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STD Symptoms Guide for Men & Women

About 80% of people infected with an STD do not experience symptoms. Even in cases where symptoms are present, it may take several months for them to appear following the initial exposure. This is why it’s best to get tested on a regular basis instead of only getting tested if you are exhibiting STD symptoms.

Even though many cases are asymptomatic, it’s still important to understand some of the most common signs and symptoms of STDs. Below is a guide to the most common STD symptoms for women and men.

Trichomoniasis is considered the most common curable STD. In the United States, an estimated 3.7 million people have the infection, but only about 30% develop symptoms. Infection is more common in women than in men, with older women more likely to be infected than younger women.

Symptoms of Trichomoniasis in men include:

  • Itching inside the penis
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Discomfort during intercourse and burning after ejaculation

Symptoms of Trichomoniasis in women include:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Foul smelling vaginal odor
  • Itching or redness in the vaginal area
  • Discomfort and burning after urination

One of the most common signs of trichomoniasis in women is abnormal vaginal discharge. If you have recently contracted trichomoniasis, your vaginal discharge may be yellow or yellow-green in color. Furthermore, your vaginal discharge may be heavier than it usually is, and it may also have bubbles and a strong “fishy” smell. If you spot any of these signs, you should get tested right away.

Learn more about Trich Symptoms

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the United States with over 1.7 million cases reported to the CDC in 2017 alone. It is most common among women under 25, but is usually asymptomatic. If left untreated, Chlamydia can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and eventually lead to infertility.

Symptoms of Chlamydia for men include:

  • Discharge from the penis 
  • Burning feeling during urination
  • More frequent urination
  • Testicular pain, tenderness and swelling
  • Rectal pain, discharge and/or bleeding
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pain in the testicles

Symptoms of Chlamydia for women include:

  • Discharge from the vagina
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Abdominal and/or pelvic pain, pain during sexual intercourse
  • Painful sexual intercourse in women
  • Rectal pain, discharge and/or bleeding

Although many chlamydia cases are asymptomatic, one of the most obvious signs of an infection in symptomatic cases is abnormal vaginal discharge. If you have contracted chlamydia, your vaginal discharge may be yellow in color with a strong, unpleasant odor.

Learn more about Chlamydia Symptoms

Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported STD in the United States with over 500,000 cases reported to the CDC in 2017, most commonly among people ages 15-24. Gonorrhea typically shows no symptoms and can have serious long term consequences, especially for women.

Symptoms of Gonorrhea for men include:

  • Discharge from the penis 
  • Burning feeling during urination
  • Testicular pain, tenderness and swelling
  • Anal itching and rectal pain, discharge and/or bleeding
  • Sore throat and difficulty swallowing

Symptoms of Gonorrhea for women include:

  • Increased amount of discharge from the vagina
  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal and/or pelvic pain, pain during sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal bleeding in between periods
  • Anal itching and rectal pain, discharge and/or bleeding
  • Sore throat and difficulty swallowing

Increased vaginal discharge is one of the most common symptoms of gonorrhea in women. If you have gonorrhea, your vaginal discharge may also contain mucus and pus. The discharge may be cloudy and white, yellow, or green in color.

Learn more about Gonorrhea Symptoms

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. The best way to prevent Hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injection drug use.

STD symptoms for female and male patients often vary, but that’s not the case with Hepatitis C. The symptoms are typically the same regardless of gender.

Hepatitis C symptoms resemble the flu and can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sore muscles
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea or poor appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Itchy skin
  • Dark urine

Learn more about Hep C Symptoms

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that weakens the immune system over time and eventually leads to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. There is no cure for HIV but it can be controlled with proper medical care.

Treatment for HIV is often called antiretroviral therapy or ART. It can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV and lower their chance of infecting others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can have a nearly normal life expectancy.

HIV symptoms resemble the flu and can include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes (generally in the neck)
  • Rash
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Sore throat
  • Ulcers in the mouth or on the genitals
  • Night sweats
  • Diarrhea

HIV STD symptoms for male and female patients are typically the same. However, there are some HIV symptoms that are unique to women, including:

  • Changes to the menstrual cycle, including lighter or heavier bleeding, late periods, or more severe PMS symptoms
  • Lower abdominal pain, which could indicate pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Vaginal yeast infections, which can cause thick, white vaginal discharge, pain during urination, a burning sensation, and pain during sexual intercourse.

