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DocSpot: Sexually transmitted infection

Dear Dr Margaret
I have watery fluid coming out of my vagina. What can I do? How can I check myself for a sexually transmitted infection?

The short answer is that you cannot really check yourself for a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can suspect that you might have an infection, but to be sure you need a check by a doctor. Often, tests are needed.
You might have an STI if you have any of the following:
  • vaginal discharge that is not normal for you (and for men, a discharge from the penis)
  • pain passing urine
  • lumps or bumps in the genital area or the groins
  • pain during sex
  • sores or painful cracks in the genital area.

On the other hand, having any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have an STI. There might be another reason for your symptom. For example, pain when passing urine can be caused by herpes, but it is more likely to be ordinary cystitis (which is not a STI). Likewise, discomfort in the genital area could signify a STI such as trichomonas or herpes, but it may simply mean that you are sensitive to a soap or bubble bath or that you have thrush (which is not a STI). Of course, if suspect your partner has an infection, or you have recently had a new partner without using a condom, an STI is more likely.

Another difficulty is that some STIs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, may not cause any symptoms at all, especially in women.
So, if you think you might have an STI, go to a sexual health clinic for a check-up straight away, or see your own doctor. This is far better than worrying about it on your own, and trying to work out whether you do or don’t have an infection. Don’t be embarrassed about going to a clinic – they are not at all scary. We have recently posted a new section on the site, Genital infections, which explains the different types of infection including common STIs. I hope this will be useful to anyone who has had a diagnosis and wants more information, but it isn’t a substitute for getting an expert opinion from your local sexual health clinic.

Last updated; Monday, September 7th 2020

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