STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Not everyone with STDs will display symptoms of it; even seemingly healthy people may have an STD and not be aware of it, which is why you should always practice safe sex. Sexually transmitted diseases get their name from their normal means of transmission: sexual contact or intercourse. The viruses that cause STDs can be passed between people via bodily fluids such as vaginal secretions, semen, blood and others. It is also possible for an infection to be passed non-sexually with several common examples being from sharing needles, blood transfusions or a mother passing a disease to their child during pregnancy or birth.
How Do You Know If You Have STDs?
Because there are a wide range of STDs, there is also a variety of symptoms that are possible and in some cases, they may go unnoticed or take a while to appear.
1. Common Symptoms
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Bumps or sores in the genital, rectal or oral area
- Burning or painful urination
- Discharge from the vagina or penis
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Lymph nodes that are sore and swollen, especially in the groin
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Rash on the hands, feet or trunk
2. Chlamydia Symptoms
Chlamydia is a type of bacterial infection that is located on the genital tract. In many cases symptoms do not appear for several weeks (one to three) so it can be hard to detect. Some of the symptoms include:
- Testicular pain
- Penile discharge
- Pain during intercourse
- Vaginal discharge
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Painful urination
3. Gonorrhea Symptoms
Gonorrhea is one of the bacterial infections that occur in the genital tract. In most cases the symptoms will show 2 to 10 days after being exposed to the STD but sometimes it will take months. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Anal itching
- Bowel movements that are painful
- Painful and swollen testicles
- Abnormal menstrual bleeding
- Pain or burning during urination
- Discharge from the vagina or penis that is thick, bloody or cloudy
4. Trichomoniasis Symptoms
Trichomoniasis is an STI that is common and caused by Trichomonas vaginalis, a one-celled parasite. It is spread during intercourse and in men will infect the urinary tract but frequently without showing symptoms. In women it usually infects the vagina. In most cases where symptoms appear they can be anywhere from severe inflammation to mild irritation. Some possible symptoms of trichomoniasis include:
- Pain during urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Itching or irritation in the penis or vagina
- Strong vaginal odor
- Penile discharge
- Vaginal discharge that is yellowish, greenish, white or clear
5. Genital Herpes Symptoms
Genital herpes is incredibly contagious and caused by a strain of HSV (the herpes simplex virus). It enters the skin through the small breaks in the mucous membranes or skin. Many people who have genital herpes are not aware of it because they do not show any symptoms or the symptoms are incredibly mild. In most cases the first episode is the worst and a second one may not occur.
A few weeks after contracting the infection, symptoms (if they appear) will begin as pain or itching. A few days later, the person will develop small, red bumps which then rupture and turn into ulcers which bleed or ooze. Over time the ulcers will heal and scabs will form.
The location of the ulcers can vary and in men they can occur inside the urethra, on the anus, thighs, buttocks, scrotum or penis. In women they can occur in the cervix, anus, buttocks, external genitals or vaginal area.
The ulcers can make urination very painful and the entire genital area tends to be painful and tender until the infection is cleared. Sometimes the first episode is also accompanied by flu-like symptoms including muscle aches, headache and fever.
6. Genital Warts Symptoms
Genital warts are the result of HPV (the human papillomavirus) and are a very common STD. Sometimes a person will not experience any symptoms and the warts themselves can be one millimeters across or cluster in larger groups. Some common symptoms of genital warts are:
- Bleeding during intercourse
- Discomfort or itching in the genital area
- Several warts that are close together, forming a cauliflower shape
- Small swellings in the genital area that are gray or flesh-colored
In men, genital warts can occur on the anus, scrotum or penis (tip or shaft). In women it can occur in the cervix, the location between the anus and the external genitals, the vaginal walls or the vulva. They can also develop in a person’s mouth if they have oral sex with someone who is infected.
7. Syphilis Symptoms
Syphilis is one of the bacterial infections that can affect the genitals, mucous membranes and skin. Sometimes it can involve other areas as well, such as the heart and brain. It occurs in four stages and there is also a possibility of congenital syphilis which is passed from mother to child during pregnancy. Congenital syphilis can be very serious and life-threatening so treatment is essential for pregnant women.
- Primary. The symptoms of primary stage syphilis will happen between 10 days and three months after a person is exposed. They can include enlarged lymph nodes as well as a small sore called a chancre that occurs at the location of transmission of the infection. It is possible to have multiple chancres.
- Secondary. The symptoms of secondary stage syphilis usually happen between two and ten weeks after the disappearance of the chancre. They include soreness and aching, fatigue and discomfort, fever and a rash that includes penny-sized sores (reddish-brown or red) over any part of the body. The symptoms may disappear within weeks or come and go for a length of time up to a year.
- Latent. Latent syphilis occurs when no symptoms are present and sometimes comes between the secondary and tertiary stage.
- Tertiary. If syphilis is not treated and it reaches the tertiary stage, it can lead to serious damage of the internal organs and even death. It can lead to neurological problems such as meningitis, stroke, poor muscle coordination, visual problems, deafness, paralysis, numbness, dementia and personality changes. Cardiovascular problems can also be an issue and these may include aneurysms and aortic inflammation.
8. HIV Symptoms
HIV is the infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus. It can lead to AIDS which is chronic and life-threatening and also interferes with the body’s ability to fight off fungi, bacteria and viruses which cause disease.
Many people do not notice any symptoms when they are first infected and some will have symptoms similar to that of the flu between two and six weeks after they are infected.
Some early symptoms include fatigue, rash, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, headache and fever. In most cases these early symptoms will disappear quickly, within a week or a month, and are frequently mistaken for viral infections such as the flu. This is a period in which a person is highly infectious.
In most cases, more severe symptoms of an HIV infection will not show for ten years after the infection occurs. Before this, however, some mild infections and chronic symptoms may occur and these can include: shortness of breath and coughing, fever, weight loss, diarrhea and swollen lymph nodes.
As the disease progresses, later signs of an HIV infection include: unusual infections that are opportunistic, persistent headaches, chronic diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes for over three months, high fever (over 100.4 Fahrenheit/38 Celsius) or shaking chills for multiple weeks, soaking night sweats and fatigue that is persistent and unexplained.
9. Hepatitis Symptoms
There are three main forms of hepatitis, hepatitis A, B and C. The most serious are hepatitis B and C but any form can cause liver inflammation. Not everyone will experience symptoms but when someone does, they can include:
- Joint or muscle pain
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Discomfort or pain in the abdomen, specifically by the liver
- Vomiting and nausea