Signs and Symptoms of STDs

In This Article

Sexually transmitted diseases have a diverse list of causes and a varied set of symptoms or even no symptoms at all. That's why STDs are often spoken of as a hidden epidemic. Some of the most serious infections show no signs until they've caused significant damage.

Before reviewing the signs and symptoms of some common STDs, it's important to remember that the only person who can diagnose you with an STD is a health care 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 STD infections may be caused by other conditions. 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. 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. STDs that cause discharge include: 

Itching

STD-associated itching is usually around the genitals. The area around the butt 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 with the symptom of causing 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 

If you see any changes to your genitals, it's a good idea to get them checked out. 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

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 

Warts

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 skin or other pain include:

  • Chlamydia 
  • Gonorrhea 
  • Trichomoniasis 
  • Chancroid
  • Herpes
  • Lymphogranuloma Venereum 
  • Mycoplasma Genitalium

Visible Infestation/Parasites

  • Pubic Lice 
  • Scabies

Rare Symptoms

Rashes

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. The only way to be certain if you have an STD is to get tested. Assuming that because you have no symptoms you have no STDs is a bad idea. STDs that are commonly asymptomatic include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea 
  • Non-Gonococcal Urethritis 
  • Lymphogranuloma Venereum 
  • Mycoplasma Genitalium 
  • Syphilis 
  • Trichomoniasis 
  • HIV 
  • Herpes 
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C

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.

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

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

  1. Workowski KA, Bolan GA; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Treatment Guidelines, 2015MMWR Recomm Rep. 2015;64(RR-03):1-137.


  2. Hazel A, Marino S, Simon C. An anthropologically based model of the impact of asymptomatic cases on the spread of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. J R Soc Interface. 2015;12(106). doi:10.1098/rsif.2015.0067


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