Signs and Symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Infections
The following signs and symptoms may be present after an STI but remember 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)
Symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Infections
Many sexually transmitted infections often exist without symptoms. For example, up to 70% of women and a significant proportion of men with gonococcal and/or chlamydial infections may experience no symptoms at all. Both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections can lead to the development of serious complications.
Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV
The presence of an untreated ulcerative or non-ulcerative (those STIs which cause ulcers or those which do not) infection increases the risk of both acquisition and transmission of HIV by a factor of up to 10. Thus, prompt treatment for STIs is important to reduce the risk of HIV infection. Controlling STIs is important for preventing HIV in people at high risk, as well as in the general population.
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 neonates, particularly in the areas where rates of infection remain high.
In pregnant women with untreated early syphilis, 25% of pregnancies result in stillbirth and 14% in neonatal death an overall perinatal mortality of about 40%. Syphilis prevalence in pregnant women in Africa, for example, ranges from 4% to 15%. Up to 35% of pregnancies among women with untreated gonococcal infection result in spontaneous abortions and premature deliveries, and up to 10% in perinatal deaths. In the absence of prophylaxis, 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. It is estimated that, worldwide, between 1000 and 4000 newborn babies become blind every year because of this condition.