Just because you may not be experiencing any or all of these symptoms, it is vital to know that if you have sex — oral, anal or vaginal intercourse and genital touching — you can get an STD. Straight or gay, married or single, you’re vulnerable to STD’s and STD symptoms. Thinking or hoping your partner doesn’t have an STD is no protection — you need to know for sure. And although condoms, when properly used, are highly effective for reducing transmission of some STD’s, no method is foolproof.
STD symptoms aren’t always obvious. If you think you have STD symptoms or have been exposed to an STD, see a doctor. Some STD’s are easy to treat and cure; others require more complicated treatment to manage them.
It’s essential to be evaluated, and — if diagnosed with an STD — get treated. It’s also essential to inform your partner or partners so that they can be evaluated and treated.
If untreated, STD’s can increase your risk of acquiring another STD, such as HIV. This happens because an STD can stimulate an immune response in the genital area or cause sores, either of which might raise the risk of HIV transmission. Some untreated STD’s can also lead to infertility, organ damage, certain types of cancer, or death.
Many STD’s have no signs or symptoms (asymptomatic). Even with no symptoms, you can pass the infection to your sex partners. So it’s important to use protection, such as a condom, during sex. And visit your doctor regularly for STD screening, so you can identify and treat an infection before you can pass it on.
Some of the following diseases, such as hepatitis, can also be transmitted without sexual contact, just by coming into contact with an infected person’s blood. Others, such as gonorrhea, can only be transmitted through sexual contact.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection of your genital tract. Chlamydia may be difficult to detect because early stage infections often cause few or no signs and symptoms. When they do occur, they usually start one to three weeks after you’ve been exposed to chlamydia. Even when signs and symptoms occur, they’re often mild and passing, making them easy to overlook.
Signs and symptoms may include:
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection of your genital tract. It can also grow in your mouth, throat, eyes, and anus. The first gonorrhea symptoms generally appear within 10 days after exposure. However, some people may be infected for months before signs or symptoms occur.
Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea may include:
Trichomoniasis is a common STD caused by a microscopic, one celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who already has the infection. The organism usually infects the urinary tract in men, but often causes no symptoms. Trichomoniasis typically infects the vagina in women. When trichomoniasis causes symptoms, they may appear within five to 28 days of exposure and range from mild irritation to severe inflammation.
Signs and symptoms may include:
HIV is an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV interferes with your body’s ability to fight off viruses, bacteria, and fungi that cause illness, and it can lead to AIDS: a chronic, life threatening disease. When first infected with HIV, you may have no symptoms. Some people develop a flu like illness, usually two to six weeks after being infected. Still, the only way you know if you have HIV is to be tested.
Early HIV signs and symptoms may include:
These early signs and symptoms usually disappear within a week to a month and are often mistaken for those of another viral infection. During this period, you’re highly infectious. More persistent or severe symptoms of HIV infection may not appear for 10 years or more after the initial infection. As the virus continues to multiply and destroy immune cells, you may develop mild infections or chronic signs and symptoms such as:
Signs and symptoms of late stage HIV infection include:
Highly contagious, genital herpes is caused by a type of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that enters your body through small breaks in your skin or mucous membranes. Most people with HSV never know they have it, because they have no signs or symptoms or the signs and symptoms are so mild they go unnoticed. When signs and symptoms are noticeable, the first episode is generally the worst. Some people never have a second episode. Others, however, can have recurrent episodes for decades.
When present, genital herpes signs and symptoms may include:
The initial symptom of genital herpes usually is pain or itching, beginning within a few weeks after exposure to an infected sexual partner. After several days, small red bumps may appear. They then rupture, becoming ulcers that ooze or bleed. Eventually, scabs form and the ulcers heal.
In women, sores can erupt in the vaginal area, external genitals, buttocks, anus or cervix. In men, sores can appear on the penis, scrotum, buttocks, anus or thighs, or inside the tube from the bladder through the penis (urethra).
Ulcers can make urination painful. You may also have pain and tenderness in your genital area until the infection clears. During an initial episode, you may have flu like signs and symptoms, such as a headache, muscle aches and fever, as well as swollen lymph nodes in your groin.
In some cases, the infection can be active and contagious even when sores aren’t present.
HPV infection is one of the most common types of STD’s. Some forms put women at high risk of cervical cancer. Other forms cause genital warts. HPV usually has no signs or symptoms. The signs and symptoms of genital warts include:
Often, however, genital warts cause no symptoms. Genital warts may be as small as 1 millimeter in diameter or may multiply into large clusters.
In women, genital warts can grow on the vulva, the walls of the vagina, the area between the external genitals, the anus, and the cervix. In men, they may occur on the tip or shaft of the penis, the scrotum, or the anus. Genital warts can also develop in the mouth or throat of a person who has had oral sex with an infected person.
Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are all contagious viral infections that affect your liver. Hepatitis B and C are the most serious of the three, but each can cause your liver to become inflamed.
Some people never develop signs or symptoms. But for those who do, signs and symptoms may occur several weeks after exposure and may include:
Syphilis is a bacterial infection. The disease affects your genitals, skin and mucous membranes, but it can also involve many other parts of your body, including your brain and your heart.
The signs and symptoms of syphilis may occur in four stages — primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. There’s also a condition known as congenital syphilis, which occurs when a pregnant woman with syphilis passes the disease to her unborn infant. Congenital syphilis can be disabling, even life threatening, so it’s important for a pregnant woman with syphilis to be treated.
The first sign of syphilis, which may occur from 10 days to three months after exposure, may be a small, painless sore (chancre) on the part of your body where the infection was transmitted, usually your genitals, rectum, tongue, or lips. A single chancre is typical, but there may be multiple sores. The sore typically heals without treatment, but the underlying disease remains and may reappear in the second (secondary) or third (tertiary) stage.
Signs and symptoms of secondary syphilis may begin three to six weeks after the chancre appears, and may include:
These signs and symptoms may disappear without treatment within a few weeks or repeatedly come and go for as long as a year.
In some people, a period called latent syphilis — in which no symptoms are present — may follow the secondary stage. Signs and symptoms may never return, or the disease may progress to the tertiary stage.
Without treatment, syphilis bacteria may spread, leading to serious internal organ damage and death years after the original infection. Some of the signs and symptoms of tertiary syphilis include:
At any stage, syphilis can affect the nervous system. Neurosyphilis may cause no signs or symptoms, or it can cause:
If you Suspect you have an STD, see your Doctor or go to a STD/HIV testing site here. Timely diagnosis and treatment are important to avoid or delay more severe, potentially life threatening health problems and to avoid infecting others.