STI symptoms in men
Sexually transmitted infections and diseases are very common across the world. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 million new STI cases are acquired every single day. In the UK, the four most common sexually transmitted infections and diseases are chlamydia, genital warts (caused by the human papillomavirus), gonorrhoea and genital herpes (caused by the herpes simplex virus).
In men, STI symptoms tend to be more noticeable and pronounced than in women. Men also experience fewer complications from infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea. However, contracting a sexually transmitted infection or disease is still a cause for concern, particularly if it is viral and cannot be cured with antibiotics.
Symptoms of STIs in men
To avoid contracting an STI you should always use condoms when you can’t be certain that your sexual partner is free from infection. Another good way to avoid infection is to educate yourself about the various symptoms. This way you can look out for symptoms in yourself and any partners.
Below are some common sexually transmitted diseases and infections and the symptoms that they cause.
In men, chlamydia causes:
- Pain when urinating
- Discharge from the penis that is white, watery or cloudy
- Burning or itching in the urethra
- Testicular pain
- Discomfort and discharge from the rectum
Genital warts are fleshy growths that are normally painless. In men, they develop:
- On the penis
- On the scrotum
- Inside the urethra
- Inside or around the anus
- On the upper thighs
Warts are not normally painful but they can become itchy or inflamed and can very occasionally lead to bleeding.
In men, gonorrhoea causes:
Discharge from the penis that is white, yellow or green
Pain or a burning sensation when urinating
Swelling of the foreskin
Painful or tender testicles
Genital herpes causes small, painful blisters to develop around the genitals. These blisters burst leaving open sores that can last for up to three weeks. Herpes can also cause flu-like symptoms.
In men, blisters caused by herpes develop on the:
In men, trichomoniasis causes:
- Pain when urinating or ejaculating
- A need to urinate frequently
- Watery, white discharge from the penis
- Soreness or swelling around the head of the penis or foreskin
In both men and women, HIV usually causes a condition called seroconversion illness a few weeks after exposure. This is where the immune system tries to fight off the infection.
Seroconversion illness is characterised by a fever, sore throat, a rash across the body and flu-like symptoms. After this has passed, HIV tends to be symptomless for years as it progresses through the body, attacking the immune system.
Syphilis does not progress like a typical sexually transmitted infection. In the first few weeks after exposure, it can cause a primary infection that causes a painless sore on the genitals.
A secondary infection can develop a few weeks later. This secondary infection can cause a blotchy red rash on the hands or feet, skin growths around the anus, white patches in the mouth, flu-like symptoms, swollen glands and patchy hair loss. If left untreated, syphilis can spread to the brain and nervous system.
Complications of STIs in men
Viral infections such as genital herpes, genital warts and HIV cannot be cured. If you are infected with genital herpes and genital warts, you can expect recurrent episodes of symptoms. If you are infected with HIV you will need to take daily medication to prevent the progression of the virus.
Bacterial infections can also cause serious complications when left untreated. Syphilis that is allowed to progress can lead to life-threatening conditions such as meningitis, stroke and dementia.
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea, meanwhile, can cause painful infections in the testicles and prostate gland. This can negatively impact fertility.
Avoiding sexually transmitted infections
The best way to avoid STIs is to use condoms. If you are having unprotected sex with a partner or partners who may be infected, you should get regular STI tests. You can do this for free by visiting your GP, a GUM clinic or a sexual health clinic. You can also obtain a home STI test kit from online pharmacies such as the Online Doctor.