How soon do STI symptoms appear?

This depends on which sexually transmitted infection (STI) you have. Some STIs cause few or no symptoms, so you may not know you have one. Always practise safe sex, and if there is any chance you have an STI, go to your GP or find a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic for a free and confidential check-up.

Below are the symptoms of some STIs. You can find more information about these and other STIs, including how they're treated, in the Health A-Z section, or click on the links to go straight to information about each STI.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs in the UK, and yet around 50% of men and 70-80% of women with the condition have no symptoms. Symptoms can appear one to three weeks after infection, many months later, or not until the infection has spread to other parts of your body. Symptoms include pain when passing urine, pelvic pain for women, and pain in the testicles for men.

Genital herpes

Many people have no symptoms when they're first infected with genital herpes. If you do have symptoms when first infected, they usually appear four to seven days after infection. They include pain when you pee and small, painful red blisters around the genital or anal area that burst, leaving open sores, as well as tingling or itching in the genital or anal area. However, symptoms may not appear until months or years after infection. 

Genital warts

Genital warts can appear two to three months after infection, but sometimes they take up to a year to appear. The warts may develop anywhere on the genitals or anal area, including the urethra, vulva, cervix, penis and scrotum. In women, they can also develop inside the vagina or on the cervix, where they can't be seen. They're usually painless, but may itch or cause inflammation. In many cases, people who are infected with the virus that causes genital warts (human papilloma virus, or HPV) develop no symptoms.

Gonorrhoea

Symptoms of gonorrhoea usually appear within two weeks of infection. However, sometimes they don't appear until many months later or until the infection has spread to other parts of the body. About 50% of women and 10% of men with gonorrhoea have no obvious symptoms. If symptoms do appear, they can include green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis and pain when passing urine.

Pubic lice and scabies

It can take five days to several weeks after getting pubic lice or scabies for symptoms to appear. The most common symptom for both conditions is itching in the affected area, which is worse at night.

Syphilis

The first signs of syphilis can appear 10 days to three months after you become infected. Symptoms are often mild, so you can pass on the infection without knowing you've got it. The most common symptom is the appearance of one or more small painless sores or ulcers, usually on the genitals, but they can also appear around the mouth and anus. Without treatment, syphilis will progress on to the next stage. Read more about the three stages of syphilis.

Read the answers to more questions about sexual health.

Further information:

Video: genital warts

A dermatologist explains the causes and symptoms of genital warts, a viral skin infection. She also describes how to avoid passing them on to others and what treatment options are available.

Media last reviewed:

Next review due:

Page last reviewed: 03/11/2014

Next review due: 02/11/2016