Signs and Symptoms
The following signs and symptoms may be present after an STI but remember that most are silent:
• Urethral discharge
• Genital ulcers
• Inguinal swellings (bubo, which is a swelling in the groin)
• Lower abdominal pain
• Painful intercourse
• Scrotal swelling (men)
• Vaginal discharge (women)
• Neonatal eye infections (newborn)
Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV
The presence of an untreated ulcerative or non-ulcerative STI (those which cause ulcers or those which do not) increases the risk of both getting and passing on HIV. So prompt treatment for STIs is vitally important to reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Sexually Transmitted Infections and Women’s Health
STIs are the main preventable cause of infertility, particularly in women. Between 10% and 40% of women with untreated chlamydial infection develop symptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease. Post-infection tubal damage is responsible for 30% to 40% of cases of female infertility. Furthermore, women who have had pelvic inflammatory disease are 6 to 10 times more likely to develop an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy than those who have not, and 40% to 50% of ectopic pregnancies can be attributed to previous pelvic inflammatory disease. Infection with certain types of the human papillomavirus can lead to the development of genital cancers, particularly cervical cancer in women.
Sexually Transmitted Infections and Pregnancy
Untreated sexually transmitted infections are associated with congenital and perinatal infections in newborns. In pregnant women with untreated early syphilis, 25% of pregnancies result in stillbirth and 14% in neonatal death. Up to 35% of pregnancies among women with untreated gonococcal infection result in spontaneous abortions and premature deliveries and up to 10% of perinatal deaths. In the absence of treatment, 30% to 50% of infants born to mothers with untreated gonorrhoea and up to 30% of infants born to mothers with untreated chlamydial infection will develop a serious eye infection (ophthalmia neonatorum), which can lead to blindness if not treated early.