Signs and Symptoms of STDs

In This Article

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), of which there are many, have a varied set of symptoms. It's possible that you may experience genital itching, discharge, pain, skin changes, or other symptoms—or even none at all. In fact, some of the most serious infections produce no signs or symptoms until significant damage has occurred, which puts both the person affected and their partner(s) at risk.

Before reviewing the signs and symptoms of some common STDs, it's important to remember that the only person who can diagnose you with such an infection is a healthcare professional. If you think you may have been exposed to an STD, whether you have symptoms or not, it is important to go to a doctor and get tested.

Treating an STD in the early stages can prevent transmission of the infection and prevent serious complications, such as infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Frequent Symptoms

Symptoms associated with STDs overlap with those of other conditions, which further stresses the importance of proper testing. See a doctor if you have any of the following.

Discharge

Discharge from the vagina (for women) or urethra (for men) can be a symptom of certain STDs, including:

Vaginal discharge is defined as unusual liquids or solids coming out of the vagina. It is not the same as normal vaginal lubrication; all women have some discharge. It's only when abnormal/unusual discharge is present that it may signal an STD.

Urethral discharge is pus or other fluids coming out of the penis.

Odor

Changing vaginal odor is often a sign that you may have acquired a vaginal infection. Some infections that cause the vagina to smell unpleasant are:

  • Trichomoniasis
  • Bacterial vaginosis 

Itching

STD-associated itching is usually around the genitals. The area around the buttox may also itch because of an STD. STDs that cause itching include:

Painful Intercourse

Pain during sex may be a sign of an STD. It may also be a sign of certain non-infectious conditions. New or unusual pain during sex should always be discussed with a doctor.

STDs that can cause pain during sex include:

  • Chlamydia 
  • Trichomoniasis 
  • Chancroid
  • Herpes 
  • Mycoplasma genitalium 

Painful Urination

If it hurts when you pee, you may have an urinary tract infection or an STD, such as:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea 
  • Non-gonococcal urethritis 
  • Trichomoniasis 
  • Bacterial vaginosis 
  • Mycoplasma genitalium 
  • Chancroid 
  • Herpes 

Lumps, Bumps, Sores, and Ulcers 

Not all lumps and sores are infectious, but many are. Some STDs that cause genital ulcers and other bumps or sores are:

  • Syphilis
  • Chancroid
  • Herpes 
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum 
  • Molluscum contagiosum

Genital warts are a common symptom of HPV. Warts may also appear in the mouth and throat.

Pain

As with other infections, some STDs can be painful. Where they hurt depends on the site that has been infected, which may be the vagina, anus, lower abdomen, or throat.

STDs that are sometimes associated with pain include:

  • Chlamydia 
  • Gonorrhea 
  • Trichomoniasis 
  • Chancroid
  • Herpes
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum 
  • Mycoplasma genitalium

Visible Infestation/Parasites

This would occur with:

  • Pubic lice 
  • Scabies

Rare Symptoms

Rashes are a relatively uncommon STD symptom. They can, however, be caused by:

  • Syphilis 
  • HIV (associated with Kaposi’s sarcoma)
  • Scabies

No Symptoms

For many people, an STD can have no symptoms at all. STDs that are commonly asymptomatic include the following. Take note that most of these are also listed above, only reinforcing how their presentation cannot be guaranteed:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea 
  • Non-gonococcal urethritis 
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum 
  • Mycoplasma genitalium 
  • Syphilis 
  • Trichomoniasis 
  • HIV 
  • Herpes 
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C

The only way to be certain if you have an STD is to get tested. Having no symptoms may not mean that you are negative.

Complications

Left untreated, STDs can cause long-term health problems. Possible complications include: 

  • Reproductive health problems, including infertility
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease and pelvic pain
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Certain cancers, such as HPV-associated cervical and rectal cancers
  • Heart disease
  • Eye inflammation 

Since STDs can often present with no symptoms, it is important to get tested for STDs if you have had unprotected sex to avoid complications.

Pregnancy Risks

STDs can be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy and increase the risks of pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects. For example, syphilis passed from mother to child, known as congenital syphilis, can cause deformed bones, severe anemia, enlarged liver and spine, jaundice, blindness, deafness, meningitis, and skin rashes. 

In addition, some STDs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes can be transmitted to the newborn during delivery and can lead to eye infections, lung infections, and other health issues.

When to See a Doctor

If you have any of the above STD symptoms, have had intimate contact with an infected partner, or engaged in risky sexual behaviors, see a doctor to get tested.

While there is a lot of stigmas associated with having an STD, it is important to talk openly with your doctor. Remember that their only interest is to make sure that you are well.

STD testing is often covered by insurance or available at a free clinic, and it can involve a physical examination, blood work, urinalysis, and cell sample analysis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine STD screening for all pregnant women and repeated testing for women at high risk for STDs, regardless of whether or not there are symptoms present.

A Word From Verywell

If left untreated, STDs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in women, infertility, and severe systemic symptoms in addition to increasing the risk of spreading infections to future partners.

Do not assume your doctor automatically tests for STDs as part of an annual physical or gynecological exam. If you may be at risk, talk to your doctor about getting tested or visit an STD clinic.

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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: HealthyPeople.gov. Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Congenital Syphilis—CDC Fact Sheet.

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