Depending on the type of infection, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may present either soon after exposure, within a few days, or may take years to manifest. The symptoms of STDs vary with the type of infection, but they commonly include:
- General symptoms such as fever, weakness, body and muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes
- Pain experienced during sexual intercourse or while urinating
- Discharge from the penis or vagina
- Itching around the genitalia
- Stabbing or burning nature or dull pain in the pelvic (lower abdominal) area
- Chancre sores due to syphilis are typically painless, red sores present around the genital area, anus, mouth, tongue, or throat
- Pain in and around the anus and sores and pain in the mouth in those who have oral sex with an infected person
- Blisters around the genital area that turn into scabs
- Rash around the genitals or over the body
- Soft, flesh-colored warts around the genital area
- A scaly rash over the palms of the hand and soles of the feet or the trunk
In the case of hepatitis, urine may appear dark, and stools may appear light and chalky in color. The whites of the eyes, nail beds, and skin may also become yellowish.
In people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection that has progressed to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), weight loss, recurrent infections, night sweats, and tiredness may be present.
What are STDs?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diseases that a person can get by having sex with someone who has an STD.
- STDs are the second most common infections seen in the United States, with about one million people being affected yearly.
- STDs can be transmitted from any sexual activity, whether it involves the mouth, anus, vagina, or penis; some are acquired simply by skin-to-skin contact. Almost half of the people with STDs are aged between 15 and 24 years.
- Many STDs show few symptoms, especially in women. STDs can cause severe organ damage and infertility. Although STDs respond well to treatment, some can be treated but not cured.
The most common STDs are as follows:
- Chlamydia: This is the most common STD in the United States and is caused by a bacterial infection. It often does not have symptoms, but it is easy to treat once it’s diagnosed. Untreated infections may cause infertility in the long run.
- Gonorrhea: It is another very common STD caused by a bacterial infection. It doesn’t have symptoms but can be treated.
- Syphilis: It is caused by a bacterium. It can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Without treatment, it can hurt your body's organs, leading to severe illness and even death. Pregnant women can pass syphilis to their babies during pregnancy and childbirth, so it is important that pregnant women get tested for syphilis.
- Genital herpes: It is a common STD that infects your mouth and/or genitals. It causes blistery sores. There’s no cure, but symptoms are treatable.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): It causes warts (growths) on the genital area and around the anus. It is caused by certain types of HPV. It is a super common STD. It is usually harmless and goes away by itself, but some types can lead to cancer.
- Trichomoniasis: It is caused by a single-celled germ called protozoa. It is a common cause of foul-smelling discharge from the vagina with intense itching. Trichomoniasis can be successfully treated with antibiotics.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): It is an infection that breaks down the immune system and can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). There’s no cure, but treatment can help you stay healthy.
- Hepatitis: A virus can cause liver disease, which is spread through sex or sharing personal hygiene items such as razors or toothbrushes. Hepatitis can be may be passed through contact with contaminated blood and most commonly through needles shared during illegal drug use.
It is important that both partners be treated for STDs to be cured.
What should I know about STDs?
- Many STDs do not have symptoms.
- It is important for you to get tested regularly for STDs if you are sexually active, having sex with more than one partner, or if the partner is having sex with multiple individuals.
- Both partners need to be treated for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- There are many sexually transmitted infections that can be cured with treatment. Some, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and herpes, cannot be cured but can be managed.
- Many can cause serious health and fertility problems, or even death, if left untreated. Practicing safer sex can protect you from many, but not all, STDs.
- Even if the symptoms go away, patients may still need to finish treatment. If symptoms continue even after treatment, the doctor should be notified, and the treatment may need to be modified.
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