Sexual Health: 7 Common Symptoms of STDs
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diverse and can present different symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms are itching in the genital areas, unusual discharge, and the appearance of warts, blisters or sores on the private parts. Many STDs can be cured, so it’s essential to know the symptoms of STDs and treat them immediately.
What are STDs and how are they spread?
As the name implies, sexually transmitted diseases, also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are a group of pathologies that are spread during sexual intercourse. They occur when viruses, parasites, or bacteria related to this method of transmission infect the body.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 374 million people a year are infected with one of the most common STIs. These include chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea. In addition, the same agency estimates that more than 500 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 carry a genital infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
Most STDs are spread during sexual intercourse, through bodily fluids. However, contact with infected skin can also cause transmission. In general, with the genital area.
There is also the possibility of becoming infected by sharing personal items that come into contact with the blood of infected persons. For example, piercings and intravenous injection needles.
The most common STDs are the following:
- Hepatitis B
- Genital herpes
Discover more: Oral Herpes: Symptoms and Treatment
Get to know these 7 common symptoms of STDs
The STDs described can cause different symptoms, which is important to identify in order to treat them as soon as possible. However, some of them can be asymptomatic, so it is recommended to have an annual control if you are sexually active.
If you have doubts about possible infections, you should see a specialist. In the meantime, any sexual intercourse should be avoided so as not to favor contagion to others.
1. Unusual secretions
When the vagina or penis produce unusual secretions, it’s likely to be a symptom of an STD. The female genital tract usually manifests with greenish or yellowish secretions, sometimes with a foul odor. In such a case, an STD test should be performed, as it may be a sign of gonorrhea or trichomoniasis, among others.
For the male genital tract, any discharge other than urine, semen or pre-seminal fluid should be considered an unusual discharge. It’s likely to be caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea, so a specialist should be consulted.
2. Vaginal bleeding
Vaginal bleeding outside of regular periods may be caused by an STD, especially chlamydia or gonorrhea. However, it’s also a symptom of numerous other conditions, such as uterine polyps or endometriosis. Therefore, it’s recommended that you see a specialist to treat the symptom, without having sex until the cause is confirmed.
3. Pain during sex
Another unusual reaction is to feel pain during sex. Some STDs can damage or irritate genital tissues, causing discomfort in such situations.
4. Painful urination
“Dysuria” is the medical term for painful urination. It’s very common to have a burning sensation in the bladder.
This may be due to common sexually transmitted diseases. For example, gonorrhea, herpes, or chlamydia.
However, it’s also a common symptom in many non-STD infections. Some of greater and some of lesser severity.
Certain STDs, especially some human papillomaviruses, can cause genital warts. Especially in areas such as the vulva, the shaft or tip of the penis, the scrotum, and the anus.
It is essential not to apply home treatments seeking the removal of such warts. Any approach must be certified by a physician.
6. Sores and blisters
The appearance of sores or blisters in the genital area should trigger an alert to think about a possible STD. In the case of sores, special care should be taken in case it is a chancroid. This is the primary infection of syphilis.
The sore occurs about three weeks after infection. Although painless, if left untreated, it can lead to secondary or tertiary syphilis.
7. Swelling or itching
Excessive itching of the genitals, anus, or nearby area may be caused by an STD. In addition, swelling and lumps are also associated with this type of disease.
Read more: How Can Women Protect Themselves from STDs?
Other possible symptoms of STDs
While the following symptoms may be caused by other conditions, they should also be considered as possible consequences of an STD. Especially if they appear in conjunction with any of the seven signs already mentioned:
- Abdominal and muscle aches
- High urinary frequency
- Night sweats
- Fever and chills
STD prevention for better sexual health
As these are diseases that are transmitted during sexual intercourse, the most important thing is to take the necessary precautions. For example, the use of latex condoms and the careful and conscious choice of partners.
Information and awareness of the ways in which STDs are transmitted and the symptoms are fundamental to avoiding STDs.
Regular check-ups contribute to prevention, as does avoiding any sexual intercourse if you have any symptoms. If you suspect you have an STD, don’t have sex until you see a doctor to avoid spreading it.
If you have any or several symptoms of an STD, it’s important to see a specialist immediately. A series of tests are likely to be performed, including urinalysis, blood tests, and secretion samples.
Most STDs can be cured, but early treatment is essential.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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- Irizarry L, Velasquez J, Wray AA. Chancroid. (2023). In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Consultado el 13 de junio de 2023. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513331/
- Organización Mundial de la Salud. (2021). Infecciones de transmisión sexual [Internet]. Consultado el 13 de junio de 2023. https://www.who.int/es/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis)
- Sífilis, descripción general. (2021). [Internet] Escrito por el personal de Mayo Clinic. Consultado el 13 de junio de 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/es-es/diseases-conditions/syphilis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351756
- Sonubi, T., Sheik-Mohamud, D., Ratna, N., Bell, J., Talebi, A., Mercer, C. H., Sinka, K., Migchelsen, S. J., Folkard, K., & Mohammed, H. (2023). STI testing, diagnoses and online chlamydia self-sampling among young people during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in England. International journal of STD & AIDS, 9564624231180641. Advance online publication. Consultado el 13 de junio de 2023. https://doi.org/10.1177/09564624231180641