If you are sexually active, it’s important to get an STD screening. STD symptoms may seem negligible at first, but many of them, when left untreated or unmanaged, can lead to serious repercussions. All sexually active people are at risk of contracting STDs.
What Are STDs?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are an umbrella term used to describe the over 20 different types of infections that include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV). STDs are also known by the term “venereal disease.”
All STDs are transmitted either through oral, anal or vaginal intercourse, and sometimes through the non-sexual exchange of blood and other bodily fluids with an infected person. They may also be passed on by direct skin contact with the infected sore body parts of a person with the disease.
It is estimated that all over the world, hundreds of millions of new STD cases are reported each year. STD cases are higher for males than for females, although female patients tend to be younger. Over all females 15-24 years old have the greatest risk of contracting STDs.
List of STDs and Their Symptoms
Below is a list of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and their STD symptoms:
HIV refers to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, a virus that attacks a person’s immune system: the body’s innate mechanism for fighting disease. Infection with HIV causes a life threatening illness called AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. As of the moment, HIV-AIDS is incurable, but longevity and the quality of life of a carrier can be significantly improved through the use of antiretroviral drugs.
Diagnosing HIV is difficult unless you get an HIV test. This is because STD symptoms for HIV can be any sign of a weakened immune system, such as fever, fatigue, coughing, rashes, and swollen glands. In its later stages (around ten years from first infection), HIV-AIDS is characterized by opportunistic diseases or illnesses that take advantage of a weak immune system. These diseases include tuberculosis, pneumonia, syphilis, lymphoma and toxoplasmosis.
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis. It is most commonly found in adolescents 15 to 19 years old.
Chlamydia is difficult to diagnose as 3 out of 4 women, and 1 in 2 of men don’t manifest any STD symptoms.
Men that do report chlamydia symptoms experience frequent urination, burning pain while urinating, urethritis or irritation of the urethra, a yellowish or whitish discharge from the penis, swelling of the testicles and pain in the testicles.
Women who experience chlamydia symptoms report painful urination and burning pain while urinating as well, alongside abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding after sex, pelvic pain and painful menstruation period.
Genital warts, also called condylomata acuminata, refer to painless growths on the skin of the genital and anal area that’s may be pinkish or grayish in color. They are caused by the contagious papillomavirus and are usually found in clusters. Certain types of the papillomavirus that cause genital warts can also cause cervical changes and even cancer. Genital warts are one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases around.
STD symptoms for genital warts include visible warts on the genital, anal and even thigh area; as well as bleeding, pain, odor, redness and itching in the infected areas. The visible warts may also appear alone, or the other symptoms may appear minus the visible warts. Stress and a poor immune system can cause recurrence of an outbreak of genital warts.
The second most commonly reported STD in the United States, Gonorrhea is an infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It grows in moist areas of the body including the genital area, mouth, throat, rectum and eyes. Left untreated, it can affect the cervix, uterus and fallopian tube in women and the urethra and testes in men. About 3 in 4 gonorrhea cases are from men and women 15- 29 years of age.
STD symptoms of gonorrhea in men include painful urination, pus discharge, non-pus discharge, and swelling and redness of the urethral opening. These symptoms appear within 2 to 7 days from the time of exposure to the infection. Most women are asymptomatic; this means that they may have the gonorrhea infection but show no STD symptoms. Those that report symptoms experience increased vaginal discharge, painful urination, abnormal menstrual bleeding and pain in the anus. Left untreated, gonorrhea can progress to pelvic inflammatory disease in women, with symptoms including fever, nausea, vomiting and pelvic pain.
Genital herpes is an incurable infectious STD that is caused by the herpes simplex virus or HSV. Most infected persons don’t realize that they already have herpes, because at its mildest, a herpes breakout can look like a simple insect bite.
Genital herpes is characterized by recurrent outbreaks of painful sores in the genital area, and sometimes in the mouth area as well. These sores begin as pinkish or red bumps, that will later be filled with fluid, and then would scab and heal. Those who experience a first outbreak of sores are likely to have them on a recurrent basis with stress and poor immune response as triggers.
Some individuals however, women especially, don’t experience herpes STD symptoms. That the infection is in its latency stage, however, does not mean that the disease can’t be transmitted via sexual contact.
The Human Papillovirus or HPV refers to more than 40 types of viruses that infect the genital area. Some HPV types even infect the mouth and the throat. An estimated 50% of sexually active adults in America have been infected by a type of HPV.
Most types of HPVs don’t have any STD symptoms, and for healthy persons, the body’s natural immune system fights off the disease within 2 years of infection. But there are HPV types that cause the development of pinkish, moist warts in the genital area and rarely, warts in the throat. If HPV infections are not cleared, they can result to some types of cancer.
Syphilis is a chronic, infectious systemic STD caused by the bacterium Treponema Pallidum. It has earned the nickname “the great imitator” because many of its symptoms can be considered as symptoms of other infectious diseases.
Syphilis often starts out as a painless chancre or ulcer in the infected area which appears around 21 days from contracting the disease. If the syphilis is left untreated at this stage, it would progress to a secondary stage characterized by hyper-pigmented skin rashes that show up in the palms and soles of the feet. These rashes may be accompanied by fever, headache, swelling of the lymph nodes and other flu-like symptoms.
If still left untreated at this stage, the syphilis can progress to a tertiary stage. At this point, the STD symptoms become more serious as the bacteria attacks the many systems of the body including the nerves, internal organs, muscles and bones. Symptoms at the tertiary stage include difficulty coordinating muscles, gradual blindness, dementia, joint problem and other systemic illness. Untreated syphilis can be fatal.
One of the most pervasive curable STDs, trichomoniasis is an infection of the genitals and the urinary tract. It is caused by the protozoa trichomonas vaginalis. It affects women from age of menstruation to menopause. Male trichomoniasis can range from asymptomatic carrier (that is, they are often the one responsible for the transmission of the disease but don’t manifest symptoms themselves) to suffering urethritis (irritation of the urethra) due to the infection.
STD symptoms of trichomoniasis in women include grayish or yellow-greenish vaginal discharge, itching of the vagina and a strong fishy odor. There may also be a burning sensation during urination, pain during sexual intercourse and pain in the lower abdomen. Men typically have no symptoms but those that do report symptoms experience irritation of the penis and a burning sensation after urination or ejaculation. There may also be strong-smelling discharge from the penis as well.
Yeast infection, also known as Candidiasis, is an STD caused by overgrowth of a fungus called Candida albicans in the female genital area. Candida is always present in the body in small amounts, but when imbalance happens, such as when the PH level of the vagina changes, symptoms of yeast infections appear. Yeast infections are a type of vaginitis.
STD symptoms of yeast infection includes itching and irritation of the vagina, vaginal pain, vaginal soreness, a burning sensation during sex or urination, and thick white discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Some vaginal discharge when infected with yeast infection is odorless while others smell of yeast.
How To Get Tested For STDs?
If you suspect that you may have symptoms of an STD, the best course of action is to inform your health practitioner immediately. Your doctor will give you an interview and an assessment of your symptoms in order to point you to the appropriate STD test you can take. STD tests usually involve taking samples from the infected area for laboratory testing. These samples can be taken by your doctor or by you using a home STD kit.