Signs and Symptoms of STDs

Just as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are contracted and transmitted in a variety of ways, so too are there are different signs and symptoms for each STD. Some STDs have obvious or noticeable signs and symptoms, while other STDs are so “silent” that the host has no idea that they have them. There are still other STDs that may display confused symptoms – for instance, a person with flu-like symptoms may be shocked to realize that they don’t have the flu but rather a STD.

In this article, we will review the symptoms and signs of some STDs, which are also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you happen to demonstrate several of the symptoms for a given STD, or suspect that you may have recently contracted a sexually transmitted disease or infection, you may want to consider getting tested. There are online STD testing companies that offer tests for all common STDs. Getting tested today can help ensure your sexual health as well as that of your partner. If left untreated, sexually transmitted diseases can leave you prone to contracting other STDs and potentially lead to unavoidable health complications.

Chlamydia signs and symptoms

Chlamydia, the most commonly reported bacterial STI in the US, is transmitted through anal, vaginal or oral sex. The chlamydia bacterium targets the moist mucous membranes in the throat, eyelids, penis, vagina and anus. People are often not aware that that they have contracted chlamydia because its symptoms are either mild or absent. When symptoms appear, they usually do so about one to three weeks post-exposure. The most common chlamydia symptoms in men and women include:

  • Abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Pain during urination
  • Rectal pain, discharge or bleeding
  • Inflamed eye

Gonorrhea signs and symptoms

Gonorrhea is a common bacterial infection that is contracted during oral, vaginal or anal sex. It infects the moist mucous membranes of the reproductive tract in both sexes: for women, these areas are the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and urethra, while for men it is the urethra. Both sexes are prone to gonorrhea infection in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus. While symptoms are often silent, they are most likely to appear approximately 10 days after exposure. Common gonorrhea symptoms for both men and women are:

  • Unusual, yellowish discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Painful burning sensation during urination
  • Itching or irritation in the genital area
  • Rectal pain, discharge or bleeding

HSV signs and symptoms

The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a highly contagious and ubiquitous viral STD. There are two members of the herpes virus family: HSV-1, which is also known as herpes 1 or oral herpes, and HSV-2, also known as herpes 2 or genital herpes. HSV-1 is spread through direct contact (such as kissing or oral sex) with an open cold sore, while HSV-2 is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact (such as unprotected sex) with an infected person. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be asymptomatic, but the most common symptom is the appearance of small, painful blisters around four to six weeks after possible exposure. HSV-1 blisters can be found in, on or around the lips and mouth; HSV-2 blisters are usually found in the genital area. Aside from oral blisters, other common symptoms of HSV-1 for both men and women are:

  • Itching of the mouth and lips
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches and pains
  • Swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin

And for HSV-2, the most common symptoms, along with genital blisters, for both sexes include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Hepatitis signs and symptoms

Hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are all contagious infections that cause inflammation of the liver. The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is transmitted through oral-fecal contact, primarily through ingesting fecal matter or through oral-anal sex. Symptoms of HAV, when present, usually appear two to six weeks post-exposure. The Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is most commonly spread through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person, usually through unprotected sex or sharing drug injection equipment. On average, HBV symptoms appear three months after exposure. The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is acquired through contact with the blood of an infected person, mainly through sharing intravenous needles. Initial symptoms for HCV may appear six to seven weeks post-infection.

Here are a few symptoms that are common to all three strains of the hepatitis virus:

  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark colored urine
  • Pale or clay-colored stools
  • Jaundiced skin or eyes

Syphilis signs and symptoms

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is transmitted via direct contact with a syphilis sore through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex. This single firm, round painless sore, also known as a chancre, can usually be found in the mouth or genital area. However, the chancre can often go unnoticed due to its small size and the fact that it can be inside a genital opening. Typically, the first chancre appears about 10 to 90 days after infection, although on average people encounter this symptom after 21 days. After this primary stage symptom, there are additional secondary symptoms:

  • Swollen lymph glands in neck, armpit or groin
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Red or reddish-brown rashes on hands and feet

During the latent stage of syphilis, symptoms can disappear even as the infection itself remains in the bloodstream. If syphilis progresses to the late stage, it can lead to severe internal organ damage, resulting in death.

HIV signs and symptoms

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks and weakens the body’s immune system so that it is unable to defend itself from infections and diseases. HIV is transmitted by blood and other bodily fluids. These fluids are usually exchanged when people engage in unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex or when drug syringes and needles are shared. For transmission to occur, the fluids have to come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue; they can also be injected directly into the bloodstream. Most people infected with HIV remain symptom-free for several years. When early symptoms do arise, they may feel like the flu and can last four to eight weeks post infection. Some of the symptoms that can result from this early period of HIV infection include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sore throat
  • Rash on the abdomen, arms, legs and face

During the initial period of infection, the immune system fights the HIV virus and rids itself of these flu-like symptoms. However, this does not mean the virus itself has left your body. If left uncontrolled or untreated, HIV can ultimately lead to the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

So remember to inquire about your partner’s history before you become active with them, practice safe sex, and get tested regularly.

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