Most googled STI symptoms
Reviewed by our clinical team
The most googled STI symptoms: why ‘Doctor Google’ shouldn’t be the only medical professional you consult
Ever googled a cure when you’ve noticed something isn’t quite right *down there*?
We’re all guilty of turning to the internet to diagnose ourselves in times of trouble. Diagnosing yourself through search engines is one thing, but not seeking a second opinion from a qualified medical professional can be dangerous.
As many as 59% of the UK google their health symptoms before seeing a doctor. The same study suggests that less than a fifth of people frequently follow up with a doctor after searching for their symptoms online.
In recent years we’ve seen an increase in people searching the internet for STI symptoms, which could mean a lot of people are either diagnosing themselves or not seeking the medical help they need.
While relying on a search engine is the easy option that can spare some blushes, it’s not definitely not accurate. The only way to truly discover if you’ve got an STI is to get tested.
In a bid to stop people diagnosing themselves digitally, we decided to find out how much of a role ‘Dr Google’ is playing in the UK to help people self-diagnose and self-treat suspected STIs.
Our research showed that England is searching for STI symptoms and treatments at 377 times the rate they’re being diagnosed. This means there’s a high likelihood people are going undiagnosed for various STIs across the country as they rely on Google rather than STI tests.
Let’s find out more…
Recent STI data for England
Using data provided by Public Health England, we can look at which places in England are being diagnosed with the most STIs per 100,000 people
|Cases per 10000 people|
|Rank||Location||Syphilis||Gonorrhoea||Chlamydia||Genital warts||Genital herpes||HIV||All STIs|
|3||Brighton and Hove||60||188||460||95||69||12||884|
Which places are searching for STIs rather than being diagnosed for them?
When you compare STI diagnosis data with search data, you begin to realise that we’re searching for STI symptoms and treatments at a much higher rate than they’re being diagnosed.
Monthly searches for STI symptoms and treatments
Average STI diagnosis per 100,000 people
How many more searches than diagnosis?
Most searched STI
Most diagnosed STI
Brighton and Hove
How much are we googling STIs?
Our study shows that England is searching for STI symptoms and treatments at a rate of 377 times more than they’re being diagnosed.
We have broken this down in the table below for detailed results on exactly which STIs are being searched for the most in England.
Monthly searches for symptoms and treatments
Average STI diagnosis per 100,000 people
How many more searches than diagnosis?
As you can see, symptoms and treatments for HIV are being searched for 7793 times more than it’s being diagnosed in England, meaning there is a high potential that people are searching for advice about HIV without seeking help from their doctor.
Chlamydia is the most searched AND most diagnosed STI in England
We looked at the number of times STIs are googled across major cities in England and found that chlamydia is the most searched for STI in the country. Out of 35 cities, it was the most googled in a total of 23 locations. 64,300 people are searching for both the symptoms and treatments for chlamydia every month!
Coming in second place for searches was genital herpes, with a total of 9 cities googling the STI the most. While in second place, searches for genital herpes treatments and symptoms are around 9,000 every month in the UK.
Much like the search results, chlamydia was far and away the most diagnosed STI in England, with 286 people in every 100,000 diagnosed with this sexually transmitted infection across the country.
The second most diagnosed STI in England is Gonorrhoea (otherwise known as ‘the clap’) at a rate of 101 in every 100,000. Which again, pales in comparison to the likes of chlamydia.
Which STIs should you be looking out for?
There are a wide range of STIs out there, which can be spread in different ways. That’s why everyone who is sexually active should be taking regular STI tests. Many STIs are now easily treatable, but getting diagnosed early is key.
As the most common curable STI in the UK, chlamydia doesn’t always have tell-tale symptoms. Men and women can be infected with chlamydia in their throat or bottom (rectum) if they've had unprotected oral or anal sex respectively. And for some rare cases it can result in problems with fertility. Because the symptoms often go unnoticed, it’s even more important that people take tests.
Genital herpes is a common STI that causes a recurring rash of red blisters around the genitals. Because it’s caused by the incurable herpes simplex virus, it won’t go away after treatment. You can expect repeated bouts of the symptoms, followed by long periods in which you have no symptoms at all.
Spread through skin to skin contact, many sufferers won’t notice they have been exposed to the infection for months or years because the symptoms often go unnoticed at first.
Genital warts are small, fleshy growths or bumps found in the genital or anal area caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).
Although occasionally sore and itchy, most cases of genital warts are completely harmless and painless. Though they’re not always particularly nice to look at and they can lead to a loss of confidence and anxiety.
Also known as ‘the clap’, gonorrhoea can lead to a variety of uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms if not treated. The infection is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sex (and shared sex toys if not washed after use).
Gonorrhoea is the third most commonly diagnosed STI in England and if left untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women and painful infections in the testicles and prostate gland in men.
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, normally over a long period of time, and leaves you unable to fight off infections and disease. There is no cure for HIV but it can be managed very effectively these days if you test regularly and catch it early. If left untreated, however, HIV can develop into AIDS.
Mainly spread through unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive, it is estimated there are more than 100,000 people living with HIV in England, and around 6,600 of those people are undiagnosed.
Why it’s important to get tested regularly
Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections is nothing to be ashamed of – in fact, it’s a really good thing to do for your health.
Not only will it help you get diagnosed earlier (which means you can start getting treatment sooner), but it will also protect you from passing on STIs to sexual partners. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, it’s important that you get tested regularly to ensure you can continue to have safe sex.
Unfortunately, lots of people feel embarrassed about talking about their sexual health or going to get tested, which puts them off visiting their GP or local sexual health clinic.
If you want to get tested but you’d rather do it from the comfort of your own home, Online Doctor stock safe and reliable home STI kits that you can use at home and post to our lab for testing.
Leave it to the professionals…
Ultimately, Google can do a good job at explaining the symptoms you’re experiencing, but you should never use the search engine to self-diagnose. If you’re worried about something, the best thing to do is seek medical advice and get tested.
- https://www.lenstore.co.uk/research/googling-health-symptoms/ - For stats around UK citizens Googling their health symptoms.
- https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/sexualhealth/data - To gather an index of STI's by diagnostic rate per 100,000 people for each city/town in England. ‘All STIs’ refers to the sum total of people diagnosed with Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, Genital warts, Genital herpes, HIV.
- https://keywordtool.io/google - To obtain Search Volumes for each of the relevant STI keywords in each city
- https://www.citypopulation.de/en/uk/ - To list the top 35 cities in England by population