Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): Symptoms You Should Know

  • Symptoms

 

  • People at risk

 

  • Treatments

 

  • When to see your doctor

Sexually transmitted diseases

Key tips

  1. STDs most times go undiagnosed because signs aren’t always present.
  2. Having certain STDs can make you more susceptible to other infections, with the inclusion of HIV.
  3. If you’re uncomfortable seeing your personal doctor, you have other options.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are common. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 20 million new infections happen in the United States every year. Even more people remain undiagnosed.

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One of the reasons many people don’t know they’re infected is that many STDs don’t have any sign or symptoms. You can be infected with an STD for years without knowing it. Even when STDs don’t have obvious symptoms, they can still damage your body. Untreated, asymptomatic STDs can:

  • Heighten your risk of infertility
  • cause certain types of cancer
  • spread to your sexual partners
  • damage your unborn baby if you’re pregnant
  • make you more susceptible to HIV infection

Symptoms

STDs take many people off guard. However, it’s vital to protect your sexual health. Be aware of any physical changes, however minor. Look for medical help to understand them.

Talk to your doctor if you’re noticing the symptoms of an STD. They can treat your infection or offer you with medications to decrease the symptoms or issues you may have. They can also counsel you on how to reduce your STD risk in the future.

STD signs and symptoms can range from mild to extreme. Some of the most common symptoms of STDs include the following:

Changes in urination

Burning sensation or pain during urination can be a symptom of several STDs. However, it can also happen due to a urinary tract infection or kidney stones. Therefore it’s vital to get tested if you have pain or other symptoms during urination.

STDs that can cause pain during urination include:

  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • trichomoniasis
  • genital herpes

Discuss with your doctor if you notice any changes in urination. You should also note the color of your urine to check for the presence of blood.

Unusual discharge from the penis

Discharge from the penis is usually a sign of an STD or another infection. It’s vital to report this symptom to your doctor as soon as possible for diagnosis. STDs that can cause discharge include:

  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • trichomoniasis

These infections are generally treatable with antibiotics. However, it’s very important to take your medication exactly as prescribed.

You should go back to your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve or if they come back. You may have become re-infected by contact with your partner, particularly if they weren’t treated at the same time as you were. You may also need a different antibiotic.

Burning or itching in the vaginal area

STDs aren’t always the cause of burning or itching in the vaginal area. A bacterial or yeast infection can also create vaginal burning or itching. However, you should talk to your doctor about any sensation changes in your vaginal area. Bacterial vaginosis and pubic lice can cause itching and require treatment.

Pain during sex

Occasional pain during sex is fairly common among women. Because of this, it can be one of the most overlooked symptoms of an STD. If you experience pain during sex, you should discuss it with your doctor. This is particularly true if the pain:

  • is new
  • has changed
  • started with a new sexual partner
  • began after a change in sexual habits

Pain during ejaculation can also be an STD symptom in men.

Abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding

Abnormal vaginal discharge can be a sign of a number of infections. Not all of these are actually sexually transmitted. Sexually associated infections, such as yeast and bacterial vaginosis can also cause discharge.

If you have changes in your vaginal discharge, have a chat with your doctor. Some vaginal discharge is normal throughout the menstrual cycle. However, it shouldn’t be strangely colored or smell bad. These can be symptoms of an STD. For example, discharge that happen due to trichomoniasis is often green, frothy, and foul smelling. Gonorrhea discharge may be yellow and tinged with blood.

If you have bleeding between periods combined with discharge, make an appointment with your doctor. These signs can also be a sign of cancer.

Bumps or sores

Bumps and sores may be the first noticeable symptoms of STDs including:

  • genital herpes
  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • syphilis
  • molloscum contagiosum

If you have strange bumps or sores on or near your mouth or genitals, discuss with your doctor. You should mention these sores to your doctor even if they go away before your visit. Herpes sores, for example, typically go away within a week or two. However, they can still be infectious even when no sores are present.

Just because a sore has healed doesn’t mean the infection has gone away. An infection like herpes is lifelong. Once you get infected, the virus is present in your body at all times.

Pain in the pelvic or abdominal region

Pelvic pain can be an indicator of a number of conditions. If the pain is unusual or intense, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your doctor.

Many causes of pelvic pain are not related to STDs. However, one cause of severe pelvic pain in women is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which happens when asymptomatic STDs have gone untreated. Bacteria ascend into the uterus and abdomen. There, infection causes inflammation and scarring. This can be extremely painful and, in rare cases, fatal. PID is one of the leading causes of preventable infertility in women.

Nonspecific symptoms

STDs are infections. Just like other infections, they can cause many nonspecific symptoms and signs, which are symptoms that can be caused by a number of illnesses. They show that your body is responding to an infection. Nonspecific symptoms that can happen due to STDs and related conditions include:

  • chills
  • a fever
  • tiredness
  • rashes
  • weight loss

On their own, these symptoms will not make your doctor to suspect you have an STD. If you think you are at risk for an STD, talk to your doctor.

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