When Do STD Symptoms Start?

Medically Reviewed on 12/29/2021
what are the symptoms of std in females?
When the symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease start largely depends on which STD you may have.

There are more than 20 types of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and each one has a different starting duration of symptoms after the initial infection.

Therefore, when symptoms start largely depends on which STD you have. They may take a few days to weeks to months to even years to appear.

Many times, you may not develop the symptoms even if you have STD. The absence of symptoms may not necessarily mean that you cannot pass on the infection to others (asymptomatic shedding).

Table 1. Duration of beginning of symptoms of STDs after having unprotected sex with an infected person or sometimes by skin-to-skin contact
Name of STD Duration of appearance of symptoms Symptoms
Chlamydia One to three weeks and can even start later
  • Burning or itching of the genitals
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge in women
  • Discharge from the penis in men and painful urination
Genital herpes Four to seven days and, sometimes, months or years later
  • Fluid-filled blisters known as herpes sores that ooze and later crust followed by healing
  • Tingling or burning sensation a day before the sores appear
  • Fever and chills
Genital warts Three weeks to several months or years later
  • Small, itchy, or painful bumps on the genitals or around the anus
Gonorrhea Two weeks
  • Burning during urination
  • Vaginal or urethral discharge
  • Pelvic pain in women
  • Swelling of the testes and discharge from the penis in men
Syphilis Usually, two to three weeks
  • A round, firm, painless sore on the genitals or anal area
  • Rash on the soles of the feet, palms, or other parts of the body
  • Enlarged lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, and hair loss
Human immunodeficiency syndrome Two to six weeks
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash
  • Night sweats
  • Sore throat
  • Recurrent mouth ulcers
  • Unintentional rapid weight loss
  • Diarrhea lasting for more than a week
  • Sores on the genitals or anus

How to diagnose STDs

Your doctor will take your complete medical history, ask about your symptoms, and look for the signs while performing a physical examination.

  • They will ask about your sexual history, including the last time you had sex, and if you are having multiple sexual partners.
  • Additionally, they may take a history of any intravenous injections or drug abuse.

Your doctor may ask you to undergo tests such as for human papillomavirus (HPV). This test involves removing a sample of discharge or cells from the mouth, genitals, or anus and sending it for examination for analysis under a microscope.

Other tests include blood tests such as human immunodeficiency syndrome testing.

How to prevent STDs

Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have no cure. Hence, the best way is to take precautions that steer clear of them.

Here are the important precautions to take to prevent STDs:

  • Use condoms during sex and ensure they stay in place.
  • Do not have multiple sexual partners and indulge in sexual activities with only one person.
  • Stay away from casual sex as much as you can.
  • Try to gain knowledge about how STDs spread from various reliable educational resources on sexual health.
  • If you have an STD, you may have no symptoms at all initially or have mild symptoms. Do not hesitate to get tested if you feel you are at risk of STDs.
  • Get vaccinated to reduce your risk of STDs.
  • Share the status of your sexual health with your partner and encourage them to do the same.
  • Seek early treatment if tests come out to be positive for any STD and encourage your partner as well to get tested and treated early.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/29/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Sexually Transmitted Diseases. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/452762

Sexually Transmitted Diseases & Infections (STDs & STIs). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9138-sexually-transmitted-diseases--infections-stds--stis

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). https://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm