender bumps and lumps around the genital,
  • Painful ulcer or sore in the genitals,
  • Swollen glands (lymph nodes),
  • Fever,
  • Pain around the groin, etc.


Trichomoniasis as an STI is caused by a protozoan called Trichomonas vaginalis. The protozoan (plural is protozoa) usually infects the genital tract in both men and women. Signs and Symptoms of trichomoniasis usually appears within 5 to 30 days after exposure. However, some persons do not show or present any symptoms after days of infection, this raises the risk of transmission and spreading of the disease.

The most common signs and symptoms or clinical manifestation of trichomoniasis include:

  • ischarge (discharge could be clear or cloudy, watery, yellowish, greenish, etc),
  • Pain/ or burning sensation during urination,
  • Pain during or after intercourse,
  • Genital itching or irritation,
  • Strong and unpleasant genital odour,
  • Genital sores,
  • Increased frequency of urination, etc.

Pubic lice (Pediculosis pubis)

Public lice which is also known as Pudiculosis pubis is an infection caused by the ectoparasite called Phthirus pubis (that is crab louse). It is transmitted through close contact, use of infected clothing, etc.

These ectoparasitic lice are usually found in the pubic hairs, armpit hairs, body hairs, beards, eye brows and eye lashes. It may take several weeks after exposure for signs and symptoms of pubic lice infection to appear. The most common symptoms are:

  • Itching and irritation on the genital areas, under arm, buttocks and all exposured areas,
  • Rashes, 
  • Tiny sores or red swollen spots, 
  • Presence of lice on pubic hairs, 
  • Presence of eggs on hairs of the armpit, jaw, eye Lashes, etc.


This is an infection caused by a tiny ectoparasite called Sarcoptes scabiei. This parasitic infection is spread through close body or genital contact, through use of infected towel or clothing. The mite or parasite lives on the skin and causes serious itching and irritation.

The most common symptoms (itching) of scabies starts about few weeks after infection. These signs and symptoms include:

  • Itching of the hands, arms, trunk, legs, buttocks and genital areas,
  • Itching also of the wrist, ankles, breast, etc.
  • Itching is usually intense or worse at night,
  • Itching is often associated with small bumps over the area,
  • Rashes and/ or tiny swollen spots, etc.


This is an infection or disease caused by a virus called Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This virus which can be transmitted through a number of ways (including unprotected intercourse, unscreened blood transfusion, childbirth, the use of unsterilized sharp objects, sharing of needles, blades, etc) basically interferes with and weakens the immune system of an infected person which might eventually lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). AIDS is a life threatening disease.

Presently, there is no cure for HIV/ AIDS, but treatment and control measures or plans are available which may provide infected persons the opportunity to live a long, healthy and fulfilled life. Although there are no specific signs and symptoms that can confirm HIV infection, some of the the most common clinical manifestation of HIV/ AIDS progresses through stages- early and late (if not treated).

The early (seroconversion illness) signs and symptoms of HIV includes;
  • Flu-like illness,
  • Fever,
  • Headache,
  • Sore throat,
  • Swollen and painful lymph glands,
  • Rash, 
  • Fatigue,
  • Vomiting,
  • Lethargy,
  • Nausea, etc. 
As the virus continue to multiply and destroy the immune system (T cells: CD4 cells), the bodies defense mechanism weakens. Within a period of about 8 to 10 years, if antiretroviral drugs are not taken, it eventually leads to Immunosuppression. At this point, opportunistic infection such as pneumonia will set in, and the more chronic signs and symptoms will develop. Some of which are;
  • Diarrhoea,
  • Weight loss,
  • Fever higher than 100F (38oC),
  • Swollen lymph nodes,
  • Coughing and shortness of breath,
  • Vomiting,
  • Persistent headache,
  • Muscle and joint pain,
  • Sore throat,
  • Chronic diarrhoea,
  • Soaking night sweat,
  • Coldness,
  • Immunosuppression (deceased or reduced functioning of the immune system),
  • Intellectual deterioration (dementia),
  • Opportunistic infections, etc.

Genital Herpes

This is a very common and highly contagious disease caused by the virus called herpes simplex virus (HSV), the same virus (HSV type-1) which causes cold sores. This virus enters the body through breaks in your skin or mucous membranes of the genitals. The incubation period of this virus is about 3 to 7 days after exposure, after which the signs and symptoms begin to manifest. However, there are certain persons who do not present any clinical manifestation, thereby increasing the risk of spreading the virus.