Learn more about HIV Symptoms

Genital Herpes is the third most common STI and is caused by the HSV-2 virus. Herpes is transmitted through sexual and body to body contact. There is no cure for Herpes but symptomatic outbreaks can be managed with proper treatment.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes in men include:

  • Sores on or around the penis
  • Swelling or discomfort in the groin nodes
  • Flu-like symptoms, including backaches, headaches, and fatigue

Symptoms of Genital Herpes in women include:

  • Discomfort similar to a yeast, bacterial or bladder infection
  • Sores in or around the vagina, vulva or urethra
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pain during urination caused by urine making contact with the open sores
  • Flu-like symptoms, including backaches, headaches, and fatigue

Many women mistake these STD symptoms for a urinary tract infection or yeast infection. That’s why it’s so important to get tested if you experience any of these STD symptoms.

Learn more about Genital Herpes Symptoms

HPV is the most common STD in the United States with almost half of the population between the ages 18 and 59 infected. High risk strains of HPV are known to cause cervical cancer in women over 30, but will have no symptoms. Infections in women under 30 and all men are usually resolved by the immune system within two years.

Symptoms of low-risk HPV include:

  • Genital warts

Learn more about HPV Symptoms

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through open sores. It is becoming more common in men and less common in women. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics but any damage done before treatment cannot be undone. An untreated Syphilis infection will pass through four stages, including an asymptomatic or latent third stage.

Primary stage Syphilis symptoms include:

  • Firm, painless sores in or around the genitals, anus, rectum, or mouth.

These sores may last between 3 to 6 weeks and heal regardless of whether or not you seek medical treatment. But you will still need to seek medical treatment for the underlying syphilis infection even if the sores go away on their own.

Secondary Syphilis symptoms include:

  • Red or reddish-brown skin rash that often occurs on the palms of the hands or the bottoms of the feet.
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus
  • Sore throat
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches

The third stage of syphilis is the latent stage. No symptoms are visible during this stage even though you still have syphilis. The final stage, the tertiary stage, may begin between 10 to 30 years after the initial infection.

Tertiary stage Syphilis symptoms include:

  • Widespread damage to the heart, liver, bones, and joints (can be fatal)

If left untreated, syphilis can spread to other areas of the body, including the brain, nervous system, and eyes. The infection can spread to these parts of the body during any stage, even the primary stage. If it spreads to the brain and nervous system, it is called neurosyphilis, whereas if it spreads to the eyes it is called ocular syphilis.

Symptoms of neurosyphilis include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Difficulty coordinating muscles
  • Paralysis
  • Numbness
  • Dementia

Symptoms of ocular syphilis include:

  • Changes in your vision
  • Blindness

Learn more about Syphilis Symptoms

Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) is a slow-moving bacteria that is most often either asymptomatic or misdiagnosed as Chlamydia or Gonorrhea. It lives inside the cells of the infected area and is spread through anal and vaginal intercourse. Untreated MG can cause epididymitis in men and pelvic inflammatory disease in women.

MG is not as well-known as other STDs, but it’s incredibly common. In fact, a recent study found that 1 in 100 adults may have this STD.

Symptoms of MG in men include:

  • Urethritis, which is the inflammation of the urethra
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Pain during ejaculation
  • Watery discharge from the penis 
  • Foreskin and/or penis inflammation

Symptoms of MG in women include:

  • Urethritis
  • Cervicitis, which is inflammation of the cervix
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal bleeding after sex
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Discharge from the vagina
  • Lower abdominal pain

Learn more about Mycoplasma Genitalium Symptoms

STD Symptoms in Women & Men: Should You Wait to Get Tested?

Many people wait until symptoms appear before getting tested for STDs. But many cases are asymptomatic, so this is not recommended. The only way to know that you have an STD for sure is to test before each new partner and to practice safe sex in between. 

If you have an STD, you need to know right away so you can get it treated as quickly as possible. Left untreated, an STD can damage your body and can be passed to your partner whether you see symptoms or not.

 

References

  1. Swygard H, Seña AC, Hobbs MM, et al. Trichomoniasis: clinical manifestations, diagnosis and management. Sexually Transmitted Infections. 2004.
  2. Wølner-Hanssen, MD P, Krieger JN, Stevens CE, et al. Clinical Manifestations of Vaginal Trichomoniasis. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1989.
  3. Shafer MA, Beck A, Blaine B, et al. Chlamydia trachomatis: Important relationships to race, contraception, lower genital tract infection, and Papanicolaou smear. Journal of Pediatrics. 1984.
  4. Workowski K. Chlamydia and gonorrhea. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2013.
  5. Hoofnagle JH. Hepatitis C: The clinical spectrum of disease. AASLD. 2003.
  6. Hoenigl M, Green N, Camacho M. Signs or Symptoms of Acute HIV Infection in a Cohort Undergoing Community-Based Screening. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2016.
  7. The Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration. Survival of HIV-positive patients starting antiretroviral therapy between 1996 and 2013: a collaborative analysis of cohort studies. The Lancet.  1996.