STD Symptoms: Watch for the Signs

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)—also referred to as STIs or sexually transmitted infections—span the whole spectrum of symptoms. From itchy bumps (scratch, scratch) and fever (is it hot in here, or is it just my underpants?) to pain during urination (ouch!), many of these infections make themselves known with a handful of telltale signs. Unfortunately though, many of them don’t show any symptoms at all, which is why it’s so important that you (and your partners) do the responsible thing and get tested regularly. You can either do it at your check-up with your health care provider or find a local clinic, many of which have awesome low-cost options.

Here at Beforeplay.org, we want you to feel free to have fun in bed, and staying safe is the number one way to do it (wearing a condom every time you have sex unless you and your partner have been tested and are STI-free). STDs are among the world’s most common infections, so in the case that you do contract one, early detection and treatment is key to a safe and speedy recovery. Though some STDs cannot be cured, there are available treatments for all of them to help control your symptoms. What a relief, right?

For full, detailed lists of symptoms, treatments and testing options for all the STDs out there, check out our Uncovering STDs tool. But if you’re interested in a Cliff’s-Notes-style version, here’s a quick review of the early symptoms associated with of the most common STDs in Colorado:

Gonorrhea

The rate of 12-to-29-year-old Coloradoans with gonorrhea is twice the national average. Fortunately, it is one of the most treatable STDs and can be cured with a dose of antibiotics. It’s important you take the whole course of treatment since a new kind of drug-resistant gonorrhea is showing up on the scene, too. Symptoms of gonorrhea are not obvious for most people, but the signs that do show up are typically unusual discharge from the penis or vaginas, painful peeing, swelling testicles for men and bleeding between periods for women.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is the most common STD out there, and at least 50% of sexually active individuals will get it in their lifetimes. On top of that, there are actually more than 100 different types of HPV, most of which have no symptoms. Oftentimes, HPV will just clear on its own and the infected individual may be none the wiser, but several types of the virus can cause genital warts or lead to vaginal, anal, throat and cervical cancer. The types of HPV that can cause cancer do not show any signs, so ladies, if you 21 or over make sure you schedule and show up for those recommended pap smears. Additionally, HPV is the only STI that has a vaccine, and health professionals recommend that both young men and women get the HPV vaccine to prevent contracting the virus. Bonus: the cost is likely covered by your health insurance.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is one of the more common STIs, probably in part because most people don’t show any symptoms. But those who do show signs may experience unusual genital discharge and or painful, burning urination. For women specifically, Chlamydia can cause lower back or abdominal pain, nausea, pain during sex, or bleeding after sex and/or between periods.

Herpes

Alas, here’s yet another example of a very common infection that’s most commonly symptom-free. For people who do show symptoms after contracting herpes, blisters and sores around the genitals or anus are typical. The first outbreak is usually the worst, but more sores can be expected in the future and will likely heal faster.

Hepatitis B

There are three kinds of hepatitis, but hepatitis B is the most commonly spread through sexual contact. Some Hep B infections show no symptoms, but those that do come with some very uncomfortable conditions, including joint pain, skin eruptions, a hive-like rash, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, dark urine, jaundice, and liver enlargement and tenderness.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common STI that only occurs in women because, well, only women have vaginas. BV occurs when the balance between “good” and “harmful” vaginal bacteria is thrown off, and while there are often no symptoms, BV can be accompanied by unusual discharge, strong odor, painful urination, itching or burning.

 

Pubic Lice

Often referred to as “crabs,” pubic lice are not a no-symptom STD. Itching, blue spots and sores in the infected area most often characterize this infection. It may also be possible to see grey-white lice or hair nits (the egg form of pubic lice) around your genital region.