How can I tell if I have an STI?

STI symptoms can vary considerably, depending on the infection. Many STIs have no symptoms at all. These can be quite dangerous, since you may pass them on or leave them untreated because you are not aware of them. In other cases, the symptoms may not show up for weeks to months.

STIs can also have symptoms that are similar to those of other diseases that have nothing to do with sex. If you think you may have been at risk for an STI, some symptoms you may have are:

  • sores, bumps or blisters near your genitals, anus or mouth
  • burning or pain when you urinate
  • itching, bad smell, dripping, or unusual discharge from your genitals or anus
  • pain in your lower abdomen
  • for women: bleeding from your vagina between your menstrual periods

If you have no symptoms, but are concerned that you may have been exposed to an STI, the only way to find out for sure is to be tested. Check with your doctor or the local clinic about testing for STIs. You may also be able to find out about confidential testing services in your area by checking your local yellow pages, under "Birth Control Information Services" or "Health and Personal Care." It is also a good idea to ask to be screened for STIs at your annual physical exam.

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