Genital herpes is not curable and thus persist all through life. It has the potentials to cause outbreaks at any point in time. These outbreaks vary in severities from one person to another. The outbreaks or clinical manifestations of genital herpes usually begins within 2 weeks of infection, presenting signs and symptoms such as;
  • Small red bumps,
  • Blisters (vesicles) or open sores (ulcers) in the genital areas,
  • Sores on the anal region or nearby areas,
  • Itching and/ or tingling of the genitals,
  • Pain around the genitals,
  • Swollen testicles or scrotum,
  • Pain during urination,
  • Sores around the buttocks and thighs,
  • Flu-like signs,
  • Muscle ache or pain,
  • Swollen lymph,
  • Fever, etc.
Often after infection or exposure, the virus remains dormant or inactive most times. Sometimes, even after the first outbreak, the virus might still go dormant. However, certain triggers can reactivate or illicit the process why the virus causes the symptoms or outbreaks (blisters) to develop.

Genital warts

Genital warts is also known as condylomata acuminata or Veneral warts, it is one of the most common STIs. Genital warts is caused by the virus called Human papillomavirus (HPV) and can also be transmitted through intimate contact. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection have long been known to cause cervical cancer, cancer of the mouth, etc. There is no cure for HPV infections, but somehow the body system (immune system) can often resolve them on its own without treatment...!

Genital warts usually have no significant signs and symptoms, but the most common clinical manifestations includes;
  • Small fleshy, coloured or grey swellings or bumps around your genitals,
  • Warts growing together often takes on the shape of a cauliflower,
  • Itching and/ or irritation,
  • Discomfort in your genital area,
  • Discomfort in your lower abdomen,
  • Bleeding during or after intercourse,
  • Swellon or redness around the vulva in women,
  • Swollen and/ redness around the urethra and scrotum in men,
  • Swollen and/ or redness around and within the anus,
  • Occasionally, the growth cause bleeding, etc. 
Genital warts can also grow in the mouth or throat of a person who have been exposed.


Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are different types of hepatitis, some of which are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. These diseases and/ or conditions are caused by the viruses, hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B Virus (HBV)  and hepatitis C virus (HCV) respectively. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is commonly transmitted through unprotected intercourse, while Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) are infrequently or seldomly transmitted through intercourse. So, Hepatitis A and C are unusual as STIs. However, all the types of hepatitis are transmitted through contact with infected blood or body fluids, consumption of contaminated food and drinks.

Hepatitis causes the liver to inflamed and often leading to complications like liver cirrhosis, and 5% of the infected persons may develop a long-term liver damage. The clinical Manifestation or signs and symptoms of hepatitis begins several weeks after contact with infected person or blood. However, some persons do not show any signs and symptoms long after infection, hence increases the risk of spreading the disease. The most common signs and symptoms of hepatitis include;
  • Fever,
  • Nausea,
  • Vomiting,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Abdominal pain and/ or discomfort,
  • Fatigue,
  • Lethargy,
  • Dark urine,
  • Muscle and/ or joint pain,
  • Itching,
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes),
  • Malaise,
  • Oedema (swelling of the legs),
  • Ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen), etc. 

See a Doctor

Are you experiencing any or some of the Signs and symptoms stated above?, then it is time to see a doctor. Are you having lower abdominal pain? Feeling pain or burning sensation during urination? Are you having Coloured and/ or Odorous discharge? Are you feeling persistently tired, lethargic or fatigued? having any red swollen or sores around your genitals? Are you experiencing an unusually heavy Menstrual flow? are you feeling malaise. Make an appointment with your doctor get yourself checked, tested and treated. It is time to get well and enjoy a happy and healthy lifestyle.

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Better Health Channel: Retrieved 4th of October, 2017.

Guyton and Hall. "Textbook of Medical Physiology" 11th edition. Philadelphia; Elsevier, 2006.

Wikipedia: Retrieved 4th of October, 2017.

NHS Choices online: Retrieved 4th of October, 2017.

Murray PR, Rosenthal KS, Pfaller MA (2013). Medical microbiology (7th ed.). St. Louis, Mo.: Mosby. p. 418. ISBN 9780-32-3086-929.

Mayo Clinic online: Retrieved 4th of October, 2017. Retrieved 4th of October, 2017.


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